How to Do 8-Second Uphill Sprints

In the past, I’ve recommended that multisport athletes do short 8-10 second uphill sprints.  It’s part of my general training program and overall philosophy towards training.  Jason Fitzgerald over at Strength Running just put together a post and a video that describes how to do hill sprints.  My comments after the break.

Jason does a fantastic job at demonstrating how to do these sprints but I’d like to bring some of the ideas back home specifically to older athletes and multisport athletes.

  • Multisport Athletes Need Hill Sprints More than Runners.  The reason is simple– running is an elastic, plyometric sport with muscles being used eccentrically.  By contrast, cycling and swimming use little or no muscle elasticity and power is generated entirely through concentric movements.  Multisport athletes are already at a deficit of running-like muscle activity with all of the cycling and swimming that we do– and then our long runs and recovery runs do little to promote elasticity (although I have a blog post coming up to address that).  Adding hill sprints at the end of a long or recovery run is great way to make up that deficit.
  • Older Athletes Need Hill Sprints More than Younger Athletes.  Despite the temptation to think that sprinting hills increases injuries, it actually decreases injuries.  Brad Hudson makes a big point of this in his book Run Faster and he suggests hill sprints are probably the best form of injury prevention a runner can do because it strengthens the tendons and muscles.  Of course, you will get injured if you do these exercises cold– so put them at the end of a workout.
  • Do Fewer.  Don’t give into the “more is better” mentality.  You only want to do a sprinkling of these hard hill repeats.  I never do more than five and usually only stick with two or three.
  • Keep Recoveries at Least Two to Three Minutes Long.  Steve Magness (Science of Running, p 222) recommends that the recovery intervals between each hill repeat should be at least 2-3 minutes long.  In his video, Jason’s recovery seems a bit too short at 1:15.  You really want to be totally recovered before hitting the next interval.  The reason is that cutting your recovery even a few seconds too short means that you won’t be able to hit the next one with the intensity needed for the workout.  This is not an endurance workout– it’s purely strength and speed.
  • Don’t be a Muscle-Headed Long-Distance Athlete (Attention: Ironman Athletes).  You know the Ironman ethic of muscling through workouts and persevering?  It’s the “just get ‘er done” philosophy that hits around mile 10 of the marathon in an Ironman?  Well, throw it out the window.  It has no place in this workout.  If you think you only have one gear, you’re not trying hard enough.  Picture that your child or favorite pet is on fire at the top of the hill.  Imagine an angry bear chasing you down.  Do whatever it takes to get ugly and sprint like it’s the last thing you do on earth.  Ultra-distance athletes spend so much time worrying about pacing and not “blowing up” that they forget that they can go faster.

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