The previous 2 blogs set the stage for the current blog. This is a gradual progression I use with my Team Over The Top runners, my private clients and run groups who hire me for 3 to 4 sessions. The degree of difficulty increases with each package until you are able to attack and control virtually any hill on any terrain under any conditions.
Of course, I do all of these barefoot and introduce my runners/clients to the barefoot running experience on hills at an introductory level. Currently, only one of my TOTT clients actually runs barefoot at all times – Michelle Bolhuis – a multi iM competitor. The rest? They will do a few drills barefoot to experience the activation of the foot muscles, nerve endings, tendons and ligaments but that’s about the extent of it. I mean, if the coach who developed the Squat-Scoot method of barefoot mid-foot running cannot get his clients running safely and efficiently barefoot, nobody can!
Having said that, IF you can do some of the following advanced hill drills barefoot, the benefits in your running technique, power and speed will be significant. The drills are as follows:
- up and downhill forward weaving. You make a weaving action as if you are downhill parallel skiing. The grade of the hill and the width of the path determine the range of your weave. This helps you control the pace on ultra-steep downhill and uphill sections as well as take the pressure off your knees, quadriceps muscles and hip flexor muscles
- 1-legged hopping forward up and downhill. Start by doing 3 to 5 mini hops on 1 leg and then switch to the other. Alternate like this for 250 to 300 metres of hill. The key is to keep the hills square at all times. You also MUST land with NO noise. You may need to lean back slightly when hopping on 1 leg downhill. This will help you square up, balance off the muscle activation between right and left side and build fatigue tolerance in the running muscles
- 1-legged hopping backwards up and downhill. This is by far the most difficult drill that I have clients do relative to hill training. You MUST know the terrain (are there any potholes, sewer grates etc.?) before doing any backward running. You also MUST focus about 1 metre in front as you run backward. You get the added benefit of better spatial awareness and balance under any hill conditions
- 1-legged side-to-side hopping up and downhill. These are also quite difficult but not as difficult as the backwards drills outlined above. You MUST stay squared up to the direction you are facing at all times to maximize the benefits of these. By doing so, you will strengthen your whole pelvic girdle region as well as improve your foot striking under your midline
As mentioned earlier these are ADVANCED hill drills that must be done under control and only after progressing through the drills presented in my 2 previous blogs. Those who follow the progressions will not only CONTROL hills up and down but DOMINATE them to the point where they become your friends.