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How and why to train for hills on a treadmill

A treadmill isn’t where you would expect to find a mountain goat. But it is true, the treadmill can make great hill runners!

…but is this what the elites do?

Jim Mann, champion of Dragon’s Back Race (Toughest Mountain Race In The World), would often do his training on a treadmill. Living in a city with a busy job and family, it was not possible for him to get out onto the hills very often. He would set his treadmill to a high gradient, where he could still run, and complete a vertical kilometer three times a week. 
A vertical kilometer, or VK, is a brilliant challenge to try on a treadmill if you are a mountain/ hill/ trail runner. With your Kinni app, you can easily keep track of how many meters you have climbed. Keep going until you get to 1000m elevation. Sounds easy? Try it.
Killian Journet has the current VK record, at 28 minutes. Killian is often regarded as the best mountain runner in the world, and he utilises treadmill training as part of his program.
Getting on a treadmill is usually a lot more convenient than finding a hill with 1000m of elevation. Not only is it a time-saver, it can also be a life-safer. Mountain weather is unpredictable, and the higher you go, the more dangerous it can get. A mild day down at sea level can be a completely different story when you get up high. Also, the days in winter are short. If you are trying to fit a run in before or after work, chances are you will be doing it in the dark. Running up a mountain on your own, in the dark, with mountain weather. Not always a great idea. 
And if I needed any more reason for a hill runner to consider treadmill training; you can escape the ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’ of the descents. 
Did you know Seb Coe (2 x Olympic 1500m champ) used to have his dad drive him back down the hills in Sheffield after he had run up them? With a treadmill, you can just step off, rest for a bit, and get right back to training uphill again. The downhill pounding is not always necessary, contrary to popular perception.  
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is not good for you. Sometimes it’s a more effective session to get all the benefits of strengthening your legs and lungs on the uphills, without having to worry about the heavy impact of the downhills.
If you have a niggle you are worried about, and need to cut your session short, then with a home treadmill, you can abort session, and you right back in the comfort of your own home, rather than halfway up a mountain in the cold and dark, having to limp back for miles.
Consider placing a mirror in front of you and to the side of your machine, so you can check you are maintaining good form throughout the whole session. Think; head tall, shoulders down, hips up. This gets harder to do as the fatigue sets in, so a mirror is a fantastic tool to provide honest and instant feedback.
An increasingly large number of UK fell runners are incorporating treadmill sessions into their training; John Albon, Tom Evans, George Foster, and of course the living legend that is Russell Bentley 😉 Check it out and see if it works for you.

A few hill sessions to try:

Hill ladder – set treadmill incline to 10%. Run repeats of 1min, 2min, 3min, 4min, 5min, 4min, 3min, 2min, 1min. All with 2min standing rest between reps. See if you can run at a faster pace for the shorter reps. 
Hill sprints – set treadmill to 5%. 10 x 100m hill sprints. 90% of your maximum speed, so just a touch off full pace. Rest for 3min between reps.


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