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Many runners from disciplines other than fell running will at some time or other introduce a hill rep session into their training. The value of such training - if done right - is not in doubt. In fell running, for obvious reasons, it is considered a necessity, so the following guidelines will give you some idea on how you should tackle this important aspect of your training.
The first thing to remember is that the old adage “you can’t get too much of a good thing” does not apply here. For junior runners, running too many hills can create problems. For every foot you climb you have to descend - unless you are lucky enough to have an alternative transport arrangement. Running hills is much more tiring than flat training, even up pace running. So introducing hills into your training has to be gradual and balanced with the rest of your training. Running hills also constitutes a shortened stride and too many hills can reduce overall stride length. There are also many areas that come under additional stress when working hard on the hills, your breathing can become much more laboured, your legs can become very heavy with lactate, and stresses to the Achilles, Hamstrings and Gluts are much more pronounced. Heart rates and temperatures can also rise more quickly, especially in the younger athletes.
So your probably asking is it worth the trouble? The answer is ‘yes’. Although there are many permutations of hill session, they are founded basically on three types:
There are also endurance runs where you encounter hills without a repetition base.
Short fast runs:
3-5 Minute runs:
5 Minutes plus:
Although this session is easier in intensity the total time of the session can make it demanding for a junior. Again it’s a matter of grading and commonness in relation to the total time of the session.
General Hill Rules
Consciously try hard to shorten your stride as you engage the hill, the length of stride being in keeping with the gradient. Many juniors run with too long a stride when climbing and put undue strain on their legs. Try to run on top of the hill by being light on your feet, predominantly on your toes. Keep your body at right angles to the hill. Breathing should be rhythmically linked with the running action, and the arms should play a major role in helping the leg rhythm. Look for good foot holes as you climb so that good traction is obtained. Shoes must be tightly laced; shoes that wobble about especially on the descent may allow the ankle to go over.
Check your fell shoes at home by placing them on a flat surface and check from the back to see how far they lean over. If your shoes already lean inwards then imagine how far they would lean when wet and in a contouring situation. Your shoes must have good studs with plenty of grip and not too much pronation (lean).
Hill training can be very demanding and the intensity of a session has to be carefully aligned with the ability of the junior. However, those juniors who choose to race on the fells have to be accustomed to the intensity and effort that fell running brings, so your training has to reflect that.
Training on the hills should be done constructively, not destructively. Enjoy your running.