Hill training and sleep

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

A couple things that greatly interested me popped up over the weekend. Here are some quick thoughts on them:

Hill training

We hear all the time about the benefits of hill training. While there are reasons going beyond hill training for it, the name of this site should tell you something about what I think of it. It just works. Runners and coaches around the world know this.

This is a case where the coaches and runners are ahead of the science, though. How many studies have we seen that show hill training works and why? Well, now we have this:

Running on a 10 percent incline can improve the overall performance of long distance runners, according to a study completed by Derek Ferley, education and research coordinator at Avera Sports Institution. He conducted the research as part of his doctoral work in health and nutritional sciences at South Dakota State University.

I have some problems with this. First, the workouts don’t appear to be apples to apples. The hill repeats group was doing 30 second repeats and the flat intervals group was doing repeats of 2:16 in duration. Second, it was all or nothing. The three groups consisted of no workouts, twice a week hill workouts and twice a week flat interval workouts. I’d love to see a fourth group that did hills once a week and flat intervals once a week. Finally, as pointed out, the fitness test at the end was performed on a level grade. If you’re training to race on a track, this may hold meaning. Anywhere else, we’re not likely 100% level in nearly any race.

So it’s the beginning of some answers to the questions that could be asked but I see some flaws in this that warrant further study. I also see the ability for nearly anyone with a motive to twist this to say something they like.


I’m a big proponent of sleep. There are numerous studies that show the benefits of more sleep, even up to 10 hours a night, have real benefits for athletic performance, recovering from workouts and various other factors that matter to athletes. However, I’ve always wondered whether we should be able to expect to sleep straight through the night or whether that kind of sleep is really beneficial for everyone. I don’t remember the last time I’ve slept through the night without waking at some point, at least for a short period of time. I know others who simply can’t or won’t sleep for more than 4 or 6 hours a night. Are we hopeless cases who will never fulfill our potential?

Maybe not:

Our modern society, with its many stimuli, and an environment full of light, has partially created this hysteria about sleep, and combined with the myth that an 8-hour block of continuous sleep is essential, does all of us a disservice. Don’t forget about the well-documented benefits of incorporating naps into your day.

I have no doubt that 8 or even more hours is beneficial for many people, especially athletes who are pushing physical limits and need plenty of recovery. However, there are exceptions and we could be doing more harm than good stressing over sleep if we are the exceptions.

Also, naps are good.

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