Up that Hill & do it Again!
Before this week’s post, there’s a panel discussion on, yup you guessed it, BFR tomorrow, Wednesday (April 28th) at 6:30PM at Alta Physical Therapy in Boulder, (2955 Baseline Road, Boulder CO 80303). The panelists will be one time junior phenom runner & now coach Melody Fairchild, Olympic 10 000m & Marathon runner Alan Culpepper, Danny Abshire, designer of the Newton running shoe, top running physical therapist, Charlie Merrill, Aaron Anderson, pedorthist extraordinaire & myself. As has seemed to be the case with BFR in its latest Born to Run incarnation, enthusiasm (to put a euphemistic bent on it), is running high. Moderator Barry Siff would seem to have his work cut out for him.
Any way, if you live in the Boulder/Denver area & you are interested, we’d love to see you. Perhaps I’ll need your support as the battle may be bloody as the enthusiasts on either extreme edge of the spectrum vie to get their point across! Just kidding – it ought to be a blast.
Hill running seems to be somewhat under-utilized by runners & triathletes in the USA in my experience, I am not sure if it’s a seasonal thing – in Africa we can run hard outdoors all year around, here it seems conditions limit what you can do quality-wise in the winter months & I don’t hear of a lot of people doing formal hill repeats on a treadmill. I have found runners get really close to their peak form after a series of hill repeats & that repeat work on the track adds some further benefit, but the risks of injury are far greater.
Hills don’t help you gain concentration skills much, (steady state runs on the flat do that!), as they allow you to run only as hard as you can, but boy do they help your functional strength & VO2 max if applied correctly. Hills are the ultimate tool when it comes to self-determining intensity; no matter what set of repeats you planned your form will soon tell you when the best laid plans are to be reviewed. Allow form to be your guide – if you figured on 75sec repeats & bits start flying off at 50sec, then 50sec is what was required at that effort. Use time rather than distance on hill repeats.
Hills are a great way to build specific speed without hurting yourself, because you are fighting gravity you are not running as fast & putting yourself down more softly. A pace on the flat that delivers the physiological stress you require may be challenging your joints & connective tissue/fascia more because of heightened centrifugal force from greater velocity. But on the hill, the same effort physiologically produces less damaging forces, but the same bang for your training buck. Conversely of course what goes up must come down & here you need to either take short soft quick running steps or walk, or Lydiard-style, pick a long hill with side streets that run with the contour (i.e. flat) upon which you recover.
Build to hill repeats as follows: Do a few runs on particularly hilly, rolling courses. Then progress to running those same routes, but accelerating the climbs & recovering on the downs & flats & then progress to formal hill repeats.
A word of caution to the over-zealous – don’t do hills without your ego in check! One of the US greats & definitely a humble individual with no ego issues at all is Dathan Ritzenhein – he gave me good insight on how to do hills. Dathan, the current US 5000m record holder discovered that he might have been doing his hill repeats too hard & too steeply, even perhaps too often, as he was getting injured in the ankle. He switched to shallower, longer & therefore less intense hills, stayed injury free & went sub 13min for 5km.
Have fun in them thar hills – your improved performances will be ample reward for slogging up the same flippin hill multiple times!