ST: Not an uphill task!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 02 Sep 2018.

#AskMok

  1. Do we really need to do slope training? My coach wants us to do this often but I’m wondering if it might cause injuries. – Anonymous
  2. In what way is slope training beneficial? Or how can we use this to our benefit? –  Yulin

Champion of the 1972 Olympic marathon, Frank Shorter, once said,“Hills are speedwork in disguise”. Hills training was introduced to me by my training partner, Jason Lawrence, early in my running journey. Since then, we would then integrate hills into our weekly training programme without fail.

Some of the more “memorable” hills I have tackled –” in terms of the pain level – are Mount Faber, Vigilante Drive (a small slip of road off South Buona Vista Road), and just about every other corner within the National University of Singapore.

I was once told, “When you are fit, every hill is flat”. Truth be said, no hill has ever felt flat to me, not even when I had just won the 2013 SEA Games marathon. So, either I was never truly fit enough, or that statement was meant more to encourage than motivate. Regardless, hill training does greatly benefit runners. Here’s how:

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1. Increases your speed

Running on short hills between 50 to 80 meters long allows you to work on your power and speed. For this kind of workout, begin by leaning in, and then sprint up the hill at your maximum speed. You may walk back down the hill slowly until you feel ready to repeat the sprint. Repeat them for 5 to 10 times as you progress over the weeks.

Do note that this workout may be rather intensive and, to avoid muscle injury, should only be tackled after completing a thorough warm up.

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2. Enhances your form

Running on hills forces you to focus on your running form in a natural manner. When running uphill, your body’s natural response is to lean forward and run “into” the hill – it is quite impossible to run uphill with your body leaning backward. Over time, this optimal natural running form may be adopted and carry over to your regular runs on flat surfaces.

For this workout, find a hill between 100 to 200 meters long and practice running smoothly uphill with your body leaning slightly forward. Focus on running tall, while driving your knees forwards and swinging your arms. Do not worry about your speed!

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3. Builds your endurance

Hill training builds great muscular endurance in your legs and boosts your overall physical fitness levels, as you are required to work against gravity. Gradually, these improvements will become apparent in your runs on flatter routes. s.

My preferred hill to perform this type of workout would be  Mount Faber. I usually start from the bottom of the hill at Morse Road, and run all the way up to the peak of Mount Faber, before jogging back down slowly. This cycle is repeated 3 to 8 times, depending on my training stage.

Do expect to experience some soreness after each of your first few workouts! But fret not – by your 5th visit to the hill, you should not feel as much fatigue after the session.  However, do not get your hopes up (too quickly) and expect each run up the hill to feel easier within a short period of time – it took me a while and even then I still had a healthy respect (and fear) of hills! Your progression can be measured against the amount the time taken to tackle the slope or hill, all while running at the same level of intensity.

Safety Tips : Its a double-edged sword!
Despite its immense benefits, hill workouts may result in onset of injuries if not executed sensibly, most commonly strains to the muscles and tendons.

It is key to ensure adequate recovery between each hill workout session. I would strongly advise that you engage in intensive hill training only once every fortnight.

All that said, it’s evident that hill training injects variety into your training programme and causes less trauma and stress to the joints with its upward motion. Do it wisely and you will reap great benefits from the arduous workout sessions!


Week 14 Giveaway:

Running on short hills between _____ meters long allows you to work on your power and speed. 

Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!

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