To complement our trail distance runs, I have been introducing my kids to several running workouts that improve strength, speed and form (read about strides and interval workouts). Hill running is one of the most effective running workouts that addresses all three components of good running, and we have added hill repeats to one of our weekly runs.
Simply put, hill repeats consist of a series of short, high intensity uphill runs followed by downhill recovery jogs. Typically, run uphill for 150-200 yards (can be longer) and then turn around and jog back downhill to your starting point, and begin the next uphill run, and so on. I usually do a set of 6 x 200 yard hill repeats with my sons at the end of a 4-5 mile trail run, when our bodies are warmed up and we’re a little tired. If at all possible, run these on a soft surface (a grassy slope is perfect) to minimize impact, particularly on the downhill jogs.
Because you are pushing your own body weight uphill at a fast running pace (but not a sprint), hill repeats are good for strengthening hips and legs, which leads to improved running economy. In addition, ensuring good running form while powering up the hill (after already having run 4-5 miles) is hard work, but it will pay dividends during the latter stages of future long runs and races. On the way back down the hill, my kids and I slow to a jog (conversational pace) and say a few encouraging words to each other while preparing for the next uphill run.
My kids love hill repeats so much that they ask for them by name. No kidding. I think they realize the benefits (and have actually experienced them during races when powering up hills and surging over the top while other kids struggle). But I also think that they appreciate the variety hill repeats bring to the overall training program.