Fire up your fitness, burn fat and build explosive power by adding hill sprints to your weekly routine.
Former British Army Captain Tom Evans first announced himself to the ultra-running world with a third-place finish – and the best result ever achieved by a European – at the 2017 Marathon des Sables: a brutal 251km desert marathon widely regarded as one of the toughest races in the world.
Since then, he’s claimed a heroic last-gasp victory at the 101km CCC (part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc weekend), third place at the iconic Western States 100-mile race – recording the fastest ever overseas time – and bagged multiple other course records at home and further afield.
Evans’ meteoric rise is the product of serious talent, but also plenty of hard graft, as his 100-mile+ weekly routine can attest to. But to be a success in this game, you need to train smart, as well as hard, which is why hill sprints – short, sharp efforts up an incline – are a regular fixture alongside the mammoth mileage…
5 BENEFITS OF HILL SPRINTS
“Like sprinting, building up your top-end speed will help you pick up the pace across all other distances,” says Evans.
“That means you can vary your training sessions more – in terms of both intensity and pace – and that will lead to greater overall improvement.”
“Hill sessions are great for building your explosive power,” says Evans, “which will help build muscle, and make running on any other terrain easier.”
“Hill sessions shouldn’t be about all-out efforts,” instructs Evans. “You should be focusing on keeping your form, making sure your technique is correct, which makes you a more efficient runner.
4. Full-Body Workout
“Good form should include high knees, effective arm drive, and a tight core to keep upright,” says Evans, “all of which means you’re getting a total-body workout with each hill rep.”
5. Cardiovascular Fitness
“Hill sessions should be hard – but not sickening. Each rep should be about a second quicker than the last, ending on about 95 per cent effort.
HILL SPRINT POINTERS
- Stay nice and tall, using your arms to propel you.
- Drive through your legs.
- Focus on keeping your knees high to cover the ground.
- Even for short sessions like hill reps, adequate nutrition is vital.
- “I like to mix Red Bull with water and take little sips between sets,” says Evans. “It gives me the caffeine hit to focus on the session, and the boost to run that little hit harder.”
Find a good hill – it doesn’t have to be particularly sharp or long, just one you’re comfortable on and can hold your form on for the duration of the session.
- Get yourself nice and warm by stretching out, and go for a short 5-min jog to get everything warmed up.
The Session: 5 x 3-mins (as many reps as you can)
- Focus on keeping your form, lightly jogging back down the hill before turning around and immediate repeating the hill.
- It doesn’t matter how long the rest is in-between each of the 3-min sets, just focus on the intensity for each set.
- Once you’ve done your last rep, you should feel like you’ve got just enough strength to do a final one.
- Stretching and a light jog to shake everything out.
Tom Evans is a GB ultra runner and Red Bull athlete. He’s currently working on the Race The Moon challenge, which was recently launched to encourage people to run 28 miles in 28 days and to hit a cumulative target of 1.5 million miles as a nation. Sign up and log your miles on Strava