How to Run Hill Repeats for Improving Speed

A female runner jogging up a hill outdoors.
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It may not be every runner's favorite thing to do, but hill running has plenty of benefits for runners. Hill repeats are an excellent way for runners to build strength, improve their speed, and build their mental strength and confidence in hill running.

Although hills come in all different lengths and degrees of incline, the basic concept of a hill repeat is usually the same. You run up the hill fast and then recover by jogging or walking down.

How to Run Hill Repeats

  1. Don't start hill training until you have about six to eight weeks of base-building running. You should be running at least three days a week and averaging about 15 miles per week.
  2. Look for a hill that's between one and 100 to 200 meters long. You want the incline to be enough to test you, but not so tough that you won't be able to maintain your good running form.
  3. Before you get started, make sure you warm up. Try to plan it so that you get about 10-15 minutes of slow jogging in before you reach the bottom of the hill.
  4. Don't stare at your feet. But you also don't want to look way up to the top of the hill, especially if it's a really long or steep hill. Focus on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. This will help you stay mentally focused on the hill.
  5. Start running up the hill at your 5K effort pace. You'll want to try to push yourself hard up the hill, but don't let your form totally fall apart. Try to keep a consistent effort up the hill.
  6. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle and should be moving forward and back (rotating at the shoulder), not side to side.
  7. Your back should be straight and erect. You can lean in very slightly from the hips, but make sure you're not hunched over.
  8. Drive your arms back as you run. They will help power you up the hill.
  9. When you reach the top of the hill, your breathing should be labored and your legs should feel heavy. Turn around and recover by easy jogging or walking down the hill.
  10. Your number of repeats depends on your experience and fitness level. Beginner runners should start with 2-3 repeats, adding one additional repeats each week for the next three to four weeks. Advanced runners can start with six repeats and add another one each week, with a maximum of ten repeats.
  11. When doing hill training, don't do hill repeats more than once a week. Try mixing up the hills you try—some short and steep, and other longer ones with a smaller incline.

Even if you live in a very flat area, it's still possible to do hill workouts. Try these treadmill hill workouts.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.