Running on roads and level surfaces places a monotonous strain on your legs, and your muscles will not develop as optimally as on uneven terrain.
Running on uneven terrain makes muscles develop more naturally, and the important oxygen uptake capacity is also developed. Uneven terrains are also gentler on the feet. Nowadays, terrain running is being replaced with hill training, with repeats up a hill alternating with recovery jogs or walks. Hill repeats add strength and intensity to your training. Also, maximizing oxygen uptake is easier up a hill than on an even-leveled track.
Good running technique is important during hill training. If you can run hard comfortably uphill, your running economy on an even-leveled track will obviously improve greatly. It is important for an athlete running a specific event (i.e. a marathon) to prepare the body and muscles by training in racetrack conditions. By measuring distance and elevation, runners can design training sessions that develop specific characteristics in specific conditions.
Hill training improves general endurance and speed, but keep in mind that such training is always hard on the muscles. In other words, you should recover well, even when your heart rate remains in the general endurance area. It would be a good idea to do some hill training on rough terrain, for natural hill variety.
Hill training offers a perfect opportunity to improve running-specific muscle strength. When improving strength through hill work, it is important to keep repeats rather short, to avoid the high levels of lactic acid. There are various ways to improve muscle strength, in fact varying the stimulation is very important. Try doing 20-50 meter repeats with a good combination of different ingredients, such as backward running, side-leaps or jumps (very good for the buttocks and hamstrings.)
Remember to start with small doses, since this kind of hill training will easily overexert your muscles and require long recovery time. Once you’ve done a few sessions, your body will adapt and training will become more beneficial.
Check out more training tips and the Polar RS300Xsd at polarusa.com.