Learn to Run Hills to Build Strength & Speed

If you have been running for awhile and ready to take it to the next level, incorporating hill running into your training plan you can help you break through running plateaus to get faster and stronger. 

Hill running recruits more muscle fibers, helps improve speed, builds runner-specific strength and power and can be easier on the joints that flat road running. 

I recommend hill repeats for beginner and intermediate runners who have established a solid running base of at least three times a week for six weeks. 

Add in hill repeats into your training schedule one day a week to start, after four to six weeks of hill training, you may be ready to add in a second day of hills. I recommend 24-48 hours of rest after hard workouts. 

learn to run hills to build strength & speed. Save to Pinterest for later. 

learn to run hills to build strength & speed. Save to Pinterest for later. 


The best way to incorporate hill running into your training is to find a hill outdoors and run repeats. Sometimes the instructions I see online for running hill repeats look too technical and confusing. They sometimes will tell you to find s 7-10% grade hill and run at a 10K pace. Let me help you simplify it.

Find a low traffic hill that look relatively steep to the eye, one that takes approximately one minute to run from the bottom to top. 

Always warm up before intense workouts. 


Running hills can help promote a more economical running form. 

1. Imagine that there is a rope tied to your waist pulling you towards the top of the hill. 

2. Keep your chest up with your shoulders back and down.

3.  Keep your neck neutral with your eyes looking forward, not at the ground.

4. Keep your hands loose. Imagine holding a potato chip between your thumb and pointer finger if you have a tendency to clench your fists.

5. Keep your jaw loose. 

6. Pump your arms at a 90 degree angle and do not allow them to cross over the front of your body.

7. Keep your elbows close to your body, do not allow them to flare out to the sides. 


When running hills start at the bottom at a relaxed pace and gradually increase speed as you approach the crest of the hill. If you are new to running hills then it may be enough to simply jog up the hill, you will notice an increase in intensity as compared to running on flat roads. You can work to increase pace as you improve and get stronger.


Recover fully between reps, this may mean to jog or walk back down the hill to allow your heart rate to return to normal before you start your next hill repetition. It may take you one minute to reach the top of the hill and two and a half minutes to walk back down to the bottom.


Start with three to five repetitions and increase over time as you adapt to your training. 


It's important to think about how you can progress your training when you're ready. Your body adapts to the workouts you do, so what once felt difficult can start to feel easy and become less effective over time. Once you are running hills on a regular basis, think how you can progress your training to the next level every four to six weeks. A few ways you can progress hill training:

1. Increase the numbers of repeats. If you were running three repetitions, try to run five or six repeats, build up to 10 over time.

2. Increase the speed of each repetition. Try to beat your time from the bottom to the top of the hill. Never attempt to increase both number of repetitions and speed in the same workout. Increase one at a time to help reduce chance of injury.

3. Reduce rest time between repetitions. If you were walking between reps, try a slow jog. 

4. Find a steeper or long hill to run.

5. Increase the number of days of hills repeats in your training schedule. Start with one day and progress to two days after four to six weeks. 

As you get stronger looks for ways to keep challenging yourself or you could hit a plateau in your training. It is important not to push progression beyond your current fitness levels to avoid risk of injury, overtraining and burnout. For best results, start slow and progress over time, changing variables every four to six weeks.


Listen to your body and always allow proper recovery between workouts. Your body adapts (grows stronger and faster) during the rest period after the workout, not during the workout itself. If you don't allow proper time for recovery between workouts, you will not see the full benefit of your hard work. I recommend 24 to 48 hours of rest or easy days after hard workouts. Always allow at least one full rest day a week and listen to your body, take more if you need it. Sleep is also an important component to recovery. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night for best recovery and performance benefits. 

Are you ready to tackle those hills? It's the workout that runners love to hate, but so effective in taking your running performance to the next level. Need more help? I offer online run coaching services that are personalized for your goals, abilities and fitness level. Improve your performance with coaching. 

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