I don’t think anyone has ever said “Man, I love hill repeats,” unless you're a little crazy already. Most coaches will throw a hill workout into a normal routine every so often to spice things up, but for what purpose? Why is coach making us do this? Hills are terrible!
There is a method to your coach’s madness. Hills will make you a faster and more efficient runner and not just due to the obvious strength and power gains that come from trudging up a monster hill. Hill repeats can help to develop enhancements in breathing, posture, cadence, and mechanics efficiency. From horizontal propulsion you will also improve your economy by reducing vertical bounce with each step.
To get the full benefits of hill running you have to pay attention to form as you are cruising up your next set of repeats. Be sure to develop a forward lean from the ankles and not the hips, and try to drive your arms forward and backward instead of across the chest. Keeping the chest tall will allow good oxygen uptake and promote good running posture. Maintain a good landing position by striking underneath the hips rather then reaching out for each step in front of the body.
The best runners have higher ground reaction and minimal ground contact time. Proper hill running encourages both of those things. I’m not saying you need to run hills every day or even every week, but adding hill repeats to your routine will increase your efficiency as a runner. A more efficient runner is a stronger runner and has a decreased risk of injury.
So next time your training plan calls for hills, hills, hills, make sure to enjoy the run and remember why you are doing them!
Greg Laraia, ATC