Running Workouts (2): Context is everything when you do 1-min uphill intervals

One of the most valuable abilities for trail runners is to maintain good running technique and intensity during uphill segments during a race or a trail running session. Uphill intervals are the way to go if you want to become better, and it is best to start from something simple.

1-minute uphill (and downhill) workout! 

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Improve uphill running strength

Improve transition between uphill downhill efforts

Develop good pacing strategy

Work on ability to stay extremely focused

Improve trail running memory and analytical skills

Have a good time training


Find an uphill segment of trail path with moderate to high technical difficulty

[doing this session on technically easy uphill segment will still be beneficial]

Duration of the segment: 1 to 2 mins

Distance: approx 150-300m

I would avoid dangerously technical trails with big unstable rocks (high injury risk)



Warm-up | running at easy intensity for 15-20 minutes

Stretching + Running drills | the part of dynamic warm-up – high knees drill, butt-kicks drill, skipping, short 50-meter sprints. Running drills are important because they warm-up your core and leg musculature and make you physically ready for the mainset intervals. Add a light 5-min stretch of the major muscle groups (hamstrings, calves) to restore neuromuscular balance.

Main set | 6-10 time of 1-min (hard intensity, at 95% capacity) with recovery going downhill at easy pace

Normal version:

1 rep = 1 x hard uphill effort on technical trails (1 min)

+ 5-10s to catch a breath

+ slow descent on the same path (1-1.5min)

+ recover for 30s at the bottom and repeat again (6 to 10 times)


Advanced version: 1-min uphill efforts with immediate downhill at hard pace

1 rep = 1 x hard uphill effort on technical trails (1 min)

+ 5-10s to catch a breath

+ 1 x fast descent (45s)

+ 1 min recovery at easy pace or standing recovery and repeat again (6 to 10 times)

Additional tasks:

[1] downhill part (including catching a breath on the top) has to be faster than overall climb = good pacing

[2] maintain complete focus and good body control during descent

[3] try to memorise tricky bits (roots, rocks, muddy segments) during first ascents and try find a better strategy to run through them in the following attempts

[4] make the final climb the fastest and go at recovery pace in the last downhill segment

Cool-down | easy jog for 10 minutes, to bring the heart rate down



Struggling with?

Uphill strength?

·       Work on your uphill running technique. Usually making smaller steps helps to be more efficient in uphill running

·       Regularly include uphill intervals in your training program. It is a good idea to start from short 30s-2min uphill intervals before progressing to longer (3-10min) intervals

·       Strength training in the gym can make you better at running uphill. Focus on building strength in lower leg muscles, with squatting and lunging exercises

Running fast downhill?

·       Improve your posture when running downhill. Work on your core muscles. They will help with better posture and control. Avoid excessive backward lean or forward bend as this will affect your control, and try to maintain almost straight upper body posture

·       Maintain high step rate (cadence). This will help you to have more control. Plyometric drills help to improve your ability to move feet quickly

Transition between uphill and downhill?

·       Pacing pacing pacing. Think in advance what will happen when you will reach the top. See in your mind a full workout structure and not only single uphill interval. Distribute your effort in order to have enough energy to start downhill running almost immediately after reaching the top

Maintaining concentration on downhill?

·       Expand your awareness by not only looking what is below your feet but have a momentarily glance at the track ahead of you. You brain will calculate a good path for you.

·       Dedicate specific moments in your regular trail runs to practice concentration drills. These are short 2 to 5min segments where you put a lot of attention to how you run, your surrounding environment, track ahead of you. Try to be aware of all of this at the same time.

Here are a few related articles that could improve your uphill running skills:

Uphill running skills HERE

VK Treadmill Challenge HERE

12-wk training plan HERE