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Why Trainers Say Hill Workouts Are Like “Broccoli for Your Fitness Routine”

Zoe Weiner

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Photo: Getty Images/Michael Schmitt

As Charge running coach Betsy Magato puts it, hill sprint workouts are like “broccoli for runners.” Why? “Because broccoli is good to eat, and hills are good to do,” she says.

Whether you’re a fitness newb or training for your tenth marathon, hills are an important part of any exercise routine (running and otherwise), and are as easy to do as going outside and finding a hill to get yourself up and down. “Hill workouts are so beneficial in many ways,” she says. “For runners, they’re great for form, increase people’s strength, improve their stride and the way their muscles work, and generally help muscles become more efficient.” She adds that because of all of this, hill workouts also lower runners’ risk for injury, and they can stand in as speed work. “Hill workouts are speed work in disguise, since you’re raising your heart rate and doing more work than you would be on a flat road,” she says.

Even if you aren’t a runner, you can still reap the benefits of hill sprint workouts in other modalities, too. “You’re working on that leg strength and fighting gravity, which is going to help with that strength no matter what you’re doing, whether that’s biking, running, or rollerblading” says Magato.  And if you do them right, you can also reap a mental boost as well. “They help with confidence and mental endurance, which is a huge component of running,” says Magato. “People think, ‘If I can get up this hill, I can do anything.”

Ready to conquer anything? Head outside (or hit the treadmill) and try a hill sprint workout, below.

How to do a hill sprint workout outside:

1. Warm up: Spend 10 to 20 minutes warming up to make sure your body is prepped and ready to take on the incline. “When your muscles are warm they’re going to be flexible and ready to do the work and be less prone to injury, and you’ll be able to perform better on the run,” says Magato. Start with five minutes of walking, then a five to 15 minutes of easy jogging.

2. Sprint up the hill: Run 200 to 300 meters up a hill at an “intense effort, but not completely out of breath,” says Magato. She equates this to a 10K pace, but notes that the timing may be different than it would be on a flat road since you’re running at an incline.

3Rest: Give yourself 30 seconds at the top to catch your breath.

4. Run down the hill: Run down the hill at a slower pace, focusing on rolling your legs in a short stride, standing tall, and not pounding down on the pavement.

5. Rest: Give yourself 60 seconds at the bottom to catch your breath.

6. Repeat: Do this series a total of six times.

How to do a hill sprint workout on a treadmill:

Follow along with the video below: 

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