Time for Hill Training

Oh boy! Hill training is here! Said pretty much no runner, ever.

We’re ten weeks away from the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. That means you’re probably a couple of weeks into your hill repeat workouts if you are following the Running Room training program. This phase of the program runs for the next seven weeks and started with four hills a couple of weeks ago. Eventually you’ll hit double digit repeats and probably something like 15-17km on a Wednesday evening.

These hill repeats matter!

Hills are a key part of the training program, so even if you think you’ll hate them, it’s important to get out and do the work. I’ve grown to appreciate hill training over the years and while I wouldn’t say I enjoy running hill repeats, but there is a certain satisfaction that comes along with completing these workouts.


Logan Ave. is our hill.

Some tips to get the most out of your hill repeats:

  • Find a good hill – look for a hill that’s about a 5%-7% grade (or a little more) and about 500-600m long. It should be a good challenge, but not overwhelming. If there’s nothing suitable around, the treadmill can be a good alternative solution.
  • Do a good warm up and cool down – get two or three kilometres in to warm up before you run the hills. And plan to run a couple kilometres after your repeats too so you give yourself a chance to see what it’s like to run on tired legs. We’re lucky to have a good hill about 3km from the Canary District Running Room, so we get our warm up and cooldown just running over and back.
  • Don’t over do the hills – the goal here is to build strength and cardio, not to wear yourself out. You should be running at a pace that puts some stress on your body, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing to the point of exhaustion. Remember that you should be able to run a consistent pace up the hill for each repeat, and maintain that pace for all the repeats. Consider wearing a heart rate monitor (if you have one) and make sure you don’t blow over your max heart rate, which is a sign you are pushing the pace too much.
  • Focus on your form – resist the temptation to lean into the hill. Instead, stay upright, get your legs turning over quickly and run like you’re riding a bike. At the top of the hill, run through the crest of the hill and ease up the pace to bring your heart rate down after the exertion phase.

You might be surprised at how quickly time passes when you are doing repeats. Think about how the work put in on the hills now will make a big difference on race day. While the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon course is known for being flat, fast and festive, there are a couple of decent inclines to deal throughout the race.

Good luck and enjoy your repeats!