Interval Training and Hill Repetitions
Why intervals and why hill running? Anaerobic Threshold (AT) is the point at which lactic acid accumulation reaches concentrations that limit performance and cause fatigue. Triathletes, like all endurance athletes, need to maximise AT (often measured as a % of VO2max) in order to sustain high-intensity exercise for prolonged periods.
Training at, or slightly below, AT improves the body’s ability to buffer, recycle and clear lactic acid. Running intervals, particularly on hills is the best way I know to improve AT.
Plus the specificity principle means the body makes physiological adaptations in recruiting and strengthening muscle fibres associated with climbing ie. athletes improve technique, become more efficient, and are less likely to sustain injury.
Plus there is a psychological factor; if hills are included in training then there is nothing to fear from racing on hilly courses. This is mental toughness!
What are intervals/hill sessions? Intervals are repeated periods of intensive exercise interspersed with periods of recovery. Intervals can be done on flat/uphill/downhill/variable terrain, on a running track or even a treadmill. Intervals can be short or long. For example:-
To improve both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, do 5 or 6 repeats of an 800m or 1000m hill, probably around 4 or 5 degree slope, jogging back to the start.
To concentrate on anaerobic power, do 2 or 3 sets of 100 to 150m sprints (10 reps per set) up a steeper hill, say 8 to 10 degree slope. Take 5 minutes recovery between each set. The quicker jog back makes for much shorter recovery between the sprints.
When do we do them? We can benefit from intervals and hill running throughout the training season. During the base or preparation stage, we might devote 10% of our total training time to intervals, gradually increasing to around 25% during racing season. The longer intervals are most appropriate during the Base or Preparation Phase, and the shorter intervals most appropriate to the pre-competition phase and can be continued throughout the racing season.
Tips for running hills. Use a vigorous arm action, a vigorous knee lift, and powerful toe-off from the driving leg. Sometimes called hill bounding.
Always warm up first with a minimum 10 to 15 minutes low intensity aerobic exercise, followed by running drills or exercises to mobilise the joints.