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Here’s how to get mountain-running legs, even if you live in the flats

Those of us who live in prairie provinces are familiar with the dilemma of trying to fit some form of hill workout into our schedule. A mountain race sounds glorious (and the vert is definitely real), but how do you get your legs in shape to tackle steep climbs and downhill running? Here are three ways to nail the fitness that will take you up to the peaks with ease, even if you live hours away from any hilly terrain.

Become friends with stairs

Stairs can be an incredibly effective tool for runners, even if you don’t have mountains in your plans. When you push off each stair, it’s a form of explosive or plyometric training. This builds strength and power, increasing the ability of your muscles and joints to react upon landing. A set of bleachers can be a veritable playground for a runner, with a wide variety of workouts that can be done. Try this ladder stair workout to get started.

Pyramid stair workout

Warmup: 10 to 15 minutes easy running on flat ground

Workout: Run up and down stairs or bleachers for two minutes, rest for 30 to 60 seconds

Run up and down stairs or bleachers for three minutes, rest for 30 to 60 seconds

Run up and down stairs or bleachers for four minutes, rest for 30 to 60 seconds

Run up and down stairs or bleachers for three minutes, rest for 30 to 60 seconds

Run up and down stairs or bleachers for two minutes, rest for 30 to 60 seconds

Cooldown: 10 to 15 minutes easy running on flat ground

Build functional strength

Functional strength training will help your legs propel you up the ascents, and will help you maintain efficient form even when you’re feeling tired. Body-weight exercises are perfect for building mountain legs–you don’t need a gym membership or access to fancy equipment. This 3-minute routine by coach and author David Roche will have you ready to tackle the climbs and descents of a hilly race.

“The burn should feel somewhat similar to the screaming quads of steep climbs,” says Roche. He suggests adding it to your routine twice a week, on hard workout days (speedwork, or after a long run), so that you get the maximum recovery benefits the day after. Note that even though you’re only adding three minutes of leg-strengthening to your routine, if you don’t normally do drills like these, you will probably feel quite sore afterward the first few times.

Embrace the treadmill

Treadmill-incline workouts can be a fantastic go-to to build climbing strength and bolster confidence. You can mimic hill sprints, or longer, rolling hill runs on a treadmill with just the press of a button. Try this hill repeat workout to start off.

Treadmill hill repeats

This workout mimics a traditional workout of shorter hill repeats. If you’re new to hill repeats, start your incline at four to five per cent, but more experienced runners can up the incline to six to eight per cent.

Warmup: 10 to 15 minutes easy running

Workout: Six x 60 to 90 seconds at 5K to 10K pace with three minutes of recovery between each one (easy running). If you choose the shorter sprints, aim for the 5K pace, and try to hit your 10K pace if you’re doing the longer sprints.

Cooldown: 10 minutes easy running

Remember to follow a hill session with an easy running or recovery day.

(09/20/2022) Views: 201 ⚡AMP
by Keeley Milne
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