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Running: Short Hills

From Lydiard to Canova, Wilson, Hudson and Jones, hills and specifically short hill sprints are part of many coaching philosophies, including our own.




During the winter phase of training, we do not always want lactate to be present, particularly when we are working on efficiency at lower running speeds. Consequently, “alactic” short hill reps - maximal sprints of 8-10 seconds on around an 8% ramp - allow us to recruit fast twitch fibres without worrying too much about anaerobic work interfering with our aerobic work.


The energy system associated with such a short time frame of 8-10 seconds is termed an “alactic” effort. The prefix “a” meaning without, and lactic referring to the acid that can accumulate when exercising intensely. In other words, the short duration of the hill reps does NOT accumulate (much) lactate.


This muscle fibre recruitment, is ‘muscle training’ that doesn’t require a gym membership or Olympic bar - the hill being a safe, specific and less technically demanding alternative.


At HUP HUP we will sometimes precede a medium-to-long run with 4-8 short hill reps of 8-10 seconds. Alternatively, we also use short hills as a stand-alone session.


Short hills are sometimes used to bridge into track sessions. However, we would suggest longer hill reps (1-3 mins) to be more effective for this transition as the longer reps enhance anaerobic capacity rather than gait alone.


Alactic/very short hill reps are typically a good option for young athletes too. However, the incline may need to be reduced if good biomechanics cannot be maintained by an immature skeleton.


An awareness of good form on hills is pertinent to all athletes and can be considered as the best way to judge what speed the hills should be run at. If form breaks down, speed and biomechanics need to be amended . .

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