Running and biking hill repeats can offer significant improvements to your racing even if your key races do not involve all climbing. Spring is a great time of the year to add the workout into your training program. How many times have we all read about the benefits of adding hill repeats to our training and say "I have to add some hill training to my program" and never get around to it. It seems every magazine, book, coach, etc. discusses the benefits of adding to the overall program. They are brutal when you first start them after the off-season. However, the benefits of gradually progessing with hill repeats enhances the aerobic engine (aerobic, anaerobic), power, overall body strength and mental toughness.
You will definitely uncover your weaker areas during these workouts: when running hill repeat's it's important maintain good form and "lean" into the hill and remember to use your core muscles. A strong arm drive while running will also help get you to the top a bit quicker but, will raise the heart rate quickly into the "red-zone" area. While biking, fatique will set in the upperbody and will be an eye-opener and remind us if we spent enough time with strength training in the off season.
After 4-6 weeks of consistent weekly hill repeats, it's amazing to me how much running/cycling strength improves each workout. Of course mix them up to add some variety. Here a few that I like to incorporate into my program:
1. Biking or Running - during an aerobic workout, push every hill to the top and then recover and get back to aerobic heart rate zone
2. Mountain Bike - pick a hill that takes around 3-5 minutes to climb and start with a series of 5 hill repeats and build over time. I like to add the mountain bike as it's pure quad power (no standing) with upper body strengthening, balance and technical skill benefits.
3. Running workout - roads or trails - Find a hill that will take around 5-7 minutes to climb but not so steep that it's hard to keep up a pace. After a solid 15-20 minute warmup for the run, start small with 3-5 hill repeats and recover with an easy jog down the hill. Add 3 minutes hard level running after the recovering jog (down the hill) on 1 or 2 of the reps and no recovery just head straight back up the hill. By incorporating this hard level running then automatically going back uphill without recovery will trash the legs so start slow and make sure you finish the workout.
4. Killer Combined Bike/Run Hill Repeat workout - either mountain bike/trail running or road option. I like to find a shorter hill and a bit steeper than the longer gradual climbs for this workout. Start with good 20 minutes of warmup with some short pickups then do 1-2 minutes climbing on the bike - standing only first set then seated while clicking into harder gears while climbing in the second set, coast down to the bottom and quickly change to running shoes and focus on a quick turnover while climbing. Yes you need a safe place to ditch the bike while running!! Recovery jog back to the bottom and repeat. Start with 2 -3 sets (One bike climb wand One Run climb is one set) and get up to 10-15 after some weeks of progression. This is an unbelievable workout with numerous benefits for racing.
Enjoy your climbing!
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