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Hill Hiking for Hip Strength – rehab and strength combined in one classic workout

An innovative workout that offers the best of many worlds

Photo by: James Mitchell

Running trails makes me feel like a wild child, free to run riot as if I’m the only human on the planet. Fresh air, no one around, just nature and me. When I started running seven years ago, I would only run on the road. I was too scared of the technical side of trail running and I didn’t think I had the right shoes. Well, I still don’t wear trail shoes and I’m still not great at the technical parts, but I’ll take a trail adventure over a road run any day of the week, especially after hip surgery. 

Hip surgery rendered me unable to run for eight weeks. I hobbled around on crutches before walking and deep-water jogging—all things that felt anything but wild and free. Eventually, however, I returned to running and training. After almost three years, it was incredible to run pain free. The world was my running playground again. I didn’t have to stay close to home in case my hip gave out. I wasn’t fearful of tripping or falling and causing more damage. My body could handle any terrain and that felt freeing.  

I started to look beyond my normal routes and make more the time to explore the beautiful island of Lanzarote I call home. I ran in La Santa, Quemada, Teguise, Los Valles, Guatiza, Playa Blanca, and, what quickly became my favourite, Famara.  Famara is a long, stunning beach at the foot of a ridge on the north end of the island. It’s a place that makes you stop and feel lucky just to be there and see it. It is also the perfect place for hiking intervals.  

Photo: James Mitchell

Part of my hip rehab still involves a lot of strength work. Combined with gym workouts, my coach and I use steep hiking intervals with intermittent running to add load and challenge my hip while I can focus on good muscle activation and form. Typically, hiking sessions like these are done on a treadmill where you can set a consistent and steep gradient and even add weight for the climb, and then easily flatten the gradient, drop the weight, and run, transferring the stride strength from the walk into the run. While I’m a fan of indoor training, Mother Nature has my heart and, especially after being stuck inside after surgery, outside is always better. The tricky part about doing the hiking session outside was not only finding a climb but figuring out a way to hike with weight and run without it. 

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Famara had the perfect spot: a super steep, untechnical, long off-road climb with big rocks on the side. There were other climbs on the island that would work, but none that provided rocks big enough to add weight but small enough to fit in a backpack. My plan was simple: put rocks in my backpack at the bottom, hike up, empty my backpack, and run back down the hill. It would have been better to run on the flat, but the downhill impact wasn’t going to waste either.  

I started with three repetitions of hiking for six minutes at a 10 per cent gradient with four minutes of easy running in-between. We progressed to ten minutes of hiking on 15 per cent gradient with five minutes of running, and we also started to add weight. I didn’t want to buy a fancy weighted vest, so I just used a little backpack and filled it with bottles of water or, when I was in Famara, rocks.  

Each repetition ended in around the same spot so, rep after rep, I accumulated a pile of rocks. At the end of the training session, it was satisfying to see my collection of stones. Forget chop wood, carry water; hike hills, carry rocks. It had been a long time since I saw a visual representation of my hard work. Seeing all the data on TrainingPeaks didn’t feel the same. My hip surgery was a by-product of being hit by a car, so my race days have been few and far between, and with it, the chance of achieving the performance goals I had set for myself so long ago. I was still working toward those goals and those rocks reminded me of how much work I was putting in to get back to competing. The work was rewarding, but was it worth it without the races? 

But, when I looked up from that pile of rocks, I saw the view. I saw the pristine white of Famara beach and all the kite surfers below. I felt the sun on my face and that famous, unforgiving Lanzarote wind hitting the sweat on my body. I looked down the coastline and for that moment I felt free. Standing on that trail I felt free from the years of rehab, doctors, physiotherapy, running assessments, bike fits, strength training, coaching and the questioning, doubting, tears and fears that went along with it. I knew it wasn’t about what the rocks at the top of the hill would get me, it was about what they had already given me.  

Hill Hiking for Hip Strength  

 Warm up for 10-15 minutes with an easy run  


  • 5-10 minutes hiking on a steep gradient 10-15%, focusing on good form 
  • 5 min run on flat or easy jog back down hill  
  • Add 5-10% body weight for the hiking, no weight running.  

Warm Down for 10 minutes with an easy run  

Training session by Jesse Moore Performance Coaching