(Information gleaned from over 15 sources)

In my view, the best kind of fitness training you can do!

This section deals with …

  • Purpose
  • Technique
  • Uphill
  • Downhill
  • Examples of training sessions
  • For the scientifically minded


  • Builds leg strength, which in turn, increases stride length (and hence speed) on the flat.
  • Improves speed (see above) but downhill running also improves cadence (rate of leg turnover).

[With gradual hills, the emphasis is on speed, and with steeper hills the emphasis is on strength.]

  • Enables you to run at a higher intensity with minimal impact stress, allowing for faster recovery (uphills only!)
  • Builds resistance to fatigue
  • Develops aerobic capacity (VO2 max)
  • Improves running economy – reduces the energy demand
  • Improves lactate threshold velocity
  • Protects against soreness and injury
  • Prepares you for running on hilly race courses.
  • Is more enjoyable and can replace specific resistance (weight) training that focuses on the legs.



  • drive your arms powerfully backwards;
  • lean forwards very slightly;
  • run tall and relaxed, with straight back;
  • lift your knees higher;
  • land more on your forefoot ;

Downhill: Running uphill reduces the impact of landing, whilst running downhill increases it. It greatly stresses the quads and may well induce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), but this can be good, as a bout of downhill running every 2 or 3 weeks can reduce DOMS for a further 4 to 6 weeks. But it is to be avoided if you have any muscular or joint pain and it is generally recommended that you cease downhill running 2 or 3 weeks before a race. Don’t run down too steep a slope – choose a gradual hill.

  • Actively RUN down the hill. This is all a matter of confidence and maintaining balance and control (and one reason why a gradual slope is better than a steep one!)
  • Try not to lean backwards as this results in overstriding, – you put your feet ahead of your body (centre of mass)
  • Lean forward slightly and you’ll make more use of gravity, which is “free energy”
  • So, avoid overstriding, focus on light, fast leg turnover.
  • You may find you are landing more on your heels, but this is better than landing on the balls of your feet.
  • Put your elbows out at the side to help with balance.

With all hill sessions, it is important to warm up first, preferably by running a mile or so beforehand.

Build up the number of reps gradually over time as hill training places great stress on your leg muscles and there is a great risk of injury if you do too much too soon. Even when fully accustomed to hill running, there is never a need to do more than 6 or 8 reps on steep hills. Thus, these sessions are comparatively short (which can’t be a bad thing!).

Finish with a cool down run.

Examples of training sessions:

Incorporate hills into a long run …

  • find a hilly route;
  • when you come to a hill run up it, down it and up again;
  • increase your effort when you come to a hill

Hill repeats – run up a hill, walk back down and recover (get your heart rate below 100bpm or as near as you can), repeat 6 times – long hills (400+ meters) are good for enhancing strength endurance, whilst shorter ones (less than 400m) are good for speed endurance. This also improves your aerobic capacity (VO2 max). On short repeats you keep fatigue at manageable levels and thus can run faster on each rep. If you don’t go as far on subsequent repeats, then you are not allowing yourself enough recovery time. Resist the urge to jog back down – reducing recovery time will not add to the workout but reduce its intensity and effectiveness.

Hill sprints – short bursts of about 8 seconds. As the weeks go by, gradually increase the length and/or time, possibly reducing the gradient. Allow full recovery between efforts.

Find a flight of steps and run up AND down 5 or 6 times. (Obviously depends on number of steps!);

Lactate threshold hills – a great way to increase your lactate threshold is by running long hills. If you can find a hill that is about a half a mile to a mile long you can do a LT workout. Run hard up the hill for about 6 minutes, jog back down and repeat 4 to 6 times – giving you about 24 or more minutes at LT intensity.

Find different terrains to do your hill work on a steep(ish) grassy bank – ones in Heartlands (Bourton Park); or on dirt paths (ones either side of Page Hill); or run across country (needn’t be hilly, just rough so as to develop strength in the feet and ankles).

Run on a treadmill – if you have access to one where you can adjust the gradient.

Run BACKWARDS on a (not too steep) hill – also good for strengthening leg muscles opposite to those used in running uphill.

Bounce, bound or hop up a hill (plyometrics) – this greatly increases the force produced in your legs and is not for beginners! Do this once you have carried out several hill sessions.

Do some progression intervals on a hill – run up a hill for 10 seconds, walk back down to recover; then go again for 15, 20, 25, 30 seconds etc. (Lenborough Road is good for this). To increase the time spent running uphill, either do 2 x each interval before progressing or complete the “pyramid” and finish with 30, 25, 20, 15, 10 seconds.

Find a hill with a downhill on the other side – power up the hill and carry your speed over the top and down.

Find a loop to combine uphill and downhill running – Lime Avenue and Willow Drive is good for this or just run up a hill of about 300m length, have a breather, and run back down. Repeat about 6 times.


Finally, for the scientifically minded …

Calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are placed under greater strain because greater ankle dorsiflexion occurs when running uphill and this enhances their eccentric strength. This in turn, improves stability of the ankle and foot. In addition, for a specific stride rate, the velocity of calf-muscle contraction must increase compared to running on the flat; the calf muscles are more stretched out because of the increased dorsiflexion, so they must snap back into place more quickly in order to create toe-off and propel the body forward. Ultimately, uphill running should promote greater power development in these muscles which are key sources of propulsive force during running. On the other hand, there is less dorsiflexion when running downhill and so the muscles in the shin work harder. During downhill running, each impact with the ground creates an unusual level of eccentric strain on the quadriceps, which must create significant force to control knee flexion and keep the leg from collapsing. As the quads generate this force, they are stretched considerably by the natural post-impact flexion of the knee. This combination of force production and simultaneous stretching dramatically enhances quad eccentric strength and makes them less prone to soreness during subsequent training. This increased eccentric strength also makes the leg more stable and springier during the stance phase of gait, enhancing economy and speed. (from “Running Science” by Owen Anderson).

Chris Usher -January 2021