Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Hill Phase---Building Strength

A few months back I posted the article, Putting Down the Foundation,which was about building an aerobic base.Those who are serious about racing well,must follow a training schedule that culminates with a specific racing season.In a nutshell,well planned training schedules in any sport should be sensible and logical.That means the body is introduced to increasing stress as it is ready to tolerate it.
After you have put down the aerobic foundation,your body has become accustomed to the miles,it's now time to step it up.The hill phase means harder workouts but the strength gained from them makes it more than worthwhile. Most runners I've known over the years spend way too little time on a hill training phase.
This is Part II in a series of three articles on formulating a Lydiard-type training program. The hill phase is a period of developing speed,power,and the ability to exercise anaerobically. There are other benefits to be gained from this phase. One is that it builds strong quadriceps which allow us to maintain a good knee-lift while running. Granted, knee-lift is essential for speed but for the marathon runner it can help the knees maintain a height that gives the most economical stride length and frequency. Another plus to the hill phase is the confidence that develops as you feel yourself becoming fitter and stronger.

 Before beginning I should say that Lydiard did make allowances for some racing during this period but said "If you train and race too soon without proper consideration of the various aspects of training you are doomed to disappointment." Also,although this is a modified version of the Lydiard hill program, it's still a physically exacting phase. It's intended to last six weeks; as you become fitter, speed and intensity of effort will naturally increase. These words of Lydiard should be ingrained in the mind of every runner and coach; "The  wise only train according to their age,physical condition and their capacity to exercise." How many injuries and how much discouragement could be prevented if all runners heeded those words? Regarding the amount of mileage you do during this phase,it obviously will not be as much as it was during the base phase.

Lydiard recommends doing 3 hill and 3 leg speed sessions per week with the remaining day being reserved for a long run. Initially, I believe 2 hill workouts and 2 leg speed drills per week are plenty. The other two or three days should include easy distance runs and a day [if desired] of rest. At the beginning of your fourth week, If you feel you are ready to add a third hill session,go ahead.

 The first step is to find a hill that is 200 to 300 meters long. Lydiard recommends a hill that rises at a gradient of nearly one of three -- what that means exactly, I'm not really sure,but seriously,a quick Google search will let you know about the scale in case you don't. The hill should definitely not be too steep and have a flat area at the top where you can do your recovery jog. It should also be flat at the bottom to provide an area for you to do sprints.

Lydiard believes each hill session should last an hour discounting the 15 minute warm-up and warm-down. Needless to say,you can start at 30 minutes and work your way up to an hour. Once again, intensity of effort in doing the hills and sprints just naturally increases as you become fitter and stronger during this phase. Don't jump into this by going full-tilt right off the bat.

So you've done the warm-up and you're ready to go. It's at this time that I'll offer an alternative to the way Lydiard recommends you go up a hill.He describes a hill springing action  that may be difficult for a novice to do without personal guidance from an experienced hill runner.If you desire to find the correct way I'm sure Youtube can show you,simply type in, Lydiard Hill Springing drill and several videos will appear.With that said,it is OK to just run up the hill. However, you must run up with a high knee lift, hips forward [to avoid the tendency to "sit down"], head up and looking forward. Reminding yourself to keep your hips forward is important. This makes it easier to keep those knees high going up the hill. At the top,take a recovery jog about 3 minutes before heading back down. You might think that since you're at the base of the hill, you're just going to head back up, right? Not so fast! On every other hill rep you do a little something called sprint repetitions. At the base of the hill, sprint 50 yards and float 60 yards three or four times before doing your next hill rep. These sprint repetitions begin development of your capacity to exercise anaerobically. As this hill phase progresses you can lengthen and intensify the sprint reps to 100,200 and 400 meters. Feel free to mix up the distances of the sprints and floats. Some things to remember when doing these hill reps:
1.While going up, keep the arms, shoulders,neck and facial muscles relaxed
2.At the top of the hill,try not to stop. Do a slow job to recover.
3.At various times during the workout, make a conscious effort at "flexing" the ankles as you run.
This develops ankle strength and leads to increased striding efficiency.

So you've done a hill rep session and the following day you've gone for a leisurely run -- now you are ready to do the leg speed drill. Begin with at least a 15 minute warm-up jog. Pick a flat area that is 100 to 120 meters long, perferably with a slight gradual decline. Run over this distance thinking only about moving the legs as fast as possible. Forget about stride length, keep the knee action fairly high and think of pulling the legs through fast. This exercise is designed to develop fine speed. After each rep give yourself 3 minutes of very easy jogging to recover -- don't rush this exercise!! Lydiard suggests doing 10 of these sprints plus making sure you do at least a 15 minute warm-down. For the mature, experienced runner, he also recommends a supplementary aerobic run each day. Lydiard said half an hour is ideal.bit even 15 minutes is good. He believes light aerobic exercise aids recovery. Of course, you have to determine if and when you're able to do these additional runs. Perhaps this is something you can gradually introduce to your program one or two days per week. However, if this doesn't seem feasible to you, it's no problem -- you've done the hill reps and leg speed drills, that's what really counts.

This hill phase toughens and strengthens your body in a way that no other training regimen can.
Following a program that ignores or downplays it will definitely impact your overall fitness. A sample schedule for the hill phase might look like this:
Sunday - long aerobic run.
Monday- hill workout
Tuesday - easy aerobic workout
Wednesday - leg speed drill.
Thursday - easy aerobic workout.
Friday - hill workout
Saturday - leg speed drill.
Of course you're free to mix this up to fit your individual limitations and needs.Want to maintain a fair amount of mileage during this phase? Simply do longer warm-ups and warm-downs.
Doing a Hill Phase and doing it right, builds strength and speed,it also minimizes chances of becoming injured.

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