A typical short hill interval training session would involve running approximately 10-16 repetitions of about 150-300m, up a moderate gradient, with a slow jog down recovery. Typically the uphill, or effort section, would be run at around 3-5k race pace, and the downhill, or recovery section, would be run at an easy jog pace that takes approximately twice the time to run down as to run up the hill.

The benefits of short hill intervals

This type of hill training will improve muscular strength, running economy/exercise economy, muscular endurance, aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. But, because of the speed of these intervals you place a much greater  emphasis on anaerobic energy sources. These sessions are more beneficial to 1500m – 5k runners, who use a greater proportion of anaerobic energy, compared with distances of 10k or greater.

Why are shorter hill intervals less suited to distance runners?

The primary energy source for distance runners is the aerobic metabolism of fatty acids and carbohydrate. The main problem with this session is that the efforts are run too quickly and the recoveries are too long – to the point where the runner’s heart rate is normally down to around 120 beats/min by the bottom of the hill and greatly reducing the average intensity of the session. Because of this you are not really training the body to cope with the demands of distance racing. For a start you are running the hill reps at a pace that far exceeds long distance running race pace. Secondly, when do you ever get a nice long recovery in a race, after running up a hill? Under normal race situations you run up the hill and then continue at the same pace as you continue over the brow of the hill. Therefore, you are just training yourself to run quickly up a hill and not preparing yourself for the situation in a race, where you will have to continue to work hard as you go over the brow of the hill. Although this type of session should not be ignored by distance runners, greater benefits will be gained through the use of hill tempos and long hill repetitions. In terms of muscular strength, much better gains will be gained through the use of resistance training than hill training.

Short hill intervals summary

  • Short hill intervals involve running 10-16 efforts, run at 3-5k pace, up a moderate slope of 150-300m with an easy jog down recovery.
  • As with other types of hill training sessions for runners short hill repeats can lead to improvements in muscular strength, running economy, muscular endurance, aerobic and anaerobic metabolism
  • The average intensity of the session is fairly low due to the duration and slow pace of the recoveries.
  • These sessions are more suited to 1500-5k runners than long distance runners racing over 10k or greater distances.
  • Long distance runners may find greater benefits from either long hill intervals or tempo hill intervals.

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