Hills, Hills, Hills …

If there is a single better session than hills someone needs to let me know. Arthur Lydiard swore by them but the best hills story is still a Malmo (George Malley) story about Henry Rono:

Henry, here is the story that The Dina (Steve) tells about his bar-tending days at Guido’s, and the day that you revealed the secret of running to him.

The Dina started a conversation with Henry about Salazar and training, and he kept the beers flowing freely, figuring it was truth serum, so that he could extract the secrets of running from Henry. Finally, Henry opened up, and the conversation went something like this:

“Tooooz-day… Sal-luh-zahhh…. trrraack,” Rono said, shaking his head “no.”

“Tourrrz-day…. Sal-luh-zahhh…. trrraack,” again shaking his head no.

“Sat-tuhh-day…. Sal-luh-zahhh…. trrraack,” emphatically shaking his head no.

Dina listened intently.

“Dee Heeeeel!” Shouted Rono, with his arm extended straight and pointing uphill.

Then, the Dina leaned forward to the bar to finally coax out “the secret” from the legend.

“Henry, what hill?” he asked, earnestly.

“Steve,” waving his arms maniacally, Rono shouted, “ANY HEEEEEEEL!”

A an athlete I used to hate hills, but also knew the power of hills. When I went to university it was our transition workout to the track and I dreaded them. They just hurt too much, but I persisted and over time hills went from the enemy to my savior. As a coach I will live and die with hill work.

The key was one winter when I first began teaching and couldn’t make it to do any workouts on trails. I had a history of stress fractures and hated running on the roads, but there was this gravel hill (about 45 sec) near my old place so I would warm up and then simply run up and down. At first 20 mins was tough and then 30 and eventually and I even got up to 40+. It was boring, but ‘magical’ things happened. I was stronger, ran faster and more importantly I had no injury problems. I found that it really helped my running form and decreased the various hip/back ailments I always have when I run on flat surfaces too much.

All our training nowadays have some hill work as the athletes get a great stimulus and it doesn’t break them down with the pounding of the track. We eventually go straight to the track for more structured sessions, but every once in the summer season we’ll go back to hills and it’s amazing how athletes respond to throwing the stop watch out the window and being in nature. Sometimes we mimic track sessions and at other times it might just be short 10-15 sec hills for form and powers/strength. Even on long runs the hillier the better (it creates a relaxed sort of fartlek run). It’s just a matter of being creative. So throw the science out the window when in doubt go find some 30-60 sec hill and simply run up and down.

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