Hill Training Pt. 2 – Hill Bounding

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I’ve been very interested in the concept of hill bounding since my return from San Francisco. The one factor that I have no control over in my training is my terrain. Unless I pack up and move to Colorado or some other rocky mountain range, I have to work with what I have.

Hill Bounding is a great hill workout to perfect your form and build strength without needing large mountain ranges. You’re specifically strengthening your Quads and ankles, which help you, push off harder. This all works together making your stride stronger and longer.

Hill bounding is actually an aerobic type of training unlike hill repeats, which will put you into an anaerobic system.

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Proper Hill Form

Tip 1: Bound up the hill slowly. Key word here is slowly. It’s supposed to be very methodical and focus is on technique, I repeat not speed. There is a time and place for all types of hill training. This is a very specific training that requires lots of restraint.

Tip 2: Lift your quads parallel to the ground. Exaggerated movements means you are doing it correct.

Tip 3: Push-off with you Ankles. It should feel springy and like you’re bounding.

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Tip 4: Keep proper form in your pelvis area. You want your pelvis to be forward and balanced during the workout.

Tip 5: Your stride. The length of the each forward stride will be the distance from your hip to your knee.

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When do you do this kind of workout? It’s generally done in phase 2 of training, which is known as the strength-training phase. It’s during phase 2 where you are teaching your body form and strength to make you more efficient and faster going into phase 3. Phase 2 is always my favourite period of training and the scariest. This is the time when your mileage might be a little lighter, so you have some time to hit the gym and work on body strength. It’s a good time to focus on core strength and recruit the muscles you will need during your hill training workouts.

Phase 2 is the also where I see the most injuries occur. Never enter phase 2 training with an injury or if you’re feeling under the weather. There have been a number of seasons I trained through phase 2 staying in phase 1 and moving straight to phase 3. My body wasn’t able to handle the load of phase 2. It’s better to air on the side of caution. Tears are the most commons injuries and these are generally, undertrained athletes moving ahead too soon, incorrect hill form or simply not enough warm up.

Getting in one hill workout a week for the duration of phase 2 training is considered ideal for the average athlete. Phase 2 usually only goes on for 4-5 weeks. More advanced athletes can and should add a hilly run to any of their easier run days. I was taught by a very talented coach and runner to take a hilly route once every other week and practice hill bounding or hill surges for the duration of the hill. I can tell you those seasons I got strong very fast.

I will repeat myself in case you’ve been skimming this article. Hill training and especially hill bounding should not be attempted if you are recovering from an injury or currently injured. You should be taking to the hills with strong and balanced muscles to get through the next 4-5 weeks healthy.

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I practiced hill bounding on stairs this week to mix it up.

Where you decide to hill bound is really up to you. Road, trails or stairs all work well. Slow, slight gravel grade or a steep grassy hill will make no difference because this is a slow and form focused workout. It’s recommended to do no more than 1-2 repeats of a 50-70M hill. Once you complete the distance, SLOWLY jog down the start of the hill and repeat.

These are three specific types of bounding:

VERTICAL BOUNDING: Drive off the toes of the plant foot, lifting the opposite knee high, and emphasize vertical lift; land on the opposite foot and repeat.

HORIZONTAL BOUNDING: Same as vertical bounding, except that we emphasize the length (not height) of the bound.

SKIP BOUNDING: Same as vertical bounding, except that we land on the same foot that initiated the bound, then take a short step forward onto our opposite foot, spring vertically, land on that foot, and then repeat the whole process. (Source)

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. YouTube is an archive of hill bounding video’s waiting for you to watch them!

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Friends don’t let friends do hills alone!

Cycling in Winter Doesn’t Have to be Indoors

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Winter Riding Group in Waterloo

When days get shorter and colder temperatures and snow arrive in November/December, many cyclists head indoors for their workouts. Until a few years ago, I did little or no outdoor riding between November and March/April. That is, until I discovered the enjoyment of winter riding.

