When I was at my fittest, 1 year to 6 months before joining the navy (yes I was fitter before the navy than when in the navy) I had one ‘trick’ that increased my overall fitness several levels higher with only a couple of rounds a week: Hill Sprints.
I know, I know. Hill sprints can seem like a scary thing. Not only does it involve sprinting, but also hills. But trust me, this is a secret weapon I wish more people tried out.
How I use hill sprints
I got my eyes on hill sprints when I was about 17-18 years old. I was training for my first (and so far only) half marathon and my recruitment in the navy. At the time I would easily get bored with longer runs and couldn’t always find the motivation. After stumbling over an article about hill sprints I decided that I should give it a go. After the first session I was hooked. As I got closer and closer to my half marathon I was doing 2-3 sessions of hill sprints with 1-2 days in-between, 1 3-5km trail run and one longer run from 8-15 km long. My times improved every week without having to run miles after miles to get ready.
If you are working out for fat-loss (let’s be real, a lot of us do) I can also confirm that my baby abs started to show after a couple of weeks too.
Incorporating hill sprints into my routine gave me more time for other things since I wasn’t spending 1h+ on longer runs during the week and after a while I was craving the feeling of giving my all in a short session – knowing it would end soon.
When the day finally came I finished my 21km half marathon in about 2 hours and 15 minutes – which I am well proud of since I’m not the kind of person ‘made’ for long distance.
What does the science say?
- Reduced risk of repetitive stress: Hill sprints shouldn’t take long and you don’t need many sessions a week to see results if you keep a high intensity. Steady-state cardio like running can in some cases cause injuries in form of repetitive stress – shin splints are a common sign of repetitive stress.
- Hill sprints are anabolic: Anabolic exercises build muscle and hill sprints require you to use a lot of strength both in your lower body to get yourself up the hill, but also your core to keep you stable and upright, and arms to pump. Steady-state cardio increases your levels of cortisol because you need to do it longer. Increased levels of cortisol puts stress on your body which decreases your insulin sensitivity. Excessive cardio also makes the body lose body weight (both muscle and fat) to continue the cardio easier.
- It’s a form of HIIT: Hill sprints are a great way of getting in your weekly High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is entirely individual which means you’ll get results no matter what your ‘high intensity’ is. As long as you’re making sure you do it at such a hard level where you cannot keep a conversation you will see results in your anaerobic and aerobic levels.
- It takes less time: If you’re the type who cannot find the motivation to do 30-60 min of cardio during your weekly cardio sessions you might want to look into hill sprints. Hill sprints can give you similar results in less time if you remember to keep the intensity high.
If you are trying to increase your general fitness level, become faster and/or lose fat I highly recommend you try a couple of hill sprints before you decide to incorporate it into your schedule or not.
Have you tried hill sprints – love it, hate it or neutral?