Hills pay the bills!

Whether you love them or you hate them, there is no doubt, hill running can massively improve your running. In this blog it’s my mission to convince you that running up and down hills can be great fun and are also fantastic for your technique and fitness.

Here’s a couple of reasons why I love them…

The views

Now I know I am very lucky to live where I do. I live in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales and I don’t have to go far to get a gobsmackingly beautiful view. Once I’ve done the hard work to yet to the top, I feel like I am one of the Carpenters singing ‘on top of the world, looking, down on creation….’. There is nothing quite like it!

Running with friends at Glentress Half Marathon, one of the hilliest races I done!

I should put a small note here that more often than not, the wonderful British weather can scupper these plans and the views aren’t always beautiful. But even on a wet day when the cloud is down, you can’t help but feel pretty epic when you get to the top.

The sense of achievement

I think I must have been an under achiever in my early years because I really struggle to think of any moments where I have felt as proud of myself as I do when I run. I’m not just talking about speed and PBs but challenging myself to do something that I wouldn’t have thought possible. I remember looking at routes on strava with my husband when I wanted to try my first 5/6 miler and ALL the routes seemed to involve going up. I quickly dismissed them, ‘no chance’ I’d say and I stuck to the river footpaths.

Running highs! Nearing the summit.

Eventually my confidence grew and I didn’t beat myself up when I needed to walk. I’d remember where I got to and try to run a bit further up the next time. Power walking the steeper ups can be far more efficient and just as good at getting the heart pumping.  Before I knew it I had a list in my head of all of the big hills I wanted to try and always came home with a huge smile on my face once I’d done it!!

The down

Now, I have a love/hate relationship with the downhills. I love the concentration you need when the ground gets technical, dancing around the rabbit holes, rocks, bogs and streams.

My favourite thing about running downhill though, is on a lovely, smooth and not too steep section where you can let your legs go, raise your arms up and pretend you are flying. It is such a fab feeling.

Why are hills so good?

Here are some reasons why it is a great idea to add hills into your training.


If you include some hills in your training, you will raise your anaerobic threshold (which refers to the effort your body can maintain before it goes into oxygen debt) and therefore you will be able to maintain a faster cruising speed and achieve faster times on the flat. Hill repeats, specifically, also help improve your recovery time – this refers to the time it takes for your breath to recover after you have run up a hill during a race for example.


Hill training creates an overload on your legs, the force of gravity pushing you down is your resistance band as your legs have to push against it to get you up the hill.

You are also building a strength in your muscles which can deal with muscle fatigue – preparing your body for that moment at the end of your marathon when you need your legs to keep moving.


Running up hills forces you to lift your legs higher, drive off your toes, and use good backward arm drive to get you to the top. All of these are key components of good running technique. If you can mimic the same range of movement on the flat you are guaranteed to improve your times.


Hills can be mentally very challenging and can help to raise your mental running game. The resilliance they bring also comes with a huge amount of confidence which is so important when pushing yourself to the limit.

What kind of hill workouts can you try?

There’s a great variety of hill workouts, here are some of my recommendations;

If you are trying hills for the first time, I would suggest simply starting to pick routes where you know there are hills and get used to them before throwing yourself into a harder session.

Short hill reps

Find a hill that takes 30 seconds to sprint up. Begin by warming up your body with a 10 min easy paced run. If this is your first bash perhaps start with 4 – 6 repetitions, walking or jogging your way back down to where you started to recover your breath. As you build in confidence add more reps for future sessions.

Long hills

Find a hill that takes around 3 minutes to get up. After a 10 minute easy paced warm up, run at an even pace you can maintain for the 3 minutess and then run back down to the start. This is not a hill sprint but a continuous steady effort you can keep up. Jog back down at a similar pace and when you are recovered and ready, try another 2 – 3 and see how you feel.

Hill pyramid

Warm up your body with a 10 minute easy paced run.

  • Run hard up a hill for 30 secs and jog back to the start to recover
  • Run hard up a hill for 45 seconds and jog back to the start to recover
  • Run hard up a hill for 60 seconds and jog back to the start to recover
  • Run hard up a hill for 90 seconds and jog back to the start to recover
  • Run hard up a hill for 60 seconds and jog back to the start to recover
  • Run hard up a hill for 45 seconds and jog back to the start to recover
  • Run hard up a hill for 30 seconds and jog back to the start to recover

For all of these sessions don’t forget to include at least 5 mins of easy paced running or walking to cool down.

So, there you go – hills are fab at developing many areas of our running -why not give it a try, you have nothing to lose! I’d love to know how you get on.