No, this isn't going to be about that MTV "reality" series. What I am talking about here is a workout all runners should incorporate into their training program. Hill repeats! With two of the toughest races on the Run & See Georgia Grand Prix Series coming up soon (The Brasstown Bald Buster 5K on 12/20 and The Hogpen Hillclimb on 1/16), this workout can really help to improve your performances.
Hill repeats are not designed to build speed specifically. This workout is for building strength. However, what you will probably discover is that building strength will lead to an increase in speed, also. A nice little bonus!
If you have not been doing hill repeats, you will want to start out slowly and build up (always a good philosophy for just about anything new). Find a hill with just a gradual slope (you can find steeper hills after you've gotten used to doing the easy ones). 100-200 meters is plenty to start with. For those of you who live in areas where there are few hills, you can use a bridge approach or even stadium steps (you may need to increase the repetitions).
First: warm up. Run easy for about ten minutes and then stop and stretch. If you are just starting out, break up the workout into sets. For example: 2 sets of 4 x 100-200 meters. The rule is "hard up and easy down." Run uphill easily enough to make it all the way without stopping, but hard enough so that you are breathing hard when you get to the top. Then jog down slowly enough so that your breathing has returned to normal by the time you get back down to the bottom of the hill. Then: repeat! End up the workout with an easy 10-20 minute run to cool down.
As you get used to doing hill repeats, you can make the workout harder by increasing the length of the hill, increasing the repetitions, or by increasing the difficulty (slope) of the hill. Just be sure that you aren't increasing too much, too soon. Do each workout at least once a week for a couple of weeks before making the workout any harder.
Unless you are trying to peak for a certain race and/or you are focusing on speedwork, I'd recommend doing hill repeats at least once a week. Do them early enough in the week so that you have time to recover before your next hard workout or race.
Try this workout for a few months and see if you don't notice an improvement in both your strength and your speed. And maybe Heartbreak Hill won't break your heart this year!