Dopey Challenge Training - Week Seven
by, 10-20-2013 at 09:19 PM (468 Views)
"Hills. We love them. We hate them. They make us strong. They make us weak. Today I chose to embrace hills." - Hal Higdon, running writer and coach
Ah, San Francisco. Home of the Golden Gate Bridge. Football’s 49-niners. Foggy weather. And of course, more hills than any city should legally be allowed to have. Last Sunday I had the opportunity to run the 2013 Nike Women’s Half Marathon in the City by the Bay as part of Team MousePlanet and it was a great reminder that hill training is a necessary part of any good running training program. As fellow Team MousePlanet runner Lani Teshima wrote “I tackled the hills (both up and down….and up and down and up and down).”
Personally, I actually enjoy a hilly course and have set most of my PRs on courses with hills so it was unfortunate that I was running on damaged knees from a fall earlier in the week (note to self: pick feet up just a bit higher when walking across the street in high heels…). What was amazing were the number of participants in the race that I overheard almost bragging that they didn’t bother with any hill training in preparation for the event; I seriously wonder how they are functioning today. Even for relatively flat events such as those hosted by runDisney, incorporating hills in your training program may make you a stronger and more efficient runner.
So how do you best approach hill training? First you need to pick a hill to train on. Simple enough but how steep or long should it be? According to Coach Hal Higdon, the steepness or the length of the hill that you choose to train on does not matter as you will eventually adapt to your surroundings. The importance is in how you use the hill. In his article “Mastering Hill Workouts” for RunnersWorld.com, Pete Magill remembers training during his high school days with a regimen of long hill runs for endurance, long hill reps for strength, and short hill reps for speed. Each type of hill run served a specific purpose in training the different muscle fibers necessary to improve your running efficiency.
When we run we use three different types of muscle fiber; slow-twitch fiber fires first, intermediate fiber is second as force increases, and finally fast-twitch fiber kicks in when the force is greatest (i.e., trying to sprint up Lombard Street for example). These fibers work in concert to help you efficiently run / walk both up and down hills (yes, there is an art to both directions).
Let’s start with the uphill. How many times have you challenged a hill at the bottom only to lose steam mid-way up? You know the drill – you go bounding by the competition but as you progress up the hill, you lose your form as well as your ego as you are now the passee, not the passor. If that is the case, you may not be running the hill efficiently. Rae Mills, who has coached runners in Texas for over nine years, emphasizes with her trainees that it’s important to avoid blowing your energy on fighting up every hill; it’s more important to maintain the effort level than your pace. In her example, if you are running a 9:00 minute pace at 75% heart rate on the flat, to maintain that same heart rate on a hill you may find you have to slow down and run with shorter strides. However, by making the adjustment in pace rather than effort, you will then have energy to run on the downhill side.
Once you’re over the top, it’s all about moderation and form on the downhill side. While uphill running is more challenging from a cardio perspective, running downhill is actually a lot harder on the body (just ask anyone who ran Nike how their quads are doing today…). Professional triathlete Jessi Stensland, writing for Active.com, suggests four main keys for running an efficient downhill:
• use proper running mechanics (tall posture and strong circular motion of the legs) to avoid injury
• activate your abs and glutes to take advantage of gravity and keep control over momentum
• strengthen your joint stability with strength and balance exercises to remain stable during quick changes in direction (a very important necessity when running in large crowds)
• train the body with explosive exercises such as jumps and bounds to improve elasticity which is necessary to powerfully store and release energy that helps you quickly get your foot back off the ground once it hits (if you start dragging your feet on the downhill, you may end up face planting)
Finally, how often should you add in a hill workout to your training? In most training plans I’ve followed, there is a single day of hill work, usually scheduled mid-week, to allow the body adequate recovery time before and after tackling the long weekend runs. If you are following along with me on Hal Higdon's Dopey Challenge Training Program, you will notice there is no hill work called out but then, the idea behind this program is in finishing a variety of relatively flat events over a four-day period as opposed to tackling a single hilly event such as the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. If you do have a hilly run in your future plans or just want to become a stronger and more efficient runner, do the research, talk to coaches, and find the best hill training program for your specific running/ walking needs.
Here’s to continuing the journey to Dopey and to a successful training week.
Training Week Seven –
Monday October 21st – rest / Barre3
Tuesday October 22nd – 4 miles / Upper-body strength training
Wednesday October 23rd – 7 miles
Thursday October 24th – 4 miles / Lower-body strength training
Friday October 25th – rest
Saturday October 26th – 6 miles / Chest, Back, and Core training
Sunday October 27th – 16 miles