Long hill interval training involves the use of 4-8 repetitions of around 400-1600m (sometimes longer), up a moderate slope, with a jog down recovery. The length of the uphill intervals are considerably longer than short hill intervals and as such the pace is reduced to between 10k and half marathon pace. The down hill section should be run at moderate/steady pace that takes approximately 25-50% longer to run than the uphill section.

The benefits of long hill intervals

As with other types of hill training, long hill intervals improve muscular strength, running economy, muscular endurance, fatigue resistance, and aerobic metabolism with a much reduced emphasis on anaerobic metabolism, due to the slightly slower pace of repetitions, compared with short hill intervals.  Therefore, this type of hill training is more suited to distance runners than the short hill repetitions.

Allthough these sessions are more suited to long distance runners, due to the greater emphasis on aerobic metabolism, there is still the problem that the recoveries are very long – if you run a long hill repetition lasting around 4 minutes you would take between 5-6 minutes to run the recovery back to the start point. Because of this the average intensity of the session is relatively low.

A more effective long hill interval

One way around this problem is to find a hill with a long gradual slope.If you are lucky enough to find a slope that rises at 4-6% over a prolonged distance (ideally around 3k) then you will be able to maximize the workout by doing the following:

1) Run 6 x 2.5 minute intervals @ 1/2marathon pace – if you run half marathons @ 7min/mile pace then you cover approximately 570m during the 2.5minute effort.

2) Instead of running the recovery all the way back to the bottom of the hill simply run back down the hill at a steady pace for 1/3 of the interval duration e.g. 50seconds – for a 7min/mile 1/2 marathon runner the steady downhill recovery should be run at approximately 1.5 minute slower than 1/2marathon pace (e.g. ~ 8.5min/mile pace). In this example the runner would run approximately 155m back down the hill during the one minute recovery.

3) Once you have completed the recovery you then immediately run the next uphill interval.

If you are a 7min/mile ½ marathon runner, then you will need to find a hill that rises at around 4-6% over a distance of around 2.6km to be able to complete this session. Obviously the quicker your half marathon pace is the longer the slope will need to be. It can be quite difficult to find slopes suitable for this type of session – if you are unable to find a hill that is long enough to complete the whole session you can break the session into two parts and run the first 3 intervals as above then run back down to the bottom of the hill and then complete the last 3 intervals.

Alternatively you may wish to consider tempo hill intervals or you could run the long hill intervals as a treadmill hill training session.

Long hill interval treadmill session examples

Treadmill Hill Interval Example Session 1

Treadmill Hill Interval Efforts: 8 x 2minutes @ ½ marathon pace 5% gradient

Recoveries: 40secs @ ½ marathon pace + 2mins (e.g. 7min/mile pace + 2 minutes = 9min/mile pace) 0% gradient

Treadmill Hill Interval Example Session 2

Treadmill Hill Interval Efforts: 5 x 4minutes @ ½ marathon pace 5% gradient

Recoveries: 1minute 20 seconds @ ½ marathon pace + 2 minutes 0% gradient

For both the alternative long hill interval session and the treadmill long hill interval session the recoveries were set as 1/3 of the work interval duration. As you get used to these sessions you may wish to decrease the length of the recoveries to 1/4 of the work interval.

Long Hill Interval Summary

  • Long hill intervals involve running 400-1600m intervals up a moderate slope
  • The intervals should be run at around 10k – 1/2 marathon pace with the recoveries run at a moderate/steady pace (~1.5 mins/mile slower than half Marathon pace).
  • Long hill intervals improve muscular strength, running economy, muscular endurance, fatigue resistance, and aerobic metabolism
  • Long hill intervals can be effectively completed on a treadmill
  • The ideal work to rest ratio for long hill intervals is around 1:3 – 1:4
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