There are two types of riding I’ve done in winter:

  1. Cyclocross-type gravel grinder group rides
  2. Mountain bike, single track rides

This post will focus on the former – the gravel grinder group rides that have become popular with the Waterloo Cycling Club. These rides started a few years ago on Saturday mornings when a small group of us would bundle up and ride paved and gravel roads and rail trail. The rides gained popularity in the club as we discovered the amazing network of trails and unpaved roads in the area.

Since I started these rides, I’ve learned what makes these rides work (for me). Here are my tips for winter riding:

  1. Camaraderie
    1. Group rides are better than riding solo in winter, not only for the social component and the encouragement and motivation that come with group activities, but for safety as well (no one wants to change a flat 30 km from home on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere!).
  2. Plan the route
    1. I routinely check the wind direction before planning the direction and distance of the route. We generally head out into the wind, which makes for a tough grind into a wind that is sometimes brutally cold for the first half (or more) of the ride, but it also means the ride back will be fast and fun with the tail wind.
    2. Before the snow falls, the best routes include gravel farm roads and rail trail. Farm roads are fun because there’s little or no traffic and you get to explore the countryside. Rail trails are also fun, and we are lucky to have excellent rail trails in the Region of Waterloo.
    3. Once the snow falls, the rail trail becomes less desirable to ride. Pedestrian traffic packs down the snow but the trail can get icy. Gravel roads, once plowed, can become a firm mixture of sand and packed snow, and make for an enjoyable ride. However, depending on air temperature, these roads can also get icy, in which case, we’ll tend to stick to the pavement.
  3. Dress for the temperature (and wind chill!)
    1. Clothing: On the coldest rides (I don’t ride if it’s colder than about minus 10C) I start with a standard pair of cycling shorts (I prefer bibs), and a short sleeve base-layer t-shirt. I then add arm warmers and knee warmers followed a merino wool long-sleeve base layer, a long-sleeve thermal cycling jersey, and cycling jacket. I have a 20-year old jacket from MEC that is baggy and worn, so I’ll be looking for a replacement soon. Some of my fellow riders have opted for bright colours for visibility. I like that idea, and will probably look for something colourful in the near future. For pants, I wear Pearl Izumi AmFIBs. They’re lined with fleece and are water and wind proof and keep my legs warm.
    2. Extremities: One of the keys for keeping my hands and feet warm during winter rides is to make sure they are warm at the beginning of the ride. Fingers and toes don’t generate much heat, so if they’re cold at the start, they’re not going to warm up. If my ride starts at home, I’ll warm them on the heating vent at my house. If I drive to the start of a ride, I’ll use the car heating vents.
      1. Feet: I used to ride every New Year’s Eve with my brothers, regardless of the weather conditions. This was long before I had any idea of how to dress for winter riding. The most painful part of the rides was my thawing my toes out after the ride. So after a long (and sometimes painful) trial-and-error process, I’ve finally figured out what works best for keeping my feet warm: I wear two pairs of merino wool socks and if it’s cold enough (below 0 degrees C), I’ll add toe warmers. My winter cycling boots are larger (size 44) than my regular cycling shoes (size 42) to allow for the thicker socks and toe warmers. I also wear neoprene shoe covers (Pearl Izumi) over my cycling boots for an extra layer of warmth and protection from wind, snow and slush.
      2. Gloves: A couple of years ago, I found thick, bulky snowmobiling gloves at Costco. They have a long cuff that reaches half-way to my elbow and are really warm, even on the coldest days.  heashot1
    3. Head/Face: For starters, I wear a Halo headband with full ear coverage. After that, I use a merino wool Buff to cover my chin and neck and the top of my head. If it’s really cold, I’ll add a fleece neck warmer as well. I’ll add my riding glasses at the end, after my helmet. The only exposed skin is around the edges of my riding glasses (I haven’t tried ski goggles yet).
  4. Bike Setup
    1. After several years of riding an old hardtail mountain bike on these rides, I finally bought a (used) cyclocross bike in the last fall (Kona Jake). I’ve installed a bright red tail light for visibility and fenders, which are essential when the roads get even the slightest bit wet. They’ll not only keep YOU dryer, but they’ll prevent riders behind you from getting sprayed.
  5. Bike Maintenance
    1. After a ride, I usually give the drive train a good wipe-down and add lube to the chain. The bike can pick up a lot of salt from the roads, which can degrade the drive train.  Let’s face it, riding in winter is going to be hard on your bike. Depending on how much you ride in winter, you may have to replace your chain and cassette and cables come spring time.

