Question: I would like to know your recommendation for integrating hill training into a marathon plan.

  1. When to start/end training (at what point in a typical 24 week cycle?)?
  2. What format of hill training (true Lydiard hill circuits (bound up, recover @ top, stride down, 3X150M strides, repeat), normal :60-:30 second hill reps with short rest (VO2 workout), uphill tempo runs, etc.)?

Dr. Jack Daniels: I like to think of hill training as another form of resistance training, and certainly resistance training can benefit a runner.  Resistance training could be hill running, or squats in the gym or circuit training, bounding, or deep-water running, etc.  In other words, training that may be overall beneficial for the development of a runner in terms of holding off injury or developing muscles that may normally become fatigued in races of various distances.

You must always be able to answer the questions — what is the purpose of this workout? And — is there something else that would be a better use of my time?  Someone who has very limited time for training may be better off just running and not doing much, if any, supplemental training.  However, with lots of time on your hands more running may not be that beneficial and you have to pay more attention to the specific type of training that you do.  If you have plenty of time, then hill training may well be better than just adding more miles.

I would (as with any type of training that you do) spend a good 5 or 6 weeks doing hill training with some regularity (maybe 2 times a week).  Then maintain a hill session now and then to keep the benefits you gained, but move on to a different emphasis in the training program.  If I were doing it all, I would include the hill training fairly early in the overall program, just as I like to include Reps early in a marathon program. Then, do some hills now and then, but put more emphasis on Intervals and Threshold runs (along with some prolonged runs at Marathon race pace).   Best to concentrate on the most important aspect of any race when it gets closer to race time, and hills are not often a major part of marathon races.  Make sure that when doing hill training you don’t run (other than quite slowly) down steep hills, as the impact of hitting the ground is greatly magnified.

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