I remember each summer and winter receiving my upcoming season’s plan. The packet of papers, which looked more like a syllabus than running schedule, would talk about goals, potential races and most importantly, a training schedule. While I knew that I had my mileage already mapped out for me, as well as that Tuesdays and Fridays were workout days, one thing that always stuck out were early season hill workouts. Before repetitions on the track or grass started, my coaches (emphasis on the plural) all preached of the merits of early season hill workouts. According to Running Times, their insistence was warranted.
A new study shows that there is a direct correlation between hill repeats and better 5K performances. A new study coming from Kiwi country (aka New Zealand) is stating that regardless of what type of hill the repeats are done on and what the repeats are, runners who do them will decrease their 5K time.
In laymen’s terms, what the study did was actually track the progress of 20 “well-trained,” runners doing hill workouts. The 20 runners all did some type of hill workout over a period of six weeks. To preface the study, the runners all did a 5K time trial, and after the six weeks came to close, the runners did the same time trial on the same course.
The results concluded that regardless of the hill repeats assigned (they were given at random), the trial after six weeks ended with each runner being, on average, about two percent faster. This equates to a 19:36 5K for the runner who clocked at 20-minute 5K at the beginning of the experiment. The study also showed that there were better results for those who did hill workouts at a higher intensity. According to Running Times, “This finding is consistent with the common practice of doing short but close to all-out hill sprints for neuromuscular and efficiency benefits.”
Though there are a lot of factors not taken in to play (such as other training making an effect on the runners, previous skill set, etc.) the truth is, hill workouts appear to help runners gain strength. Though base training and speed work are important components of getting faster, the merit of hill workouts once a week has become even more evident than before. If you find yourself gearing up for a 5K, giving hill repeats a try may just help you hit a new personal record (PR).