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  1. Hydration
    1. When exercising in cold temperatures, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated. However, it’s just as important to drink fluids on winter rides. At colder temperatures, water in water bottles can freeze. I’ve found that some sports drinks won’t freeze quite as readily as plain water, but at some point, it will solidify as well. Fellow riders have tried other methods to keep their liquids from freezing (keeping a bottle under their jacket in a back pocket, starting with warmer water in bottles, or using a camel bak).
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Thanks to our Guest Blogger Steve! So much great information on how to stay warm and get off the trainer and out the door!

Bio: Steve Shikaze

headshot2Steve has been an active member of the Waterloo Cycling Club (www.waterloocyclingclub.ca) for over a decade. He currently sits as a member of the WCC Trail Committee, which oversees the mountain bike trails at The Hydrocut (www.thehydrocut.ca). He has completed multiple 8 and 24 hour mountain bike relay races, 3-day stage races and many other cycling events, on his mountain, road and cyclocross bikes, and has dabbled in trail running and open-water swimming.

Motivation Monday: Pay It Forward

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“Pay it forward – to respond to a person’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else.”

This isn’t a new notion, but recently I’ve been surrounded by acts of pay it forward kindness. I’m truly inspired by how the communities have chosen to interact with each other. Most recently one of the most by accident instances of pay if forward started with a simple reddit ad. A person I met over the summer through my running community connections, found himself single. Breaking up happens, its sad, but somehow our hearts mend and we move on. In my friend’s case, he had two world plane tickets. Since one of those tickets was in the name of his now ex girlfriend, he had only two choices. Trash the ticket or find a suitable candidate with the very same name of his ex and give her the ticket. The ad simply read: “Are you named Elizabeth Gallagher (and Canadian)? Want a free plane ticket around the world?” It went pretty viral pretty fast. What did he want in return for giving this Elizabeth Gallagher a free ticket? Simple. That whoever gets this ticket, pay it forward when they themselves get the opportunity.

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From a Reddit ad, to a whirlwind of interviews, Jordan now heads up a great foundation called “Ticket Forward” where others can have the opportunity to go on a trip of a lifetime. Watching this story unfold from the minute I heard the ad went viral, I’ve been so proud and happy for my friend Jordan. He took an unfortunate life moment and turned into a global awareness campaign reminding us all how easy it is to be kind.

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Inspired by not only Jordan, but also many other amazing foundations that carry the message to pay it forward, I’ve decided to do my part.

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It’s early spring-cleaning for me, and if I’m not using it, then I’m giving it away. I’m not giving away anything fancy like world plane tickets, but I’ve got a significant growing pile of unused gadgets and items that could be put to better use by others. I have always actively lived the pay it forward lifestyle. As I try to exorcise my inner pack rat, I’m hoping to continue the pay it forward momentum.

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Wear Test Wednesday – Why Athletes Need Magnesium

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As an endurance athlete I have my favourite shoes, bikes and believe it or not vitamins! My favourite mineral of all the minerals on a periodic chart is Mg (Magnesium). What’s so great about it?

Magnesium “is required by virtually every cell, and it’s vital in more than 300 chemical processes that sustain basic human health and function, including muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve function, cardiac activity, blood pressure regulation, hormonal interactions, immunity, bone health and synthesis of proteins, fats and nucleic acids. Magnesium is also crucial for energy metabolism by the activation of enzymes known as ATPases, which are needed to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate).” (Source: http://bitly.com/1C502HV)

For athletic performance, Magnesium is one of the important electrolytes we ingest in our sport drinks and gels almost everyday. You’ll always find magnesium and calcium together on an ingredient list. Calcium is essential for muscle contractions, and magnesium aids in helping muscles relax. This particular combination is crucial for healthy muscle function, especially during activity.

