Hill reps are a great addition to your training to help build strength and endurance, as well as speed over shorter distances. Where can a mindful approach to our running help maximise the benefits of a hill rep session? It’s all about cultivating relaxation.
What is a hill rep?
As the name suggests, a hill rep training session involves running up an incline over a specified distance and intensity, then returning to the start of the climb and repeating. It’s a very adaptable form of training. You can choose gradients which are shallow or steep. We might run for just 30 seconds or five minutes or more. You can also work at different intensities such as sprinting the shorter reps and maintaining even efforts over longer distances.
A simple hill rep session to get you started
-> Find a hill with a gradient of 5 degrees or more.
-> Make sure you have warmed up including some dynamic stretching.
-> Choose a fixed starting point.
-> Determine your end point, either by choosing an approximate distance to run (e.g. up to 200m) or a landmark (a lampost, tree etc).
-> Run at a hard but sustainable effort to your end point, then turn around and jog back to the start as recovery.
-> As soon as reach the start turn around and repeat.
-> For your first session, aim to complete at least three repetitions.
-> Next time you go out (you might like to make this a weekly session) add one or two more repetitions. See if you can build to 10 or more over time.
Integrating mindfulness with your hill reps
The mindful approach to a hill rep session has to do with bringing intentionality and choice to our experience. At the point where the repetition begins to feel tough (you’ll know that place after you’ve done a few!) look out for the almost instinctive response to tense our back and shoulders. The key intention to establish from the start of each repetition is to relax. This can be a wide attention brought to relaxing the joints. When the effort of the rep begins to bite, we can focus that relaxation more closely on the shoulders and back. You may also find thoughts of resistance arising (‘this is too hard,’ ‘I hate this’ etc) or a kind of mental closing down/shutting out of our experience. This is where choice characterises a mindful approach, especially if we are meeting our experience with aversion. Rather than resistance and aversion characterising our response, we can choose to turn towards the apparent stress and meet it with an invitation to relaxation both our body and mind.
Mindfulness practice in all aspect of our lives helps us to more readily notice how the body and mind adapts to stress. Over time it can begin to open a space in which we become more skilled in choosing how to respond. With hill reps, not only are they a great way to build your running fitness, they also happen to offer short bursts of intensity that shine a light on the habits of body and mind.
Give it a go and tell us how you get on.