Oh. My. Hill.

“Some people create with words, or with music, or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, “I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.” It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” -Steve Prefontaine

I recently ran into my coach at church and he asked how I was doing with the running and how long I was running for when I trained. I said 35-40 minutes, which is the prescribed length of time according to my training plan. I run in different heart rate zones during that time, but in general, that is how long my runs are; with the exception of two recent runs, in which I got lost in my new neighborhood and ended up out on the roads for about an hour. His response was positive in regards to my running for that amount of time. My next statement was “Well, I do stop here and there during my runs.” I can’t help myself. I’m still learning to run and sometimes struggle with pushing myself through the mental distractions. I get distracted by my need to stop and smell the honeysuckle, which is everywhere right now. I get distracted my nice neighbors and their adorable puggle, Lucy. I get VERY distracted by my once a week run-in with the mean yellow dog down the street that is allowed to roam off-leash. I’m always afraid that if I don’t stop running, the dog is going to see that as a signal to chase me home. Maybe I should let it chase me next time and see if that improves my time. What I’m trying to say is that on occasion, my training runs are more akin to fun family 5k’s, minus the balloons and the face painting.

My coach had a solution for this problem and gave me a new once-a-week training exercise that he thinks will help with my inability to get through a 35 minute run without stopping. I’m two weeks into it and I think he’s on to something because it is helping. It may be nausea and profanity inducing, but I am finding that it is working. He told me to find a steep hill in my neighborhood, which wasn’t hard, and do the following:

1.Warm up for ten minutes, which as it turns out, is exactly how long it takes me to run to the hill I happened to choose.

2. Run hard up the hill for 90 seconds without stopping then walk down and without lingering at the bottom of the hill.

3. Repeat 3 more times and increase by one run each week. Ex. Week 2, run the hill 5 times instead of 4.

Here is a photo I took of the hill that I’m using for this exercise. I almost hesitate to post the picture because it looks relatively harmless, but it is much steeper in person as it winds upwards and around, I PROMISE you that!

Tomorrow will be Week 3 of this exercise with 6 runs up this hill. I’ve noticed that even though I’m worn out after the hills, running back home is easier. It’s working! I found an article written by Lee Gardner on this very sort of training on the USA Triathlon website and I liked what he had to say. He likened runners to ballet dancers and because I work in a creative industry, it struck a chord.

“If you’ve ever been to the ballet, you’ve seen some incredibly gifted athletes (dancers) executing quite amazing movement: Leaping and bounding with precision and speed over distance, arguably not unlike great runners. Developing the ability of fast, powerful movement is something that we, as triathletes, are always striving for in our training, especially in running. One of the most proven ways to increase power, speed, and agility is to add specific exercises on hills to your running program.” -Lee Gardner

For the full article including a how-to description of the drills, click here: Hill Drills For Triathletes 

For Lee’s triathlon website click here: www.trismarter.com

Happy hill running!


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