My Top 5: Spots to Do Hill Sprints in Philly

Plus, why you should be working hill sprints into your training.

Despite the ungodly 95-degree weather Mother Nature has been torturing us with lately, fall race season is still upon us, which means many of you out there are training. (If you’ve been sticking to your training plan, you deserve a BIG pat on the back.) And you know what you should be working into your training? Hill sprints.

According to John Goldthorp, the brain and running coach behind Fix Your Run, “Hill sprints can be done throughout your training cycle to build muscle power and maintain it. They’re a staple of any training program because they make you a more efficient runner and reduce impact forces, which decreases injury risk compared with sprinting over flat terrain.” 

As he explains, “Hills come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but it’s your training goal that should determine what type of hill you crush on a given day. Short hills that are slightly steeper build muscle power and should take anywhere from five to 10 seconds to sprint while longer efforts are a great way to build lung capacity and running stride strength.” Below, Goldthorp’s top advice for tackling hill sprints, plus his favorite hills for sprinting up around Philly. 

A few things to know before you start your hill sprints: “The shorter and faster the sprint, the longer and slower the recovery,” Goldthorp says. “Think about it: If you want to run really, REALLY fast and get better at that skill, you’ll need to be fresh enough to do it over and over again. Try starting with very short hills with lots of recovery and gradually transition to longer hills with less recovery.”

And although we typically think of the city of Philadelphia as a relatively flat, concrete-coated area, there is no shortage of killer spots to get your hill sprint on — so no excuses, guys! Check out Goldthorp’s top five spots to do hill sprints below. 

Parachute Hill on the Belmont Plateau Cross Country Course
“Seriously? You’ve never run it? A rite of passage for every local cross country runner, this is one crazy hill. It starts steep, goes around a corner, sort of levels off — but too late, you’re in oxygen debt. Oh, and the gravel is extra loose, so some of your energy may be wasted on that. Great place to practice managing your effort!”

The Walnut Street Bridge at Walnut and Front Street
“This 80-meter hill is just steep enough to build some power and long enough to stress the cardio system if you jog back down and go again.”

The hills behind the Art Museum
“The gentle grade leading straight up to the steps is perfect for working on sprint mechanics because it’s not too steep, but if you really want to develop serious power, check out the very short steep incline that branches to the right or left of said steps!”

Lemon Hill
“This place has every kind of hill you could want: long and gradual (Sedgely Drive) or short and steep (Lemon Hill Drive). Sunrise at the top by the Mansion is an added bonus!”

Your local indoor parking garage
“When the weather outside is frightful, you can do very short hill sprints inside — really! Just check first that it’s allowed. I’ve done it at the Curtis Center parking garage as described here and it was so much easier than trying to sprint on a treadmill.”

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