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Hills vs stairs vs squats - which is best for improving speed?

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I was asked to be part of a relay team for next year's Round the Bay 30k Road Race and I accepted.  I've been running for years but have never been in a race so I'm pretty excited. 

Currently I run 5x/wk - my runs range from 5 - 10k.  I'd like to improve my speed and I know I can do this by incorporating a "hill day" into my routine.  I'm curious if stair repeats or squats are as beneficial as hills for improving speed.  Another question - is it necessary to do hill repeats? is it ok to do one long hill instead?

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Hill repeats, definitely. I am pretty positive one long hill would not have the same benefit. Doing a lot of air squats would help too. By a lot, I mean 50-300.

FWIW, I incorporate one long hill in my runs, and it has helped me improve my endurance.   I cannot speak as to speed per se, since that isn't really my goal yet.  I have, however, noticed my pace has gotten slightly faster (from 10- to 9-minute mile), but I assume it's because I have more stamina to run the flat parts... 

I'm curious: by stair repeats you mean going up stairs as fast as possible then walking down them, as it were interval training?  Would a small flight of stairs in my home (30-40 steps) work for this? If so, I might have to try it.

Good luck on your training and race! 

Thanks for your replies.

bmx, I had a feeling hill repeats would be the way to go -  I guess the downhill portion would give you some recovery and allow you to go harder than if you were just doing one long rise, right?.  Do you know why stairs aren't as effective as hills?

cc, yes, you're correct about the stair repeats. Thanks for the encouragement.

I would've thought that intervals would improve your speed over middle and long distances.


Original Post by littlesimongeorge:

I would've thought that intervals would improve your speed over middle and long distances.

 do you mean speed intervals? without the hills?

I was actually thinking one hill day AND one sprint day per week - what do you think?


Somebody answer her question please.  I want to know too.

Well, hill repeats build strength in your legs, and while I suppose that more strength could equal more speed, I personally don't think that doing a lot of hill training is going to make you run faster.

Wise man says, if you want to race faster, you need to train faster.

How to do this?  Track repeats, intervals, and tempo runs.  Plenty of stuff on this on the web.  If you need any help, feel free to ask!

With that said, I think doing one hill session a week would be fine and beneficial for you.  One long hills is OK.  Just run up it then back down again, and repeat :-)  Seriously.  A typical hill repeat session...  10-15 minutes of warming up, then run up the hill for one minute.  Your RPE should not exceed 6 or 7. (Zone 3 if training by HRM).  You are building strength here, not training your anaerobic engine.  Run down the hill easy.  Repeat 4-6 times.  Cool down 10-15 minutes.

As you get stronger, increase the number of intervals.  When you get to 8 intervals, go back to 4-6 but increase the time up the hill.

Hope that helps.  Have fun with it!! html

Ahhhhhh...your wise man makes sense. the training programs I've seen include a hill day.  Is this for cardiovascular fitness then as opposed to speed?

btw - thanks for your help - much appreciated


Hills build strength.  Strength can be burned quickly over short distances or longer over, well, long distances at a slower pace.  Cardiovascular generally deals with the ability of your lungs to take in oxygen and the heart to pump blood to get that oxygen to your muscles.  Strength means nothing if you don't have the system in place to deliver oxygen so your legs can generate energy.  A body builder could probably walk 50 miles with no problem, but ask them to race you 25 miles, and I bet you would win hands down, despite their greater strength.

So, training on hills will build the strength in your legs so you can tackle hills during your races (without konking out later), or go longer and longer distances (endurance).

The best way to improve your cardiovascular fitness is to train at what we call "steady".  This is the place in your fitness where you go from "conversational" pace to heavy breathing.  In heart rate training, its the top of Zone 3.  You can do medium-ish to long runs at this pace.

Read that article at Cool Running on Repeat Performance (speedwork).  If you want to improve, then a good balance of different types of runs will get you there.

and always train smart!

wes, you're a fountain of knowledge - thanks for the explanation - makes total sense.  I will definitely read that article as well.

Thanks from me as well.  I love the fitness forum.

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