HIIT Hill Workouts For Runners

woman running up a hill

Hank Shell

So, it’s winter time. And don’t get me wrong – I LOVE winter. I like skiing, throwing ice at passing cars and, more recently, climbing ice – see Cold ~ Hard ~ Ice Climbing In The San Juans. But thus far, this really hasn’t been a winter for the record books. Far from it, actually. I mean, it’s almost February, and half the dang ski resort is still closed! I’m so angry I feel like swearing! It’s really throwing a wrench in my mindfulness game.

Anyway, I’ve found myself waking up on my day off and reaching for running shoes rather than ski boots. That sounds silly, I know, because compared with downhill skiing, running is just SO FREAKING BORING. I’m just kidding. I mean, comparatively, it is not the most exciting thing in the world, but on a crisp and unseasonably dry winter morning, when atmospheric ice crystals are forming a luminous halo around the sun, running is pretty nice. But not just any kind of running.

running hillsRunning for the sake of running is great and all, but if you want to actually, you know, become a stronger runner, improve your fitness, and/or not waste your dang time? Yea, you’re gonna want to do something a little more, I don’t know, structured? You’re not a teenager anymore. You can deal with structure. So, how about a little High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)? Ever heard that term? Well, if you’re familiar with this website, then for the sake of all that’s good in this world I hope so! Seriously, Fast Twitch Grandma has all kinds of good info on HIIT, so I’m not going to waste a whole lot of time trying to explain to you what HIIT is or why the hell you should be doing it, like, yesterday and all the days prior. Basically, HIIT is, you guessed it, a workout comprised of a series of high-intensity exercise periods interspersed with recovery periods. Picture an electrocardiogram when trying to understand intensity and time in this setting.

So, in a nutshell, that’s HIIT. Why should you do it? Basically, an HIIT workout can produce the same effects as a traditional endurance workout, but in a lot less time. So HIIT is more efficient. Save time, get ripped. Moving on.

Related Article: 90 Seconds A Day Of HIIT Might Be All You Need

HIIT For Runners

So, as self-described runners, how can we work HIIT into our training? Well, my friends. With perhaps the most ancient and storied family of HIIT workouts in the history of working out – hill intervals. Yes, running up and down hills. Not exactly what you were expecting? Well, tough. I don’t know how to make running any more exciting, buddy. I’m not a kinesiological alchemist. Go run along a deteriorating cliff band or something while I teach the rest of the class how to GET FIT.

Hill intervals are classic HIIT. The uphill is the high-intensity part. Jogging or walking back down is the recovery period. Put a few of them together and you’ve got a fully functioning HIIT session. Running uphill not only helps our body learn to recruit more muscle and use oxygen more efficiently, but it also trains us to drive our knees higher, thus improving our stride. Badass.

Long Intervals

Find a hill that’s around a six percent grade and long enough to run on continuously at moderate speed for 90 seconds. Moderate would be between 50 and 75 percent of your maximum effort, aka a flat out sprint.

After warming up, do this: run up the hill for 60 seconds at a moderate pace. At 60, stop and jog back to where you started. If you’re really winded, walk. Repeat this six times. As this gets easier, start working the intervals up from 60 seconds to 90 seconds. You can also increase the number intervals from six to eight. Don’t push it too hard, but don’t stay entirely in your comfort zone. Live a little.

Related Article: Push Or Pull? Sprinting Mechanics and You

Short Intervals / Sprints

Incorporate these intervals into your training only after you’ve gotten comfortable with longer intervals. On the same hill, sprint all out for eight seconds, stop, then jog or walk back to where you started for recovery. Perform eight to ten of these intervals.

There’s a lot of room for creativity in these workouts, and I KNOW you’re just such a creative soul, so experiment! Increase the lengths of your sprints. Find a steeper hill. Do more intervals. Whatever it takes. No surrender.

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