HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com The site for everyone who loves running. Wed, 27 May 2020 20:40:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 https://www.hillrunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hr-icon-100x100.png HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com 32 32 You can build muscle and strength https://www.hillrunner.com/you-can-build-muscle-and-strength/ https://www.hillrunner.com/you-can-build-muscle-and-strength/#respond Thu, 28 May 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68661 Continue reading "You can build muscle and strength"

You’ve probably heard the idea that endurance training blocks or greatly reduces the ability to muscle mass and strength through strength training. It’s been “common knowledge” for decades.

However, there is some evidence that’s not totally accurate.

More important for those of us who are focusing on maximizing our running performance: what does this do for the runner? It appears the greatest benefit comes from fatigue resistance. So, along with already documented injury prevention benefits, strength train to improve your performance late in races when you are exhausted but looking for that extra gear to chase down the competition or your goal time.

If you follow elite athletes on social media, you may have noticed that a lot of them are not just elite athletes, they are elite nappers. I’ve always assumed that they just train so hard that they need the extra rest an afternoon nap can offer. But maybe that’s not the case.

It’s an interesting perspective. I don’t know that it really changes things for us too much, other than not worrying too much if you don’t get regular naps.

What will the future of fast marathons look like? Alex Hutchinson takes a look.

We’re all probably familiar with Mary Cain’s story now. Good news: she picked up a new sponsor in a somewhat unique arrangement.

Why and how to train your Vagus nerve. Don’t worry, you don’t know what your Vagus nerve is. Really, the key is mostly about how you breathe.

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Spotlight workout: Hill repeats https://www.hillrunner.com/spotlight-workout-hill-repeats/ https://www.hillrunner.com/spotlight-workout-hill-repeats/#respond Thu, 21 May 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68581 Continue reading "Spotlight workout: Hill repeats"

You can do hill repeats anywhere you have a hill available

Hill repeats are always good workouts. Combining an interval workout with strength training. Reducing impact forces and lowering injury risk for other more technical reasons. There are all kinds of benefits to hitting the hill for your next interval workout.

During this time when many of us still can’t get into gyms and even tracks may be either off limits or not wise to go to for some, hill repeats can be even more powerful. Sure, you can get in a good strength workout in your living room and, with GPS watches, you can do almost any kind of interval workout you want anywhere. However, hill repeats can combine all of these things in one workout.

Benefits of hill workouts

So what are the benefits of hill workouts? I addressed some of them above but let’s lay the main benefits out now.

Strength training: By working against gravity, you’re adding resistance to the workout you would otherwise be doing on level ground. This added resistance means you’re not only getting in a good interval workout but stepping up your game by adding a strength component you wouldn’t get as much of while running on level ground.

Reducing impact forces: When running uphill, because you don’t have to “fall” as far to meet the ground, you don’t hit the ground as hard at foot plant. This makes the impact forces you experience while running at a high intensity lower. Just watch the downhills as you might increase the impact forces there. Walk back down if this is a major concern. Fortunately, impact forces are much lower when running more slowly so your overall impact forces, even if you do jog back down, will be lower overall and your peak impact forces will definitely be lower.

Other ways of lowering injury risk: Many runners, especially as we age, worry about pulling a hamstring by doing short, very intense workouts. One of the additional benefits of taking your workouts to the hills is that you don’t extend your knee as far just before foot plant, meaning you put less strain on your hamstring. There are other benefits but this is the biggest one for many runners and an example I hope I can explain well without a visual demonstration.

How do I do a hill workout?

Well, this depends on what you have available and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Since we need to work with the local geography, unless you’re taking the workout to a treadmill in which case you can do pretty much whatever you want to take your favorite interval workout to the incline, everyone’s options will be a little different.

So start with what you have available. Do you only have a short hill? Then you’ll be doing short, more intense repeats. Do you have a long hill available, maybe a half mile or mile long? Then you can do almost any type of workout you want. Just run part way up for shorter repeats or go the whole way for longer ones.

The grade of the hill you have available also matters. Generally, we want something that’s not so steep it greatly affects your form. However, if all you have available is a steeper hill, then you work with what you have. Regardless, we’re on hills so we’re not trying to hit a specific pace. We’re running for effort. Maybe, if you get familiar with the hill, you’ll know what kind of splits you should expect but don’t go in expecting a certain pace on your first workout.

As for picking a workout, you can really just pick your favorite interval workout that fits on what hills you have available.

Do you like half mile repeats? Then, if you have a hill that’s at least a half mile long, take that workout to the hill. Just remember that your recoveries are going back down so they need to be at least as long as the repeats (you could always add some extra recovery but, unless your hill is real long, your recovery will need to get you back down to the bottom).

Want to take some strides or short repeats to a hill? Great idea! As a bonus, all you need is a short hill.

