Remember, if you do them there’ll be hill to pay.

So, hill sprints are the devil.

I’m sure this is news to nobody who knows what they are. For anyone who doesn’t, your cognitive abilities are sorely lacking. You should be able to put it together from name alone. Hill sprints are the special breed of punishment where your thighs scream out for death, your back and shoulders face unexpected torment and your gasps come in short, sharp inhalations threatening to pull your heart up through your oesophagus (somehow subverting the jigsaw of your inner organs). Hill sprints are like seeing an old bully at a high school reunion when you stopped being that nerdy kid and got your shit together. Except old dynamics resurface that this festering arsehole somehow still manages to embarrass you in front of your old, undying flame. You’re left a worthless, disconnected heap of scattered bones, sinew and skin, crying for your mother.

So yeah, you should’ve been able to surmise that from the name, dummy.

I’ve been doing hill sprints lately, because they’re a quick exercise (sub 30 minutes) that are easy to get out of the way (not easy to do) and require no equipment but a hill. Plus I clearly hate myself that much. I’ve been doing a lot of jogging, mobility and strength training. I haven’t, however, managed to zero in on effective fast-twitch muscle training. Those muscles that help for sudden bursts of strength. Whether that’s bolting at the sound of a gun shot or diving out of the path of a sudden oncoming car, those are your fast-twitch muscles at work. I walked underneath two ladders this morning and thought to myself if these collapsed, would I be crushed or could I do some kind of dynamic leap? The answer is, my legs are sore from the aforementioned hill sprints, so I’d surely perish.

There happen to be several well suited hills within a five minute jog from my house, so the workout works as thus:

  • Dynamic stretches pre-workout.
  • Five minute jog to hill of death.
  • Hill sprint.
  • 10x aerobic exercise (burpees/tuck jumps/squat jacks).
  • Walk down the hill.
  • Hill sprint
  • 9x aerobic exercise.
  • Walk down the hill.
  • Etc, etc, down to 1.
  • Static stretching.
  • Walk home a broken soul.

It’s effective, if the goal is to work towards total body shutdown. The interesting thing that happens throughout is the sprint (which is easier than 10x burpees, for instance) gets more difficult while the aerobic exercise gets easier. Naturally, because you’re getting less of a rest between each sprint. Also you get the dubious joy of feeling like a loser while cars drive past, mocking you with their ease of movement.

They’re a great way to sort out form. As you sprint you’ll feel an immediate difference with adjustments to technique. The goal is to reduce the time your feet spend on the ground to a minimum. Feel those feet tap, push and lift, tap, push and lift, with the strength of a bull and speed of a hummingbird. Always look up, never down. Swing those arms at 90° and keep them at your sides, don’t swing them in front. Keep your body long, not hunched. Raise those knees and let momentum do its work. The more you do it, despite still being exhausted, you’ll find yourself gliding rather than crashing down with each step. Sudden progression feels pretty damned rewarding.

So if you hate yourself that much, hill sprints are a viable option. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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