If you’re an athlete who suffers with sleeping disorders and or anxiety, like I do, then Magnesium should part of a regular supplement routine. Magnesium is key for tired, sore muscles to aid in the recovery process. I like to call Magnesium; Valium for muscles. It works by drawing the calcium out of the bloodstream, allowing your muscles to relax. It’s especially effective for twitchy muscles, after those hard track workouts.

Where do we find Magnesium? Good sources are green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. How much do we need? “The recommended daily allowance for the general population is a minimum of 300 to 350 mg for women and 400 to 450 mg for men. Research suggests that endurance athletes can safely consume 500 to 800 mg daily.” (Source: http://bitly.com/1C502HV)

However, our bodies aren’t really great at absorption and on average we will only absorb 50% of the vitamins and minerals we consume.

Thankfully there are other options to get our daily dose of magnesium.

  1. Through skin absorption: Epsom Salt baths and/or magnesium oils. Both are extremely effective for quick relief.
  2. Oral supplements. This is a more effective long-term solution to get the desired results.

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I’ve been using Preferred Nutrition athletic supplements for many years. They provide all-natural supplement combinations, which helps save me time. I don’t have to take 10 different powders and pills to get the science right; they already did that part for me. They have three great products that I have used together and all on their own to help me get the rest, recovery and reduced anxiety I need.

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  1. Sleep – A perfectly simple pill you can take before bed, giving you a little magnesium boost in combination with other essential minerals to induce a relaxed natural sleep state. You won’t get the coma like sleep most sleeping medication will induce.

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  1. Calm – this is another one I really enjoy using. It helps reduce anxiety and can be taken day or night. It won’t make you feel tired, but basically takes the edge off. When I’m going through high anxiety periods, this is my go to supplement.

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  1. Magsense – this is my favourite supplement to take everyday. It comes in power or pill form, but I prefer the powder. I take it in a cup of juice or water and drink it an hour before bed. Magsense will do everything you need. It provides your daily magnesium top up, relaxes your twitchy muscles, balances your mood and most important, helps you get a good nights sleep.

For other great products Preferred Nutrition provides for athletes go to: www.pno.ca

Motivation Monday – Welcome to Winter

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This past week (if you lived anywhere near eastern N. America) was absolutely terrible and miserable running weather. The wind chill was bitter and beyond cold. Winter tan is a real thing and I’m ordering ski goggles to get through the rest of the wintery windy nights.

Things for 2015 are starting to settle in nicely and I’m trying desperately to not let the seasonal mood disorder take hold and ruin the momentum. Spending as much time outside as possible, interacting with my friends/family/community on a regular basis and watching the weather network for sunny days are all helping me stay just above the moody line.

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Doing something completely different like mountain biking in the snow is amazing fun.

This weekend, I had to do a 5km time trial for my coach. It’s that time in the training season to establish my current fitness level so we know how to proceed for the next month. I was not looking forward to this workout at all. I wasn’t afraid of the pain or the speed, just the damn weather. The winds were expected to be 50km gusts, and bitterly cold. I spent a good hour on Friday evening weighing my options.

  1. Do the workout on the treadmill. Con: break my no treadmill streak (not an option)
  2. Do the workout on Monday when the weather is “expected” to be better. (and when are the weather people ever really bang on?”
  3. Suck it up and do what the coach asked me to do. It will be what it will be.

I opted for option three. One thing that keeps popping up in our communications is my level of commitment to my training plan. As a coach myself, I know how frustrating it is when your athletes don’t always do what you need or ask them to do. I try to do what I know I would want my athletes to do.

On Saturday I rolled out of bed at 8:00 am, put on my winter gear and although I opted out of doing the exercise with my club, I compromised and did it alone. Having my coaches voice in my head repeating “It’s impressive to see someone who is so dedicated to their goals.”, was the sort of motivation I needed to get that workout done. I know this fact about me, but now that someone else knows (my coach), I’m far more accountable.

