It was one year ago last week when I cleared a hill sprinting path in the woods behind my home. I’ve always been a fan of hill sprints and was thrilled at the idea of having a hill to run within walking distance of my backdoor. Therefore, I eagerly took to the woods with an axe and saw and slowly began clearing out my future hill. At the time, I took a few before and after pictures and wrote an entry to the blog (see here).
One year later and I still run the hill regularly. I have likely sprinted more hills in the past year than I have at any other time in my life. And while that may not sound significant, hill sprints have been a favorite conditioner of mine throughout my 20+ years of training. In other words, I have been around the block and run my share of hills.
Yet after all these years, hill sprints are still kicking my ass. No matter how hard I run, the hill is always ready for more. It does not matter how well conditioned I am, hill sprints always remind me that I am human. It is only a matter of time before the hill takes over and wins. Hill sprints are truly an undefeated conditioning exercise that will never expire. I will never reach a point where I am too good for the hills. I may technically own the hill, but when I run it, the hill owns me.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious benefits, hill sprints still don’t get much love in the fitness industry. The lack of attention should not come as a surprise however. Why would an equipment manufacturer advertise the benefits of hills? It wouldn’t make financial sense unless that manufacturer doubled as a real estate agent. The same could be said of a gym owner. The gym owner wants you to run on his treadmills. There is nothing in it for him to have you out scouring the neighborhood for a steep hill to run.
Consequently, it is no surprise that I have never seen a traffic jam of runners on a steep hill. And while my wooded hill is a bit secluded, I have run various hills throughout my town There is even a picture of me running a local hill that was tweeted by Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy). He has millions of followers who saw the picture (see here). It was taken in 2005 and it has been shared countless times since. I have also publicly listed the address many times (Orchard St. Rockville, CT). Yet despite all the views and mentions, I have never once seen anyone else running that hill. When I am there, I am always alone.
Although some readers may grow tired of me proclaiming the benefits of hills, I must not be doing a very good job if all of the hills in my own town remain desolate. How can so many people overlook such an effective and free to use exercise location? If the average person did nothing but run a few hills and mix in some calisthenics afterward, they would be in better shape than 90+ percent of the world.
Sadly, simple but effective solutions must not be flashy enough to attract the masses. People either do not know about hills or are not willing to put in the work. Perhaps it is a combination of both. Regardless of what leads to the avoidance, it baffles my mind that more people do not take advantage of what is perhaps the best conditioning exercise of all.
In summary, rather than searching high and low for the next best exercise, consider investing that time and energy into an exercise that has already stood the test of time. Legendary athletes such as Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and countless others ran hills for one simple reason. Hill sprints work, as long as you are willing to work. You can either follow in the footsteps of these past legends or waste your time looking for an easier yet less effective alternative.
It seems like a simple decision to make. Unfortunately, the desolate hills seem to suggest otherwise. Hopefully that will eventually change. I will certainly do my part to hype the benefits of hills for as long as I’m alive. And if you are ever in the area and want to hit up Orchard Street, shoot me a message. Perhaps we can run together.
“It’s okay to lose, to die, but don’t die without trying, without giving it your best.” – Walter Payton