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Hill Bounding

The Boston Marathon run course is notoriously hilly.  Some of the hills come in the form of your typical rollers.  But, a good portion of the climbing traverses what can feel like mountainous terrain, especially in the closing miles of the race.  It is not, of course – you’re just in the hills of eastern Massachusetts, which are steep!  Either way, strength is the name of the game, on this run course. 

Originally developed by one of running’s finest and most revolutionary minds, Arthur Lydiard, Hill Bounding is an excellent tool, to help athletes develop strength in their run.  While it is not very race-specific, having a technique that would never be used on race day, the indirect benefits of hill bounding are tremendous.  Just some of the benefits include improved hip-flexor strength/drive; improved strengthening through the calf, hamstring, and glut/push off; and improved upper-torso drive and rotational strengthening through the trunk and arms.  There are also good aerobic benefits with the workout, of course, as well as a hint of anaerobic development.  

Hill bounding is best completed after a full Base Phase of aerobic training, and before entering into the Anaerobic Phase of speed work and intensity.  Hill bounding serves as a perfect segue between these two phases of training, because each repetition of bounding is similar to strength work at the gym.  The length of the ‘interval’ is very anaerobic, by nature, but the technique and low cadence of the bounding maintains aerobic properties.  It just does a nice job of straddling both sides of the metabolic fence, providing a nice safe transition from one phase to the next.

So, what does a good Hill Bounding session look like?

Get a good warm up, anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes.  Like any good warm up, start slow and easy, and build your intensity, throughout.  Consider including a few short bursts/openers into your warm up, if you feel up to it, or as though you need it. 

Once adequately warmed up, you will need a hill that is about 60 seconds to the top, at a grade of about 6-10%, and with a nice flat section at the top. Note:  If you have a hill that sounds as though it may fulfill these qualities, but is longer than 60 seconds, remember that you can start your bounding intervals midway up the hill. 

--->Start out by running up the hill, using the longest stride possible, driving the knee up and out, pushing off of the toe, through the calf, hamstring, and glut.  See figure, below.

--->At the same time, use the arms, and upper-body, to help facilitate this driving motion.  You will notice how much stronger this lower-body motion is, when done in conjunction with the use of your upper-body and arms. 

--->After 60 seconds, or similar distance, recover with easy jogging, at the top of the hill for three minutes.  Remember, EASY jogging!  Each ‘up’ and, soon you will read about, ‘down’ are best effort.  In order to treat these as best effort, you need to allow yourself recovery.  So, like I said, go EASY!

--->At the end of three minutes, run down the hill, as fast as you can, using the shortest stride possible, over the same distance that you bounded up.

--->Recover for 30-90 seconds, as needed, to be well-recovered to push the next repeat.

--->Repeat this 4 to 8 times, depending upon your experience, durability, and need.  Consult a good Coach to help you with this.

--->After every third repeat, complete two 15-second sprints.

Once completed with the number of planned repeats, be sure to get a little cool down, to help make sure that the muscles have time to loosen up.  This workout will usually take anywhere between 65 and 75 minutes.

This is a great workout to get you ready for a great season.  Whether your racing is going to be done on strength-oriented courses, you need a bridge to get you from the Base to Anaerobic Phase, or you have technique limitations in your run, Hill Bounding is a perfect tool for your training.

Figure Credit:  Arthur Lydiard

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