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Winter is a tough time of year for everyone and we all have our own ways to get through it. Making a no treadmill run streak has been my very own way to commit to getting my mileage done and keeping my goals in tact.

What did you do last week to stay focused and do your workouts? Did you do anything different to change things up?

(disclaimer: Running on a treadmill is a totally acceptable way to get your run done. Trust me a treadmill will happen for me, I’m only so stubborn. I will have my breaking point.)

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Waiting for the sun to come and then joining your friends for a long run. Makes winter better.

How NOT to be a Fair Weather Runner.

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The cold front has settled in for us living in the winter worlds but running doesn’t have to be miserable because of it. Treadmills (aka dreadmills) don’t have to be the only solution. Running in winter simply means taking a few extra moments to prepare and think about what you need to bring.

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WEATHER. Watch The Weather Network. All. The. Time. Know what is coming a day or two before your runs, especially the long runs. Often times I will switch, moving my run earlier or later to ensure I don’t get caught in bad weather. Pay particular attention to A. feels like vs actual temperature. B. Wind gusts and C. Precipitation. Obviously major weather warning should be considered and perhaps your workout should move to a treadmill.

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Mizuno Breath Thermal is perfect for all your cold weather needs.

CLOTHING. This is the most important. Winter running is all about layers. There are base layers, top layers and many layers in between depending on how you specifically react to the cold. Exposed skin in sub zero temperatures can lead to frost bite quickly. From top to bottom. A. Hat that covers the ears. B. I use a BUFF for my face, which can be worn in a variety of ways to protect it from the winter winds. C. Base layer against your skin that will keep you warm and dry. I use Mizuno Breath Thermo, which activates with your body sweat to heat up, keeping your warm. It whisks the sweat and ventilates which helps regulate your body temperature. On top of a base layer depending on the wind chill factor I would recommend a second layer for added warmth and finally a good jacket / wind layer. D. Bottoms? Again I use the breath Thermo tights, which have the same effect. The polyacrylate material reacts with your sweat and heats up to keep you warm. This past week, I actually went one layer deeper with my Mizuno Breath Thermo tights and put on the Breath Thermo Underwear. These were amazing. My Butt and thighs stayed toasty warm and because they are so thin, I didn’t feel bulky and overdressed. E. Socks. In this weather, make sure you wear a longer sock or even a knee-high sock. Last year I saw a lot of ankle frostbite. I love my Mizuno Breath Thermo crew socks. For extra umph, I add in my CEP compression socks. Compression socks in winter will help prevent calf tears by keeping an extra layer of warmth around the muscles, letting them stay flexible. The socks or calf bands are high enough to give extra-added skin protection. F. Mitts vs.Gloves. This is usually specific to the person. I personally need mitts for long runs and use gloves for races. Generally gloves will do the trick for everyone, except if you are one of those lucky folks who suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome. This is a circulation condition and you need very warm mittens, sometimes even a glove with mitten combo. TIP: When in doubt apply Vaseline to face, ears and check bones to add an extra layer between you and the wind.

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DUCT TAPE – even the fancy stuff.

SHOES. Which ones should you wear? This one is a game day decision. There is no one shoe that will cover off all winter road conditions. Here is how I break this down. No snow, no ice, roads are clear: I use the road shoes I would normally wear for that run. I will add Duct tape to the tops of the shoes to protect my toes from the wind. If there is fresh snow, I will definitely pull out my trail running shoes to help me dig into the snow allowing me to feel more secure. If there is ice of any kind, I’m going inside to a treadmill. The risk of injury on ice is real and can lead to serious injury. Don’t take unnecessary risks; staying healthy during training winter training is hard enough as it is without throwing ice into that mix.

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ROUTE. Where you run is important in winter. It’s often dark, and the weather unpredictable. My suggestions, especially if you’re running alone, find a loop close to home. Loops give you bail out points. If you haven’t dressed warm enough you have the option to duck in and grab another layer and vice versa. Let at least one other person know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. There are also great tracking apps now on your phone, but don’t rely on phones in extreme weather. How many times have you gone out with a fully charged phone and soon after it’s dead? Cold weather zapps battery life. Best to rely on old school methods in this case.

