TRAINING: Hill Reps

Murderous session tonight as Zoran and Kevin joined me for some uphill reps. This was the smallest training group in a long time, so I hope I didn’t lose half of them because of the change from Kilmashogue to Ticknock!

We did a few looseners after our warm-up after which I showcased a few drills on how to waste minimal movement on the uphill by not lifting your leg too far behind me. Learned this one on La Santa and realised recently that it’s even more effective in the hills than on the flat.

The menu was 8x3 minutes up a 10% gradient (we generally ran around 550m and 55m ascent for each rep). Each person got a cone and was asked to go at their mountain running race pace or a bit slower (5k or 10k intensity approximately but its hard to compare with “road pain” as the stress of uphill running is very different). Once arriving at the end for the first rep, each runner placed a cone and you stop the exercise once you can no longer get within 20-30m of the cone without killing yourself or when you reach eight reps, whichever comes first.

Recovery is the run back down again for which you have three minutes as well (this suited almost perfectly). The first minute seems to fly away comfortable enough but as we emerged from the shade of the trees for the final two our lungs were burning the whole way and heart rate snuck from a “comfortable” 170-174 up over 180 and eventually close to 190 on the later repeats (this never more than a few seconds of the rep, my Garmin recorded a perfect exercise intensity, for me, of 174 for the hard reps).

We kept good running form throughout which is an essential component. If you can’t do this, then shorten the reps or stay to flat intervals until you build up the necessary strength for this workout. Doing it wrong, or struggling up the ascent is not worthwhile training. Run strong and steadily throughout.

This is a different exercise than the more common 1 minute up and 1 minute down and to some degree less intense. Both exercises have their place (as does 2 minutes up and 2 minutes down) but for the early stages I prefer to use the longer reps for athletes who can handle it as you can tap into the endurance and strength build in the earlier training. 1 minute up/1 minute down tends to reach into intensities of training that are more desirable later in the racing session (similar to the way we would use windsprints or very short and sharp reps during racing season). For today, our goal was to get ourselves pleasantly tired, finishing while we could probably have squeezed out one or two more, rather than risking a blown gasket.

It was a very enjoyable session and we all ran consistently close to the cone or just past it for all eight reps and finished strongly on the last one (always a good sign). Recently I come away from most sessions thinking how great it was to do it, despite the pain, and brimming with a feeling that strength is taking hold of bones, muscles and lungs rather than that terrible hollow fatigue that constant hard training, if dosed incorrectly, can leave you with.

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