I would have to say you are too old to run hill repeats when you are too old to dance. And, yes, that was a trick question. When are you too old to do anything? Most people limit themselves much more in their heads and by inactivity than by actual physical limitations.
Now, I’m not advocating that you go out and run hills when the most exercise you’ve had regularly is walking around in the grocery store. I’m not even saying it is a good idea to run hill repeats when your main exercise is swimming or yoga. Those are fine exercises, but they don’t condition your body to running.
Another thing I am not saying is to go do hill repeats (or speed intervals) to an extreme beyond your current training level. That is how you hurt yourself and discourage yourself. What I am saying is that hill repeats are completely possible, rewarding, and even to some extent fun if you have been running regularly, even if you are old enough to have grandkids.
My husband and I added hill repeats to our running schedule a few weeks ago. There was no high pressure, although we are preparing for a half marathon September 24. While I knew that it would require some dedication, and be quite hard near the top of each repeat, I also knew that no matter how I “felt” I did, I would gaining strength and increasing stamina.
As I’ve said before, my husband coaches me a lot, so he made a plan and I, having done similar workouts with him before, set my own limits. We decided to run:
- 1.5 to 2 mile warm ups before the hill repeats, along the same lake side road that we’ve used for speed interval workouts
- run 4-5 times up a convenient hill, which is a two-tenths of a mile
- slow-recover run between hill repeats, down to the bottom with a extra few yards added for the interval recovery at my request
- 1 to 1.5 mile cool down after the hill repeats
When I indicated I might try to get in my normal 6 miles for the day, I was advised it would be better for my body if I put in those couple of extra miles the next day after a rest time. I did that and found it did not adversely affect my long run on the following day. In fact, it probably helped keep my legs loose.
My goal in running the hill repeats was to keep a speed that pushed me significantly, but I could come close to keeping for the whole hill and for all repeats. By adopting this approach,
- I was not as overwhelmed,
- I was able to let my form develop in safe and useful ways, and
- I gradually, although very slightly increased my interval hill repeat speed up until the last interval. Even the last hill repeat was very close in time though.
At first, I didn’t want to time each hill repeat, but my husband encouraged me to. He was right that it was inspiring and motivating. I was able to see how perceived effort was sometimes different than timed outcome. For instance, the first hill repeat each day tends to be on the slightly slower side. Also, it was always nice to get to the top and find that even though one of the last hill repeats felt slower, it wasn’t.
My Garmin watch is very easy to use for timing and resetting after such intervals. While I use it for that, my Strava app keeps track of my total distance. We are planning on making “our” hill a Strava segment for the fun of it. If no one else finds out about it for a while, maybe I’ll have the record for a bit?!
One very nice thing about that particular hill (on Tio Lane in south Nampa) is that it is on the end of a country road. There is barely any traffic, although the last time we ran it there were some trucks involved in harvesting the field along it. Thankfully, the trucks were not there long, as the smell of diesel was going to be a problem for me.
Another hill that is convenient for hill repeats is the one on Sunnyridge Road. It is shorter, but steeper than the Tio Lane hill. I have run the Sunnyridge hill as part of a several mile run many times, but I used it for hill repeats today. Because it is so steep (it is not uncommon to see cyclists walking their bikes up the last bit), I made no attempt to run up it fast. I did repeat it 6 times, and by the last time, my calves were feeling crampy. Maybe after I do repeats on it a couple more times, I will start timing myself. I could also make a segment out of it and look at my results on that after the fact.
For the record, I wore my Luna sandals for all of these hill repeats. The roads there are sharp chip seal and gravely.
I guess I have verified that I am not too old for running hill repeats. And it probably helps my dancing! I danced for quite a while on a recent Saturday night. I got lots of questions afterward from women who wanted to be able to dance with the same energy. A couple of young women made sad faces when I pointed out that running 30 plus miles a week is one thing that *gives* me energy. It seems that even young people seem to think that certain levels of activity are beyond them. Maybe they will discover how to gradually increase their exercise capability. Then, when they are old like me, they can dance the night away!
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