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Picture courtesy: ilaxSTUDIO – KIM.

ADD SOME FLARE. Don’t be afraid to look ridiculous! Winter running isn’t sexy. Do whatever you need to get yourself outside. You will inevitably be patting yourself on the back for being a badass, while you sip your post-run hot chocolate. Ski goggles are climbing the 2015 trends for winter running gear. Not a bad idea actually. They don’t fog and if they are good enough for skiing, why not running? Looking like a Christmas tree? Well the brighter you are, the better. A headlamp, chest lamp, arm lights and reflective vests are all great choices. Being lit up front and back can save your life.

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HYDRATION: Cold weather can trick you into thinking you don’t have to hydrate as much. This could not be more wrong. You may not feel like drinking as often, but you are still sweating just as much and will need to replenish your fluids. Bring hydration, and make a point to remind yourself to drink. Set a timer on your watch, or commit to taking a sip every km. This will prevent dehydration, dry skin, and muscle tears. Hydration that is kept close to the body will stay warmer and less likely to freeze. Hydration packs can be tricky with the tube freezing easily but you can buy tube covers to prevent this from happening.

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Don’t let winter training slow you down. Prepare, prevent and persevere – March is just around the corner.

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Sharing the cold weather with friends is always better! Keep smiling through the wind burn.

Hills – starting from the bottom PT. 1

HILLS

Hill training is a very important phase in everyone’s run program. Generally after several weeks of base building you move into a strength-training phase; Hills. Hill training can be in the form of long hill runs, short or long hill repeats, hill bounding and downhill strides. For this piece I’m dealing with long hill repeats. This particular phase should never last longer than 4-5 weeks in your run training schedule. It’s a workout that is done only once per week as one of your quality workouts.

For beginners, hills are not to be treated like any other run. Hills are absolutely necessary to build strength and increase leg turnover, but hills are also where things can go south quickly.

Let’s start with the how to:

  1. Like anything, ease into your hills. First day of hill training should not, I repeat, should not be 10 x 400 metre hills. Try something more like 4-5 x 60 or 90 second hill repeats.
  2. Don’t look at your watch. Ever! Hit the lap button and the beginning and end of the repeat. The speed is based on effort (roughly a 5km effort for most)
  3. Focus on form (chest up, shoulders back and down, arms relaxed)
  4. The mental cue I use is to think about riding a bike while running up a hill. Knees up high, feet spinning like you would spin on a bike.
  5. As the hill gets harder to climb (and it will), the arms are necessary and getting them involved will recruit more core muscles.
  6. Most important, and trust me so many forget to do this. BREATH.
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Proper hill form.

The grade of the hill does matter. A 6-7% grade hill for most hill repeat workouts is best. For the math/run nerds here is the formula: Elevation Gain / Length of Hill = % Grade 

A short 101 on muscle fibres used during the course of our training.

Type I – slow twitch fibres (aerobic fibres that take a long to fatique)

Type IIa – intermediate fast-twitch fibres (most associated with middle distance running, producing more force than the slow twitch fibre)

Type IIx – Fast twitch fibres (anaerobic fibres useful only for short bursts)

For the endurance runner, the long hill repeats will allow you to work through all three fibres. The power you need to get from the bottom of the hill to the top in approximately 60-90 seconds will mostly use your intermediate fast-twitch fibres. Since fast twitch fibres fatigue quicker, your systems will soon begin recruiting as many slow twitch fibres as possible to finish the workout.

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What a hill repeat looks like

Safety first:

  1. When in doubt stop the workout. If you feel any pain, pull or tightness during a hill repeat workout. It’s important to stop and not attempt to run through it. A muscle tear can set you back up to 8 weeks. It’s best to take a few days off.
  2. Often times I wear compression socks to reduce muscle vibrations and prevent calf tears.
  3. Starting with warm muscles is a must. A 2km warm up isn’t going to cut it. A full easy 5-6 km warm up is highly recommended to ensure your muscles have some elasticity.

Next post will be all about the long hilly run. Stay tuned!

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