Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Desperately Seeking Hills

If we're friends on Daily Mile, you've probably noticed that I've been running a good share of hills lately and I'm not complaining.  In fact, I've been searching out the hills, running loops so I get multiple doses. No, I haven't gone crazy. It's part of strategic training.

After a marathon (like the most recent Route 66 Marathon), I sink into down time.  Both mentally and physically, I allow myself to recover from the rigors of marathon training. I linger a bit longer in bed on the weekends, catch up on house projects and give my kids/hubby some needed attention. I run whenever I feel like it, however far (or short) I want, at whatever pace feels right at the moment.  I call it 'no pressure' running.  I may even go days without running. Typically, I pump up my cross-training to stay active and loose... Spinning is XT weapon of choice.  Eventually (3-4 weeks post-marathon), I get called back to running. Not sure how to even explain it, but inside I have a yearning to not only run, but start training again. Recovery period over.

Jumping back into a rigorous training cycle too quickly can cause injury though. So I enter into what I call base training. Slowly, I bring my weekly mileage up. However, this is not the time to crank speed or be concerned about my pace.  Ideally, this the best time of the year to just run... naked. No watch, no music, just run and listen to my body's feedback.

Base training is also a great time to work on strength training, something I don't do nearly enough. Let me be completely honest... I hate strength training. I am not a gym rat. So you can keep the weight room, the CrossFit box, and the fitness classes where they lift weights over and over for an hour. I'm sweating, yes, but utterly bored. I'm a girl who likes to get a bang for her buck... and I don't feel like I am without constantly moving.  Plus I generally just prefer my fitness outdoors.

I'm using HILLS as my strength training.

Running uphill is a form of resistance training that directly targets the 'runner' muscles... quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Your upper body also gets a workout since you pump your arms more when you go uphill versus a flat road.  Hills transform your normal run into a strength training workout.  Since pace is not a concern during base training, it's the perfect time to tackle hills! In short, the best way to improve running-specific strength is to run hills.  And the only strength I'm really concerned about is the kind that is going to help me PR in Eugene next April.

Many of the locals like Springdale Cemetery, but my favorite for hill training is Bradley Park. I love the beautiful setting and the challenging hills. I've been there 3x this past week.
Get up that hill... or stop halfway to take a picture. 
This path knocks me on my a$$ every time.

Coming off the Route 66 Marathon, I felt a little defeated from the hills in the backhalf. So I came home and registered for the Georgia Half and the Little Rock Marathon, neither of which are classified as "flat".  Almost like I enjoy torture... or a challenge. Whichever, I'm determined to be better prepared for elevation in 2013. And when it comes time to start working on speed for Eugene, my muscles will be strong and ready for it.

Be Strong... Go Run a HILL!
In fact, join in the Jingle Bell Hell virtual run this week.
If you're local in Peoria, join the Sole Sisters this Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8:00am
for our own version of Jingle Bell Hell through Springdale Cemetery!


  1. Nicely done on getting some hill runs in for training! You're going to crush your races!

    I got dominated by a hill at this past weekends race (it was a short trail 6k). I ran my first and last miles fast, but that hill *really* slowed me down. Which means, I need to incorporate hill-repeats into my training (lot's of 'em). I don't want to get dominated like that ever again, heh.

  2. I like your strategy! So much so, that I'm going to copy it. I'm the same way - I HATE the gym. I just can't motivate myself to go. So hills it will be. I'll also be at Little Rock (it'll be my 3rd marathon....I'm hoping that it will go well - 1st one I came down with strep 5 days before race day and the second one I ran with my brother who hadn't really trained so much so it took us a while, but was super fun). So this time I'm hoping to rock it, and earn that ENORMOUS medal :)

  3. The best part about training hills, is that when a course is described as 'rolling' hills, and you're in the middle of it GAINING momentum on the hills while otheres slow....freaking awesome! I PR'd a 10K last summer that was listed as 'challenging' and the hills sucked, but I passed and passed and passed people on every single hill (even on one that was so steep it seemed it would be faster to take it on all fours mountain-climber style) and I felt so STRONG! :) Now I'm all pumped to run, thanks!

    1. Seriously, right?!?! I love passing people on the uphill in races! :)

  4. Maybe I should try doing some hill repeats on our beach bridge! DUH! Never thought of that!

  5. We have so few hills here I have to drive to find one, but that doesn't stop me!

  6. I live in a super flat valley, but yet I do a 10k up in the mountains - at altitude, every year (for the past three years so far). The first year when I basically ended up hiking the entire second half (literally, it is a steep climb for about 2.5 miles), I knew I needed to do some hill training if I ever wanted to conquer the course, or at the very least not want to die and not be beat by a speedwalking Grandma (yep - she's beat me two of the three years now! LOL).

    So I found the only hill around that is part of a man-made reservoir nearby. It's about 1 mile complete from bottom to top and I nicknamed that thing The Beast. I conquered it and it made a huge difference in my endurance. I can't say I love hill training, but man, I sure do love what it does for me!!

    Good job on searching out the hills!

  7. You want hills? Come to NY one day. There is a course here with a hill called Cardiac Hill....there are signs along it saying "Crawl if you must" also there is a great 10k race here every year The Great Cow Harbor Race....a few years back Ryan Hall ran and won it *swoon*

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