Up and down

The “up and down” workout is a variation of the standard threshold run in our programmes: the “out and back”. Using the same high-aerobic intensity, this workout targets the specific requirements of mountain, fell and hill running and has a greater strength element. The “up and down” workout can be done every second or third week during the aerobic phase. Very strong athletes can use it as an additional hill workout in place of PCRs during the dynamic strength phase.


High-end aerobic run up a long continuous climb.

  1. Choose an extended runnable ascent that you have easy access to (usually at least 3km but this depends on your level of fitness).
  2. Warm-up briefly.
  3. Run at a comfortably steady pace.
  4. Take your split at the top of your climb then run back down at fast relaxed pace.
  5. Compare your summit times to previous climbs.

This is one of the most difficult exercises for runners to pace correctly initially: for mountain runners it is essential to find their “best gear” for extended climbs.

Important points:

  • Attempt to run even pace or negative splits (second half of climb at higher intensity).
  • Take into account the effects of gradient and terrain. If terrain or gradient are harder on the latter half your intensity may increase on the later half without your pace picking up

Rate of perceived effort:

5-6 (75%-85% VOmax)

Experienced competitors/elites:

Serious mountain runners need to master perfect uphill pacing particularly for longer mountain races and classical “up and down” courses such as the Snowdon International race, Carrauntoohil or the long uphill climbs in the WMRA Grand Prix. The up and down workout perfectly allows close simulation of race conditions but they should be careful not to do this workout too often or at too high intensity as this can lead to staleness.

When I tried on a couple of occasions to up the long tough mountain training I got totally muscle bound and mentally wrecked on every occasion and ended up running away below my best form. – John Lenihan, 1991 WMRA world champion

Like the “out and back” workout, the value of this workout increases for experienced competitors and elites. The ability to increase VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) decreases over time whereas the lactate threshold remains very trainable and will allow experienced athletes to run at increasingly higher percentages of their VO2 max for longer periods of time.


  • Fastest aerobic
  • Leg strength
  • Proper uphill form


  • Uphill pacing and energy conservation
  • Mentally coping with continuous uphill running
  • Staying relaxed on long uphills
  • Practice high cadence and moving as efficiently as possible up the slope and over the terrain

Biggest mistakes:

  • Starting out too fast and having to slow down.
  • Maintaining too high a heart rate to sustain your pace and becoming anaerobic.
  • Running too slowly at the beginning.
  • Running too easy on the downhill, braking a lot and lacking flow.


You will need an uphill of similar gradients and terrain to what you expect to encounter in your race situation, preferably one you can access easily so can compare it to previous climbs. Dedicated mountain and fell runners should prefer actual mountains and fells whereas runners looking for an edge in hilly road races can utilise longer climbs on road.


Up(s) and down(s): in the absence of a larger hill, if you prefer a shorter version for your current fitness, or your target race includes multiple ups and downs, a course can adopt the same profile. Simply find a circuit with a smaller climb and a descent off the back of the summit (completing the circuit) and run multiple laps of this.  Run at steady intensity on each climb and focus on striding relaxed off the summit during each circuit. A similar setup to the Lydiard Hill Circuits can be used for this workout.


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