Improve Your Trail Running Speed with Hill Exercises

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Understanding how to improve your running through specific training methods can be complex. Often, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what works best because many factors are involved. Think of it like trying to find a clear cause-and-effect relationship; it's not always straightforward. However, some strategies consistently show positive results, like taking sufficient rest, eating well, and including easy runs in your training.

One effective method is incorporating short hill runs, or power hill strides, into your routine. These involve running up a hill for about 15 to 30 seconds, followed by an easy jog or walk back down for recovery, and they're a common element in the training for many athletes. I saw significant improvements by frequently using these exercises and emphasizing the power aspect of the strides. Here is how we use power Hills strides:

Each stride is 15 to 30 seconds up a moderate grade of 4-8% (20 seconds seems to be a sweet spot)

Recoveries involve jogging back down and around until you are ready, usually 60 to 90 seconds.

Aim to do 4 to 8 of them.

Aim to do them one to three times per week.

While the benefits of hill strides might not be universally proven, the principle behind them is sound.

High-speed, short bursts of effort can enhance your running efficiency, meaning you'll use less energy at your usual pace.

This is partly because such exercises can improve both your heart's efficiency and your muscles' ability to handle quick, powerful movements.

Hill strides also encourage neuromuscular adaptations, essentially training your brain and muscles to work together more effectively, leading to improvements in your running economy over time. It is best to start using hill strides early in the training as a way to safely get used to higher-effort running. As you progress, you might shift the focus to flat-ground strides for speed development before returning to hill strides for sustained power improvement.

The key to hill strides is to approach them with a focus on strong, powerful steps rather than simply trying to move your legs as fast as possible. Start gently and gradually increase your effort, ensuring you don't strain yourself.

Remember, these strides are meant to be adapted based on each runner's individual background and should be enjoyable. They offer a unique way to build strength and speed, potentially making a significant difference in your running performance.

In short, while running training theories can be complex and uncertain, certain strategies like power hill strides stand out for their potential to foster long-term growth in runners.

Just remember, the aim is to improve, not to push yourself to the point of injury.

And who knows? You might even find these exercises to be a fun addition to your training regimen.