Couch to 5K
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Hi I am after some advice on hills please and how best to incorporate them into a weekly routine. I graduated earlier this year but ended up not doing much for about six weeks over summer (just got out of the groove 😳), so now am running at least 3x per week to try and get fitness back. I try and do a 10k and a couple of 5k and have just downloaded an interval app to make those runs a bit more interesting.

When I feel a bit fitter I would like to give hills a go. Should I just find one and run up then jog/walk down? How do I know if it is too steep or not steep enough? I road run around my local area and am struggling to think of any big hills, but the mental block may be due to fear of looking strange running passed people's houses repeatedly!

8 Replies

Yep, you've got the right end of that stick mandap. Run up and walk/jog down. If it feels like hard work, then the hill is steep enough. If it's too steep, you'll just be struggling and working harder and that's not a bad thing.

Make sure to not make the up-hill stretch too far. Ideally you want something like 200-400m (maybe 800 m at a stretch once you've really gotten into it) of running uphill. They're meant to be short and sharp intervals.

Also remember that you must have more gentle runs than hard runs, so if you're running 3x per week, then make at most one of them the hill repeats.

Best of luck, you'll feel great once you've done a few :)


If you can't get up them they are too steep. If you aren't out of breath they aren't steep enough.

There are 2 ways of incorporating hills: hill repeats, which is as you decribe - find a section of hill, sprint up it as fast as you can for 60-90 seconds, then jog or walk back down and repeat. This will massively improve leg strength, speed etc. You should make this a shorter session than a normal run though. 20 mins is easily enough.

the second method is just to incorporate hillier routes into your normal runs once or twice a week - don't sprint the hills, just run them normally. On challenging hills I find the best methd is to reduce stride length and increase cadence - lots of quick baby steps, in other words.

Both methods have their merits, it's not an either/or. Both are horrid, no fun at all and will make any sane person want to give up and go home and never run again, but if you presevere you will beast those hills rather than them beastng you.

I am terribly lazy and an awful procrastinator when it comes to hill training. Every race I do, as I toild up the hills I promise myself I will apply myself religiously to hill sessions every week henceforth, but when it comes to doing it I find all manner of other things I would rather do. Having root canal work without anaesthetic for exaple or cold water acclimatisation training.

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I avoided hills for too long and wished I hadn't but they are tough, no doubt about it. I would incorporate a few hills/slopes/long climbs into your weekly routine. It's interesting to compare hill runs and see how you're improving. It gives you the will to carry on!


Fully agree on the hillier routes in general. You build fitness fast when you've got regular hills and you get practice running and pacing them for any upcoming events. I've seen the payoff with my flat running friends. Any hill is good. Short and steep, long and gradual. It's good to practice with all sorts.


Hills are the devils work really. But on the other hand launching downhill with abandon is sooooo liberating.... What goes up must come down. I've run a trail this afternoon which has a MF hill at the end (mighty fine hill!!). I literally will myself up it from stone to stone, tree trunk to tree trunk, even counting in my head, multiple distraction skills actually......out of breath and panting, but I know at the top is a rollicking downhill which I love and makes it all worthwhile! Maybe you could ease in gently with an undulating course, or you could even run as much as you can of the hill...walk if need be and use it as a measuring tool so the next time you go out see how much further you can get? Good luck though!!


Running up hills makes a massive difference to strength and fitness!! Not huge fun at first but I persevered by running up hills solely with small steps and gradually built up speed. I just gradually incorporated more hills into my route and now finish by running fast up a short hill. It is hard work at first but it makes running on flat or downhills so easy with the increased fitness it brings.


I have been thinking about hill work, too. I haven't actually got around to doing anything yet, but my plan was to take W1R1 which gives you 60 second runs with 1.5 minute walks, and use that on the hills. Maybe finding a longish hill and running up for 60 seconds and down for 1.5 mins, repeat to end of podcast or as far as I can get. That way I could stay on the same bit of hill and focus on those 60 second runs. When I've done that for a bit I might start putting hills into actual 30 minute runs - but living in Sheffield and on the edge of the Peak District the hills look too hard for me without working up to them!

Good luck with the increasing fitness and hill work.


Well I have managed to overdo it before I have even started with hill! Went on my longest run yet on Friday (approx 15k, phone died before the end) and my knees have been giving me problems since! I've been making an effort to stretch thoroughly after each run but was not as thorough as had to pick the kids up from school. Think I will need a few days rest so hills will be on the back burner until settled. Please let me know purple_faced_woman If you manage to tackle any, always inspiring to hear other people's success 😉


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