Hills on the ‘Mill


Hill sessions force the muscles in your hips, legs, ankles and feet to contract in a coordinated fashion while supporting your full body weight, just as they have to during normal running. In addition, on uphill sections your muscles contract more powerfully than usual because they are forced to overcome gravity to move you up the hill. The result is more power, which in turn leads to longer, faster running strides.

“Everything You Need To Know About Hill Training”

. . . hill sprints in particular can produce specific adaptations in the neuromuscular system (i.e., rate of motor unit recruitment, synchronization, etc.) that will allow the body to generate force faster. The faster you can summon force, the more total force power you can generate during a rep attempt.

Another cool aspect of hill running is that it increases your ankle flexion, which allows you to “pop” off the ground more quickly. This means that you’ll be spending more time in the air and less time on the ground, which is good for your running economy and pace.

To give you some idea of how hill training can impact a runner’s economy, consider a famous study performed at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. The 12-week study examined the impact of twice-weekly hill sessions on the running economy of trained marathoners. The researchers found that “after 12 weeks of twice weekly hill sessions, the athlete’s running economy had improved by 3%. This improvement would have helped them take as much as 2 minutes off a 10 mile time or 6 minutes off a marathon.”

“Benefits of Hill Training”

With a good hill, you can train almost perfectly. Hills build leg strength, increase your running economy (efficiency), prevent injuries, reduce impact forces on your legs, increase stride power, and improve the neuromuscular communication pathway.

-Jason Fitzgerald, “Hill Running 101: How to Take Your Running to New Heights”

I positively LOVE hill running. I have always liked hill running. I think it is the challenge of it. I also think I like it so much because not everyone will choose to do it. I know that I have posted before on hill workouts. The quotes above should take away any doubt of the benefits of hill running, hill repeating. As a road marathoner, I would have one day a week, dedicated to hill repeats. As a trail, ultra runner, I repeat hills at least twice a week.

The treadmill is a GREAT tool for your hill work! Here is an example of how I am using it now to get ready for my 50 mile race in April and my 100 mile in September.

BEGINNER: 30 minutes on the treadmill, AFTER a shorter mid week run or after a long run.

Treadmill at 15% for 30 minutes. Speed 2.8-4

ADVANCED: 2+ miles on the treadmill, AFTER my long run.                                                       (MY setting and speed example)

Treadmill at 15%, power hike for 10 minutes, speed 3.8-4

Treadmill at 15%, run for 5 minutes, speed 4.3-4.5

Treadmill at 15%, power hike for 1 minute, speed 3.8-4

Treadmill at 12%, run for 5 minutes, speed 4.3-4.8

Treadmill at 15%, power hike for 1 minute, speed 3.8-4

Treadmill at 9%, run for 5 minutes, speed 4.3-4.8

Treadmill at 15%, power hike for 3 minutes, speed 3.8-4

cool down by walking on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes

Things to consider:

  1. In the beginning, the speed is not as important as the incline.
  2. It will feel hard.
  3. Start with 15 minutes
  4. Use this as a supplement to your trail running
  5. In the beginning, use the beginner workout as your “short run day”, follow up with stretching or core work
  6. Give yourself 3 weeks before you increase your distance or your speed

“Be the coach who loves the hills”

-Randy Accetta

2 thoughts on “Hills on the ‘Mill

  1. aliciabarker@comcast.net

    I have gotten injured every time I did hills on a treadmill. Probably arises from too much and already being too tight. Explain the percent gradient please. I have gotten to where all of my treadmill runs are at a 1 unless I want to turn up the pace, then I back it down to .5. So is that a 1% incline?  It doesn’t go up as high at 15 on the counter does it?Sent from Xfinity Connect Mobile App

    1. ooartist1234 Post author

      There is much I can say on this topic. I have been running hills consistently since 2010. Based on my examples of beginner and advanced above, I started only walking with an incline of 15% for 30 minutes. That may have taken me 34-36 minutes in the beginning. I only did it for 30 minutes, which was not even 2 miles. I did this twice a week for 3 months. Two weeks ago, I made some changes because the first 10 miles of my race are uphill. It has taken me a long time to build to this place.

      I pretty much run hills every day that I am on the trails. The average road runner might get anywhere from 250-1500′ of elevation in a week of training. I am running 600-1500′ in a day. So, I am getting day after day of climbing and running.

      If you want hills to be a regular part of your training and if you want to stay injury free, I would be glad to help. I would need to know what you are training for and which training plan you want to use.

      The treadmills at the rec center go up to 15%. There is one that goes up to 17%.

      Hope this helps. I’d love to dialog more about this.


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