As for actually doing the workout, run up by effort and walk or jog back down for recovery. So, if you want to do half mile repeats at 5K effort/pace, forget about pace and do your half mile hills at 5K effort. A recovery jog back down the hill will be suitable recovery and you’ll be ready for your next repeat.

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Summer running https://www.hillrunner.com/summer-running/ https://www.hillrunner.com/summer-running/#respond Thu, 14 May 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/2017/05/18/summer-running/ Continue reading "Summer running"


Summer will soon be here! It may not seem like it right now here in Wisconsin but summer weather is just around the corner.

In this crazy year, there’s no telling right now when racing will again be happening but most of us are still training through as we hope our fall racing plans will not be postponed.

We all think of winter as the challenging and dangerous season for runners but there are challenges and safety considerations we need to keep in mind during the summer also. As well as the adjustments that we need to make not for our safety but to ensure we’re getting the most out of our summer time training.

Note: Some of what I say below may sound like medical advice. It is NOT meant as such. I am not a medical professional. I am just stating common suggestions for dealing with issues you might face while running in the summer. If you have any health related questions or concerns about your health, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

Pace: slow down

For most runners, ideal running weather is somewhere around 50-60 degrees (about 10-15 Celsius) with low humidity. When it gets cooler, you don’t slow down drastically but you do have to dress for it. When it gets warmer and/or more humid, there’s only so much you can do to dress for it. After that, the heat and humidity stress your body and you must slow down or pay the consequences.

Especially as the temperatures climb through the 70s and 80s (about the 20s Celsius), the stress on your body increases rapidly and you need to slow down or you will push your body too far.

What can we do about this? Slow down. Unfortunately, there’s not much else there is to do. I always remind myself that my paces will slow in the summer but they will come back strong in September and October as the temperatures get closer to ideal again.

If you’re racing in the summer, that’s fine but understand that it might be better to compete against other runners than against the clock. Even then, understand that some people are less affected by the heat than others. There are things you can do to mitigate the effects (hydrate, train in the heat to adapt to it, etc.) but there is only so much you can do. Don’t get upset about things out of your control. Believe in yourself and the process and know that things will get better as the weather cools.


Hydration should always be a focus for runners. Most people walk around in at least a mild state of dehydration all the time. Runners are more susceptible because we are out there sweating. Add in higher sweat rates due to the heat and we’re even more susceptible.

The best form of hydration most of the time is water. You don’t generally need sports drinks or other “hydration” drinks. Water will work just fine.

The one exception might be on long runs. Unless you’re doing an extreme long run, you don’t necessarily need calories as you should have enough fuel in your body before the start of a long run to fuel the run. However, you’ll be sweating out a lot of electrolytes, primarily sodium – salt, and it can be a little risky to replace just water without also replacing those electrolytes.

Note on hydration

Don’t go overboard! Current recommendations are to drink to thirst. As you may have noticed over the past several years, there have been some cases of hyponatremia going around the running community.

Some people think of hyponatremia as an over hydration issue and it largely is. Most people who have suffered it simply took in far more fluids than they needed. However, the actual health concern is an imbalance of nutrients.

There is some evidence that taking sports drink or electrolyte tablets will reduce the risk of hyponatremia by keeping nutrient balance better in check. However, the most proven effective way to reduce the risk is to drink to thirst.


Overheating is a real concern, especially on our hard days, whether races, long runs, or workouts.

The best ways to minimize the risk of overheating are to slow down and run in the early morning or late evening.

Pay attention to how you respond to the weather and what conditions hit you the hardest. Early morning is cooler than late evening but it’s also more humid. If you suffer in the humidity but do fine in dry heat, evening running may work better for you. If you can handle the humidity but not the heat, morning runs might help you out.

If you do start feeling overheated, find a shady spot, get some cool fluids if you can, and rest. If you stop sweating on a hot day, this is a sign of a serious problem and you should do all you can to cool down as quickly as possible.

Sun exposure

Finally, be aware of the amount of sun exposure you’re getting. Vitamin D is great but we don’t need much sun to cover our bases there. Skin cancer is not great. Again, running in early mornings and late evenings is the best way to reduce your sun exposure. If you do need to run in the middle of the day, get a good sweat resistant sunscreen and look for shade if possible.

Running in the summer is great! I wouldn’t give it up for anything, other than maybe a crisp October day. I hope you enjoy your runs this summer. As you do, also make sure you get the most out of your runs while staying safe. Keep cool and have a great summer!

Photo credit: _MG_7936.jpg by Gord Laqua, on Flickr

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Especially now, practice the P’s https://www.hillrunner.com/especially-now-practice-the-ps/ https://www.hillrunner.com/especially-now-practice-the-ps/#respond Thu, 07 May 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68548 Continue reading "Especially now, practice the P’s"

At this point, who knows when we’ll be racing again?

