I may not be flat as a pancake, but the terrain around me sure is
February 29, 2012 6:13 PM   Subscribe

How do I train for running up a long hill when the area around me is mostly flat?

I am training to run a half marathon in another state (a friend talked me into joining her). In looking at the elevation chart for the race, it looks like a significant portion of it (3 miles or so) is a steady hill.

Unfortunately (for these training purposes), the area around me is largely flat. How do I train for the hill portion of the race?

I have a hill nearby that's an 80 foot ascent over about half a mile. I have access to a treadmill, so I can set an incline on that, but I'm not sure how to factor in that the hill in the race will be roughly between the 5.5 mile mark and 8.5 mile mark. (I'm almost unwilling to run 8.5 miles on a treadmill unless folks tell me that it's the only way.) I've considered running around outside for a bit, then dashing into the gym to do 3 miles at an incline, but that seems a bit nutty.

If it's relevant, I will probably be doing run/walk intervals during the race.
posted by Terriniski to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have access to any tall buildings with stairs? I've found that climbing a lot of stairs has made hills feel substantially easier. I climb the stairs of a 12 story building as fast as I can about twice a week, and it has significantly increased my speed and endurance on hills of all kinds.
posted by decathecting at 6:26 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Running outside and then going in to do the hill isn't nutty at all, that's what I did when training. Or just do a few shorter runs on the treadmill all uphill, steeper than the race hill. That should make the race hill feel easier in comparison. Good luck!!
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 6:48 PM on February 29, 2012

Steps are the way to go. Run a mile to a building with at least three floors run up them like nuts and back down, go run in the parking lot for a minute or two, then run up the steps as *slowly* as you can while still calling it running (or take three steps on each step - right left right, left right left).
posted by notsnot at 7:25 PM on February 29, 2012

You could also focus on interval repeats on the treadmill at a steep incline, rather than trying to reproduce the actual hill in the race. Or, stairs as suggested.
posted by lab.beetle at 7:26 PM on February 29, 2012

OP: do not go running up & down the stairs of buildings - security wil make your life miserable.

You have hills in your flat world; you just don't know where they are.

Use Google Earth to see every hill near your immediate location; it will help you get exactly what you're looking for.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:53 PM on February 29, 2012

As someone who ran up a ski hill (and down, and back up again, and down, back up again) this pas summer as part of an adventure run, and then just ran ("ran") up 94 floors in a Chicago skyscraper this past weekend, I can assure you that even 10 or 15 floors of stairs will give you much more of a workout that any hill.

In fact, I've heard tell of a few long distance runners around here that specifically run stairs to build endurance and hill-climbing abilities.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:05 PM on February 29, 2012

Steps/stairs, treadmill (uhg) and in Houston, where it's fairly flat, Boston trainees run up parking garages. You know, those spiral ramps that just keep going upandupandup? It's the closest you'll get to an actual hill.
posted by Brittanie at 9:09 PM on February 29, 2012

As stated, you don't need to mimic the run route exactly in order to train for it effectively. High speed intervals on an inclined treadmill will work wonders, and will a strength training regimen focusing on developing your leg power output (lunges, split squats, jumps, unilateral lifts, etc.) to ensure your calves won't blow up and impede your form. Dedicating five or six weeks as a strength/explosiveness training block, then modulating back to endurance/aerobic work as you approach race time should make the hill a non-issue.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:27 PM on February 29, 2012

Best answer: I have run, volunteered, or cheered at the Flying Pig for the past four years. I can tell you that the hill in question is not as daunting as it looks on paper. There are enough flat-ish spots to give you a break now and then, but the key is the hill is pretty well packed with spectators. The Flying Pig is well known for the quality of its cheering crowds. Adrenaline will get you to the top.

Practice whatever hills you have. Don't forget, bridges and overpasses are hills, too - if it's as flat as you say you must have overpasses all over. The bulk of that hill is a shallower grade than your 80'-in-0.5-mile hill you mentioned.

My bigger concern having run it a number of times is actually the downhill to end the race. If you don't practice and prepare your knees for the downhill it could give you some good aches later.

FYI: It's rained I think three of the last six Pigs. Be prepared.
posted by OHSnap at 1:42 AM on March 1, 2012

I'm with OHSnap. That hill isn't as daunting as everyone makes it out to be. Especially if you were like me and weren't trying to make Boston qualifying pace. You will have tons of crowd support in that area and water station.

Practice on what hills you got and make good use of doing interval training on the treadmill with the incline.

Good luck!
posted by mmascolino at 5:45 AM on March 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I've done some more searching, and there really doesn't look to be any type of hill that covers the same elevation change. (It's Texas, and not the Hill Country area. Sigh.) So I guess I'll just have to make do with that smaller/steeper hill, the treadmill, or stairs.

For those of you who recommended parking garages, any tips on picking a good one or a good time to go? I don't know of any that are those delightful circular ramps (not to mention that the drivers around here are pretty bad so I'd be worry about getting hit), but they are good options for stairs, I'd wager.

As for using the hill nearby, can I just run up and down it repeatedly and get the same benefits?

Or if I use the treadmill, what's a good option for an interval workout?
posted by Terriniski at 5:08 PM on March 1, 2012

Lots of people run/sprint up hills then walk/jog to the bottom to repeat the process. As for treadmills, I like x minutes at 0%, 5%, 10%, 15% and then repeat the process. Adjust the time and inclines as you see fit.
posted by mmascolino at 8:30 PM on March 1, 2012

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