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  • Writer's pictureCoach Joe Beckerley, CSCS

How Any Endurance Athlete Can Enjoy More Powerful Legs

Growing up as a child, our home was surrounded by the coastal hills of Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. Here in this great coastal forest if you want to go out into nature you have to climb a hill or two. My mom has spent over 40 years hiking these hills several times a week and she contributes much of her health and leg strength to her weekly hikes up and down these coastal mountains.

They worked well to strengthen her heart, her body and mind.

I remember back in cross country one of our training runs was up to the top of a hill close to our school about 1 mile up and 1 mile down. Our coach would yell at us — “It is just a hill, get up and get back down!”

I hated these hill workouts but at the same time I loved them. My lungs on fire, short hard breaths, burning legs that get heavier and heavier with each step of the climb. The hills can at times make you feel weak while they are making you strong.

It was these early life lessons from my mother as well as my running coach of the importance of not avoiding the hills but embracing them as part of an active life and a training tool for an endurance athlete.

Hill training increases leg muscle power.⁠ ⁠ Whether you are a triathlete, runner or cyclist you will benefit from including hills and hill specific workouts as part of your training.⁠ ⁠ Hill workouts improve the performance of the heart since heart rate can easily climb up to its maximum when going up a hill, and uses the muscles of the legs, arms, and trunk in ways that are different from training over flat terrain.⁠ ⁠ Since hill workouts uncouples the effort from the speed (i.e., the speed is relatively slow even though it’s hard work), the exact pace is not as important as the effort. ⁠ ⁠ When training on hills, you should aim for a specific effort rather than a specific speed.⁠ ⁠ 3 Hill Workouts I like both for biking and running are: ⁠ ⁠ 1️. Long Hill Intervals: Repeated 1⁄2- to 1-mile gradual uphill and coast or jog/walk down as recovery. ⁠The amount of repeats will depend on your current fitness level. Start with 3–5 repeats. ⁠ 2️. Short Hill Intervals: 6–10 sets of 30–60 second hard effort with full recovery before your next set. ⁠ ⁠ 3️. Hill Accelerators: Accelerating the last 50 yards up the hill and the next 100 yards from the top of the hill. ⁠These are great for race specific training to get back into your race pace once you have finished climbing. These can be done during long hill intervals or on a hilly training route.

Try these 3 hill workouts in your training. They will help you become more fit for endurance and you will enjoy the feeling of having more leg power on race day.

Get the personalized 1 on 1 triathlon coaching you need to reach you endurance goals today. I coach in person in Bend, Oregon and Online.

Coach Joe Beckerley CSCS

Triathlon Coach

Run Coach

Personal Trainer

Bend, Oregon

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