I plan to give more detailed descriptions for some of the workouts White Pine Distance Training runners receive, explaining the various goals and benefits for each. We’ll start this series with a workout I developed leading up to my first marathon, as I tried to create the muscular fatigue felt at the end of a race…without having to run the distance. I call it Dead Leg Hills as the fatigue and adaptations are sought by running hills on dead legs, forcing specific adaptations.


Warm Up mileage
5 – 10 :45 to 1:00 fast hill efforts (near sprints) with slow recovery jog back to the start
2:00 recovery after set
3 miles at MGP or faster (preferably faster, 1/2 marathon to 15k pace)
2:00 recovery
5 – 10 :45 to 1:00 fast hill efforts (near sprints) with slow recovery jog back to the start
Cool Down Mileage


The goal of this workout is to create a sufficient level of muscular weakness, followed by a similar level of cardio intensity, which leaves the runner fatigued enough to engage the same hill climbing muscles but to a deeper degree, while also briefly forcing the cardio systems into an anaerobic state.

The first set of hill efforts incrementally weakens the muscular systems, while allowing for an almost full recovery with each slow jog back to the start before starting again. The runner will feel the muscular engagement with each hill effort, but the time it takes to make it to the same point at the completion of the effort should remain about the same or at least within a few seconds. The goal isn’t to completely waste the runner during the first set.

After the muscles have been fully engaged on the hills, the runner is to push through the quickened cardio effort during the three mile run. The muscular fatigue will be felt on this level ground effort, but the primary goal is to bring the heart rate to an anaerobic state towards the end.

Now the fun starts. With both the hill climbing and level ground muscles in a state of relative fatigue, along with a taxed cardio system, the second set of hill efforts is repeated. This is the point in the workout where the greatest adaptations take place.

With all the supportive muscles fatigued, the primary hill climbing muscles and deeper muscle fibers are engaged, while the cardio effort will probably feel maxed at the top of each climb. Again, the goal is to keep a similar time goal in getting to the top as the first set, though it’s likely you might slip back a couple seconds or so. This is ok, as it shows the desired level of fatigue. This set should feel much more strenuous than the first set.


The second set of hill efforts will engage deeper muscle fibers that went unused during the first effort and possibly during the tempo run as well. The hip flexors, glutes, quads, calves and core will all be strengthened. You will also be training the body to more efficiently use it’s energy reserves towards the end of a race when all primary sources have been spent.

For those running a hilly course, or a course with hills at the end, this workout is perfect for training you to recover after cresting each incline and rolling hard when the course levels out again, or at least keeping a strong pace if hills meet you closer towards the finish.

Psychologically, this workout is beneficial as it gives you frequent breaks during the hardest of the efforts, but pushes your resolve during the short tempo and then back into the hill repeats. You might find yourself having to convince yourself to keep pushing during the last few steps at the end of each hill effort, but then enjoy the break and feeling of recovery as you make your way back to the start.


I really enjoy this workout for its diversity, through the ability to put significant strength into the muscular systems that develop a powerful and efficient stride, while also tapping into the anaerobic cardio benefits, and rounding out the whole package with the psychological confidence knowing you can attack hills again and again, even while enduring periods of fast running, and still recover enough to keep going.

It’s not an easy workout, but the benefits, once recovery and adaptations set in, are undeniably felt in the coming weeks.

Scott Spitz

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