Hillwork provides advantage


By Gary Droze


Tallahassee area runners enjoy a training advantage over competitors who reside in Florida’s flatlands. Our rolling hills present challenges that can develop stamina, strength, and speed. Let’s look at specific examples of how each of these components of running performance may be improved through weekly hillwork…

Stamina: Also known as endurance or aerobic power, increased stamina allows us to maintain a faster average pace, or run longer without slowing down due to fatigue. One might gain stamina by attempting to hold a steady, even pace over a course of four to twelve miles that features a number of moderate hills. Locally, the Phipps-Overstreet Trails on either side of North Meridian Road are well-suited to this kind of training. Gulf Winds Track Club members Jane Johnson, Jay Sylvanima, Reid Vannoy, Judy Alexander, Brian Corbin, Mike Sims, and Chuck Booker are among the regulars who haunt these trails. Their consistent placing in club events is a testimony to the stamina they gain on the undulations of the Phipps-Overstreet properties.

Strength: Runners who wish to lengthen their stride or improve their ability to accelerate suddenly in a race may do so by training for strength on hills. As opposed to continuous, moderately paced running for stamina, strength training more often involves repeats of short, intense bursts up inclines, with walking or light jogging recoveries between each repeat. The hills may vary from 50 meters to 300 meters in length, and the number of high-intensity repeats could range from half a dozen to ten or more. Perhaps the best site in town for this kind of training is San Luis Park, off Tharpe Street. Middle distance runners from Florida State University traditionally thrash up the short, taxing hills in this park to prepare for a season’s track campaign.

Speed: It may be possible to speed up neural transmission and thus increase stride frequency by sprinting down one of Tallahassee’s many slightly slanted roads. Ideally, one would choose 60 to 100 meters of linear descent, on smooth footing. A dozen full sprints, with complete recovery between each sprint, should suffice. Needless to say, this type of hillwork should be conducted on roads away from auto traffic. Getting run over by a car pretty much negates the hill training advantage.