Patience. Persistence. Perseverance.

I’m always reminding runners of the importance of the P’s. These traits are always critical in running, a sport where instant gratification is not a reality and hard work is a critical part of the process. Now, when we don’t know when our next race might be, these are even more important than normal.

Who is going to come out of this time ready to race well? Those who patiently and persistently train through all that is happening and persevere when faced with challenges like closed gyms and forced changes to our running routes and routines.

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Why do we feel and do worse when running alone? https://www.hillrunner.com/why-do-we-feel-and-do-worse-when-running-alone/ https://www.hillrunner.com/why-do-we-feel-and-do-worse-when-running-alone/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68129 Continue reading "Why do we feel and do worse when running alone?"

I’ll kick this month’s recap off with a timely topic. If you’ve ever run a solo time trial, as many people are doing now, you’ve probably noticed that you can’t quite go as fast as you can in a race. I know, personally, I can’t even come close in a time trial to what I can do in a rac.e

But why is this? The stock answer is always that competition pushes us to do better and there’s obviously truth to that but what about the competition? Drafting doesn’t count for all of the difference. Motivation? Some other psychological component?

Well, this isn’t the complete answer but it does point in the direction of a potential answer. Essentially, most people feel “better” when running with others, which allows them to run harder. Feeling “better” is hard to define and it’s hard to say what we can do about this while running by ourselves. However, it’s bringing some additional level of understanding to the topic.

It’s also a good reminder right now that, especially if you usually have training partners, it’s ok to be running slower right now even while the run may feel just as hard or harder. It’s actually perfectly normal for that to happen.

In this time, probably almost all of us are experiencing some type of mental fatigue. That’s something else that can slow you down, another reason to cut yourself some slack if you’re finding your runs getting a little more challenging right now.

Want a good core routine you can do at home? Here’s one I saw and liked.

When things slowly return to normal, races will also slowly return to normal. That means don’t expect thousands of runners crowded into mega events and especially indoor race expos immediately. Hopefully, things will get back to normal without too long of a wait but here are some thoughts on what we might see until then. Personally, I like the sound of some of that.

Before closing out, a few non-virus, non-stay at home things:

How important is your warmup? Maybe less than you think (though I’ll keep doing mine for the routine and getting myself in a mentally good place if nothing else).

You’ve probably experienced less hunger after a hard workout, when one would think you might be more hungry. Why does that happen?

Because I know I needed it: Eliud Kipchoge in GQ.

Finally, back to the virus. I recently shared this link in which it was suggested you should stay 10 meters back from runners. In fairness, I’ll also share this response, which suggests less reason to be concerned.

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Reflecting on 30 years and 100,000+ miles https://www.hillrunner.com/reflecting-on-30-years-and-100000-miles/ https://www.hillrunner.com/reflecting-on-30-years-and-100000-miles/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68483 Continue reading "Reflecting on 30 years and 100,000+ miles"


30 years ago this month, two friends talked me into going out for 7th grade track and I went to my first practice. I pretty quickly decided I actually liked running.

100,000+ miles later, here we are. What a ride.

When I was thinking a few months ago about writing on these milestones, I was thinking of a long winded recap of my running history with several inclusions of lessons learned along the way. Given the current state of world affairs and the fact that I’m simply not good at writing about myself, I decided to bag this.

Instead, I just want to thank the running community for all it has given to me. I’m deeply indebted for all I have gained from running. While I try to do what I can to give back to the sport, I feel like there is no way I will ever give back as much as I have received. I will keep trying, though.

Here’s to the next 30 years, though it will probably take a fair bit longer to get the next 100,000 miles.

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Let’s physically distance but socially connect https://www.hillrunner.com/lets-physically-distance-but-socially-connect/ https://www.hillrunner.com/lets-physically-distance-but-socially-connect/#respond Thu, 16 Apr 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68456 Continue reading "Let’s physically distance but socially connect"

We need to keep our distance physically but we can still be together socially

We’ve heard a lot about social distancing in the past month or so but, a few weeks ago, I heard someone say we should call it physical distancing because one thing we should be doing now is socially connecting.

I’m sure this time is very difficult for social runners, those of us who regularly run with others and use their running time as social time. However, keep in mind that we have more ways to get together with people than at any time in history. Don’t disconnect from others. Make sure you’re still socially engaged. It will help you get through all of this.

With that in mind, I want to remind you that we can socially connect here at HillRunner.com. It hasn’t seen much action recently but everyone is very welcome to take advantage of the running forum to share how your running is going or ask questions. You can also comment on any blog post if you have anything to say on the topic.

So what are you doing to stay socially connected while you’re physically distancing? Feel free to share in the comments.

