My legs are on fire. I wheeze and moan like a tired zombie. When I finally reach the top of the hill, happiness explodes in me. I inhale greedily, sucking in the air until it reaches my toes. I did it! And then I realize I still have five more reps to go…
Hills Are Good for Ya, But They Hurt
I haven’t been doing any serious hill work since September 6, and I’ve been itching to hit them for weeks. I love hills because they are demanding and rewarding like no other workout—all that packed in a relatively short amount of time. I mean, in under half an hour, you can obliterate yourself.
Hills improve running economy, develop resistance to high-intensity fatigue, and boost our maximum aerobic capacity (VO2max). They are also an excellent strength training with low stress on the joints.
Hills are also brutal. And they hurt.
Death on the Hills
When planning hill work on Monday evening, I sincerely believed I could do 11 to 12 250m reps @3:50/km. I still believed it when I woke up at 6:15 am the next day, feeling well-rested and quite excited. Hauling myself out of the house took me half an hour, but I was still able to start the workout before 7 am. I felt wonderful!
The air was damp and cold. The night’s murk hung over the mostly unlit households, and I regretted not having gotten out even earlier. There’s nothing quite like the early morning sky, the permeating wisps of darkness clinging to it.
I ran my usual 2-mile jog warmup, focusing solely on the beauty of the morning. The sun was yet to make an appearance, and for now, its rays illuminated the clouds suspended over the town, infusing them with furious shades of orange. And to think I used to hate waking up in the morning!
I finished the warmup with dynamic stretches and drills. Then I threw the hill a defiant glance, having very bad intentions toward it. I was ready. I hit the rep button, and off I went, speeding way too fast from the get-go but damned right enjoying it.
First rep, second, third… Oh, God, no more! How could I ever do 11? How was I even supposed to do five!?
Trudging down the hill, I prayed the two-minute recovery would let my strength come back in time for another rep. And another one. And another.
By the time I did nine, I was exhausted! I shamelessly bent over, grazing on thick, damp air. A profound sense of accomplishment started budding in me. Now that was a workout! And then I had this crazy thought of maybe doing one more rep. Go figure. I wisely decided against it, though—I was barely able to finish the last two reps at proper pace. That one more would be the end of me.
I jogged back home, dreaming of breakfast and a huge mug of coffee. I love these kinds of mornings!