Lauren’s Super Fun Short Format Hill Repeat Workout

This is a follow-up post from my late summer post “2 Tough workouts to help you conquer steep hills“.   There are many ways to format your hill training workouts depending on your fitness and goals.  My last post focused more on training for an endurance event (half marathon or longer) where you would be encountering long hills (1/2 mile or longer).   This post is more relevant to the everyday runner, OCR athlete and all looking to improve fitness, strength and running form (and more specifically for trail running)!



Hill repeats are an important part of training as they help us to build strength and improve our running form.
Doing hill repeats just once a week can reap great benefits, here are some tips for planning your next short format hill workout:
  • Try to find a hill that is long enough it will take you at least 2 minutes to run up (at a moderate pace), the longer the better!
  • Find a hill that has a 10-20% grade.  A recent study has found that you may be more efficient power hiking a hill that is between 20-30% or greater.  Women tend to be closer to that 20% as we have less musculature and shorter legs than men : )
  • Focus on good form:
    –  Look ahead and not down.  When you look down it collapses your chest cavity and you cannot reach your full lung capacity (= more oxygen to your tired muscles for energy).
    – Push off of the balls of your feet and drive your knees up high
    –  Lean into the hill at your waist and imagine pushing through a wall with your chest:  good posture!
    –  Drive those arms!!   Pumping your arms harder helps your legs to turnover more quickly.
  • Make it fun!   There are many different drills and ways to structure your hill workout depending on your goals.  Below is a basic workout that will help you to build fitness, strength and improve your downhill running technique.
Work on downhill running technique is just as important as uphill running!

Lauren’s basic fun hill workout: 

(Ideally on a hill that takes you 1:30-2 minutes to run up).


Do a good 10 minute warm-up and then……....
–  Run up the hill 1x at 70% max effort (or speed)
–  Easy jog down with 1 minute complete recovery
–  Run up the hill 1x at 80% max effort
–  Easy jog down with 1 minute complete recovery
**  By now you should have a good feel for what you are capable of.  Ideally when you reach the top of that hill you are ready to take a break.  If you still have something left in the tank then you need to push a little harder on the next couple of intervals. If you had to walk before the top maybe take it down a notch.
 Really try to keep up your speed and run through the top of the hill, many people start to slow down right before they reach the top.  Fully commit to running at full effort to the top and a little beyond.


Now the workout begins………..
–  Run up the hill at 100% max effort 3x
–  Focus on letting the downhill be your recovery.  Try to completely relax your quads, keeping your body perpendicular to the hill, letting gravity take you down.  Increase your cadence to keep your feet underneath you in short, light, quick steps.  You should feel like you are going faster than you are comfortable going, this is a good thing
* Take a full minute recovery before starting the next hill run.
 Lateral slide up and down the hill leading with your R. leg (click on link for video demonstration)
–  Lateral slide up and down the hill leading with your L. leg


Find a group of friends to do your hill workouts with!

One more round……

–  Run up the hill at 100% max effort 4x
*  Focus on good downhill technique, quick turnover, relaxed.
* Take a full minute recovery before starting the next hill run.
–  Lateral slide up and down the hill leading with your R. leg
–  Lateral slide up and down the hill leading with your L. leg


DONE!  Recover, cool down and stretch. 
——>  If you can’t make it outdoors, this workout can be done on a treadmill!!
Set the incline for 15% and then use the first couple of hill repeats to find the best pace for both the “hill” and then the recovery.


*I actually recommend that people do this workout on the treadmill periodically as a tool to gauge fitness and progress.   Unlike running outdoors, you cannot cheat on the treadmill: if you set a pace you have to go that pace unless you manually push the button to slow down.  Many find this workout on the treadmill tougher than outdoors!
Give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments section below and as always, please share if you found this post useful.
Also if you are in Denver, CO join our Saturday morning track/hill and stair workouts!  
More info HERE.
–  Lauren Jones, B.S, ACSM

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