By the way, you’ve probably already seen this but, on the topic of physical distancing, keep in mind your slipstream while running. If running behind someone, it’s best to stay at least 10 meters back.

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Training at home https://www.hillrunner.com/training-at-home/ https://www.hillrunner.com/training-at-home/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68442 Continue reading "Training at home"

This wasn’t done at home but it is something you can do at home

Now that almost the whole world is spending what seems like it could be a significant amount of time at home, it’s past time to discuss training at home.

Fortunately, running is a simple sport. For most of us, heading out the front door for a run is an option. However, what about those of us for whom that isn’t an option, either because we live in a place where things are serious enough that we can’t go outside even to exercise or because we live in a place where running from your front door isn’t an option?

Affecting probably more of us, what about those other things I hope you’re doing? What about your auxiliary training? Do you normally use public weight rooms that are now closed?

I always like body weight exercises for runners. If you normally lift weights but that is now not an option, this is a great time to try some of these exercises.

I’m going to make available for the next month (today, April 9th through Friday, May 8th) a video normally only available to Club HillRunner.com members.

Base Strength is a video I often reference because it’s a great all around strength training routine for runners. It requires no equipment. All you need is a flat surface and your body for resistance. If you want to get into serious equipment, a stair is great (but not necessary) for the first exercise.

Please take ideas from this video and do them in your living room, front yard, or whatever other place you currently have available. If running isn’t an option, do them with little to no recovery between exercises and you’ll be surprised how much you can raise your heart rate. It may not be long but it’s better than nothing.

In addition, don’t forget other exercises you can do. Walking lunges, pushups, whatever you can think of. Something is better than nothing and, if you can come out of this with better strength and maybe a little better resistance to injury, that wouldn’t be all that bad of a result.

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Rethink the base https://www.hillrunner.com/rethink-the-base/ https://www.hillrunner.com/rethink-the-base/#respond Thu, 02 Apr 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68234 Continue reading "Rethink the base"


Right now, we’re all in the same boat. Even if you had spring racing plans, they have been put on ice. We don’t know when our next race will be. It could be next month, though that’s looking less likely all the time. It could be that we have to wait until fall.

So what do you do? If you have a May or June race on your schedule that hasn’t been canceled yet, maybe you are holding out hope that it will be able to happen and you continue with your training plan.

If you’re not expecting to race until fall, though, maybe you’re going to take a step back and build your base.

What does building your base mean, though?

We used to think of base training as little more than running a bunch of miles at an easy pace. Is that the best way to build your base, though?

At any time but especially in this unique time, I’d argue that you should be doing more in your base training. The focus should be on running volume so you can build up your endurance and aerobic capacity. However, that’s not all you should be doing.

You don’t want to bury yourself with real hard workouts when your racing is months off or, at a time like this, you don’t even know when your next race will be. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do any faster running, though.

Strides will get you working on your turnover and quickness but are very low stress if you’re not running them too hard.

Strength work is an outstanding idea to work into any base training. Whether hills or general strength workouts like lunges, pushups and similar moves. I’m a big fan of body weight exercises in general and am especially so during base training.

Even some tempo running, as long as you don’t make the tempo effort too challenging, is a good idea for base training.

So don’t fall into the trap of doing nothing but easy running right now unless you need a break, physically or mentally, from training. If you’re still thinking about training for the fall racing season, then make sure you hit on a variety of paces. Just keep the workouts sustainable by scaling back intensity, volume or both so you don’t burn yourself out before races are even on your schedule again.

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Can you boost your immune system? https://www.hillrunner.com/can-you-boost-your-immune-system/ https://www.hillrunner.com/can-you-boost-your-immune-system/#respond Thu, 26 Mar 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68172 Continue reading "Can you boost your immune system?"

Before I even start: For the best information and advice on COVID-19, trust the CDC.

I, as I’m sure many of you, have been a bit distracted this month with COVID-19. I admit that I haven’t been reading as much about training and racing as I normally do. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.

On the topic of current events, one of the things I did read was quite timely. Some good advice on giving your immune system its best chance to not just fight off COVID-19 but whatever infectious disease may be going around.

Please stay safe. Keep running but consider solo runs. In the meantime, more of what I did manage to read is below.

Speaking of boosting your immune system, some more on how sunlight boosts your immune system. It’s more than just vitamin D. So get outside and soak in some sun!

We’ve long tried to understand what happens as runners age. Here’s an interesting study performed on a very fast father/sun duo that sheds some light on that.

We all know sitting for long times is bad for us, right? Well, what if our running makes it less bad? Note: I said less bad. This doesn’t give you a free pass to sit all day but it does mean sitting isn’t quite as bad if you train hard as it would be for someone who doesn’t.

Shoe type (minimalist vs. maximalist) doesn’t affect running form?

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