Run for the Hills: Workouts to Train for a Hilly Race

The Chattanooga Chase 8k is just around the corner on Monday, May 29. Established in 1969, the race is the area’s oldest active competitive road race, featuring a HILLY 8k and a fast 1-mile race through Chattanooga’s North Shore. Rock/Creek will be awarding a premium to the first male and female to reach the water station atop Minnekahda Avenue, the race’s most challenging climb! 

To help get your legs in shape to survive, I mean run, this historic 8k, we asked a few noteworthy, and fast, runners to give us their favorite hill workouts and tips on how to run them. Add these workouts into your weekly routine to prepare yourself for the Chase!

Daniel Goetz, local runner and coach

Workout 1:

This is a 10 mile run total. Run 5 miles uphill, then turn around and go back down. The distance is not as important as long as you're challenging yourself.

I like to do this every other week instead of a long run. I would suggest having at least one easy day after and before doing a workout. I like this workout simply because it's tough.

Because you're running uphill, you don't have to run fast to work hard. You don't have to push, just let the hill do the work. You will be breathing hard and your legs will be burning, and all you have to focus on is to keep moving and make it to the top. Once you’re at the top, stop and check out the view for a second then turn around and head back down.

Going down will feel different at first because you're not having to produce as much power to get your body up the hill. Instead, your body is working hard to reduce the shock of fighting gravity's pull. Again don't push. Just relax, lean forward, and let gravity do its job. You'll likely come down a few minutes faster than your pace on the way up.

Since there’s so much downhill, I recommend doing this workout on a dirt road, wide trail, or flat terrain.

Workout 2:

Start with a 10-15 minute light tempo run. Then run 3-5 sets of :30 seconds, :45 seconds, :30 seconds hill sprints with a walk/jog recovery on the downhill and 3-4 minutes between sets. The hill should be moderately steep, nothing crazy (a great hill is Whitehall Road).

The light tempo run at the beginning of the workout has two functions. First, it helps warm up your legs before you hit the hills. Then when you start the hill repeats, your legs will already have a good amount of work in them, so they have to push harder during the workout.

The effort on the hills should be pretty high. As you try this hill workout, you'll have to learn how to distribute effort throughout the sets. When the effort is high and it becomes harder to push, focus on being tall, using your arms, and lifting your legs quickly.

Hills are God's gift to runners. Any variation of these workouts are beneficial. Make sure to stretch well, foam roll, and whatever else to take care of your muscles and joints afterward!

Patrick Reagan, 100k American record holder, U.S. Olympic Qualifier

One of my favorite hill workouts is uphill, downhill 2 mile repeats. If you have a bridge or hill that is around a mile up and a mile down, I suggest a structure similar to this session:

Start with a 2-3 mile warmup. Then perform 3-5 x 2 mile repeats at your trail marathon effort (If you have never run a marathon, let alone a trail marathon, think of this as slower than your 5k or 10k race pace but still a quick and sustainable speed.) Rest for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Don’t stop moving completely. Practice active recovery like walking around or slow, easy jogging.

A pace example for this workout is running uphill at a 6:35 minutes/mile pace and downhill at a 5:25 minutes/mile pace.  At the end of the workout run a 1-2 mile cool down.

Alan Outlaw, our beloved owner of Fast Break Athletics

Find a gradual grade hill that is not too steep. Run 8-10 repetitions of uphill sprints for 20 seconds. The 20 seconds helps to create better running form and glute strength. Focus on running with good, total body form. Pump your arms to increase your leg turnover. Pick up your feet, and push hard in the last few seconds.

Another great workout is to run a continuous steady effort on a hilly course. Pick an area of town with numerous hills to run you mid-week tempo run. Be aware of each hill and resist slowing your pace. Keep it steady.

Add one of these workouts into your weekly training and you will be ready to tackle the hills in the Chattanooga Chase! Sign up today to stay motivated! See you at the start line!