Hills sessions for 800 and 1500M training

Published: 12 March 2017 by Philip Huxley

OCAC Middle Distance & XC Training Group: Recommended hill session

Warm up: 7 to 10 minutes easy running

Effort: 8 to 20 x 20 seconds fast uphill running. Focus on knee lift and arm movement, driving with both your arms and legs. Accelerate up the hill so that you finish strongly. It can be helpful to start with a few metres on the flat to avoid a fast standing start on a hill. The recovery is an instant turn around and jog/walk back to the start. A short recovery will emphasise strength and a combination of speed and endurance. A full recovery will emphasise speed and power. Either approach will work.

Warm down: 5 to 10 minutes easy running


If you are pressed for time this is a session you can complete in 30 mins or less depending on how many hills you include in the session. If your warm up is closer to 7 mins than 10 mins then go easy on the first 2-3 hills.

The hill should be steep but not too steep[1] with a smooth running surface and good traction. I don’t recommend doing this session if you can’t find a suitable hill. If you can’t find a suitable hill then let me know and we can agree an alternative session.

When: Best to do this session on a Friday or Saturday in weeks when you are not racing or have a low key race. Wednesday would not be ideal if you are doing an effort session on Thursday but fine if you are not injury prone and run the hills a tad slower. Please do not run this (or any other effort-based session) on a Monday if you are doing the Tuesday group session.

Objective: Primarily leg strength/power but also arm strength and coordination – relevant for all distances but especially 800m and 1500m. Hill running was an important component in Seb Coe’s training – his kick-finish was often ascribed to an unusual focus on lower body power/strength work (mainly comprising hill running and squat lifting with heavy weights). However, Paula Radcliffe is also said to have improved her running efficiency (and improved her marathon running times) by working on her leg strength; so fast power based hill running should improve all round running fitness.

The table below suggests one possible progression scheme. Ask me if you would like to discuss this in more detail. The idea is to increase the number of efforts to a maximum (tailored to your age and running years). Those of you who have a good local hill and enjoy running hills (yes some people do) can reduce the number of reps and focus more on speed/power (doing fewer reps and giving yourself a full recovery between each rep) from May onwards.

Age 13-14 Age 15-17 Age 18+
Weeks 1-4 8 hills 8 hills 10 hills
Weeks 5-8 9 hills 10 hills 12 hills
Weeks 9-12 10 hills (2×5) 12 hills (2×6) 12-14 hills (2×7)
Weeks 13-16 10 hills (2×5) 16 hills (2×8) 16 hills (2×8)
Weeks 17-20 12 hills (2×6) 18 hills (2×9) 20 hills (2×10)

Give yourself 3-4 minutes recovery between sets.

Source: This session is inspired by Peter Coe’s book, “Successful 800m and 1500m racing and training”, Crowood Press, 1996.

[1] Peter Coe recommends a 1-in-6 gradient or 17%/100 but of course this is hard to measure even approximately

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