Running Workout: Hill Cycles

Joe, Josh and Tyler performing a running workout.

This running workout is an On ZAP Endurance classic – hill cycles. Hill cycles are a workout we use quite a bit early in a training plan during the base phase. This session can be implemented in preparation for any race distance. You can vary the specifics of the workout quite a bit, but this version will include 30 total minutes of quicker running.

Ideally the hill cycle workout will be performed on a loop. The loop should take 3-4 minutes to run and be split into roughly thirds – ⅓ flat, ⅓ uphill, and ⅓ downhill. Start the workout on the flat portion at roughly marathon pace. Then when you hit the uphill keep the pace steady and have 3 spots on the hill where you’ll pick up the pace just a hair so you’re finishing your fastest at the top. We usually mark each spot with a cone.

Then you’ll run downhill for your recovery, but keep this pace steady – it’s recovery because it’s downhill, not because it’s a slow jog. Then you’ll go right back into the flat portion. You’ll do the loop for 15 minutes then take 3 minutes rest before running the loop again for 10 minutes followed by 3 minutes rest and a final 5 minute segment on the loop. The goal is to move a little quicker as you move from one segment to the next with the gear shifts on the hill a touch more assertive. You should still finish this workout knowing you could run another 5-8 minute segment if you had to. The goal is to keep it in the 80-90% effort range.

Hills are a great way to build strength and improve running efficiency. Incorporating hills in combination with these tempo blocks is to recruit more muscle fibers with the hill repeats and then train them to work during the tempo pieces.