Up & Down (Hill workout)

The “Up & Down” is a hill running specific workout based on the ‘Out & Back‘ session usually done in the Base Period. It teaches you to run at the fastest pace you can sustain aerobically, that is, burning mainly fat and oxygen for fuel and incurring minimal oxygen debt while climbing long hills similar to your race goals.

This workout will allow you to run uphill faster before you fatigue because oxygen-independent metabolism (anaerobic) sets in later. Scientifically, this pace is run at the intensities below the  “lactate threshold” or “maximal steady state” our preferred term used by Arthur Lydiard.

“We call the limit the maximum steady state; the level at which you are working to the limit of your ability to breathe in, transport and use oxygen. When you exercise beyond that maximum steady state, your running becomes anaerobic. Chemical changes occur in your body’s metabolism to supply the oxygen you need to supplement what you can breathe in, transport and use.” – Arthur Lydiard, Running with Lydiard

This workout is particularly crucial hill runners targetting races with sustained climbs over 20 minutes and runners who need to get used to long solid descent after their climb.


High-end stamina run.

  1. Choose an ‘Up and Down’ hill course – usually a single peak
  2. Warm-up briefly.
  3. Run at a comfortably fast pace to the top of your hill
  4. Take your split at the top
  5. Run downhill fast relaxed: not pushing but not braking either!

This is one of the most difficult exercises for runners to pace correctly initially: take your time and treat each “out and back” as an opportunity to improve your pacing rather than just increasing pace blindly.

Important points:

  • Try not to get breathless (rapid, shallow breathing on the uphill)

Rate of perceived effort:

4-7 (75%-85% VOmax)

Experienced competitors/elites:

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. Even for an elite athlete the reduced fatigued from running more at sub-threshold than threshold benefits the overall weekly training effort and general health and well-being.

The specific nature of the up and down course transfers very directly to the race situation of most mountain runners.


  • Fastest aerobic
  • Uphill strength
  • Downhill coordination and speed


  • Pacing on ups and downs
  • Uphill and downhill rhythm
  • Pacing yourself on the uphill

Biggest mistakes:

  • Starting out too fast and having to slow down
  • Maintaining too high a heart rate to sustain your pace and becoming anaerobic


You ideally need a single hill with a sustained climb – often at least 3 to 5 km. Early in training any hill will do. Later in training you should pick courses the are similar to your race in terms of underfoot and slopes.

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Director and coach at Borg Coaching Services
Rene Borg is the head coach of Glendalough AC and a passionate runner competing over all distances and terrains.

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