Running Downhill: How To Do It Properly + Training Tips

Running downhill is a lot more difficult than one may realize, and certain techniques must be learned to do it properly. It is essential to take special measures if one is running a long downhill race.

Why Is Running Downhill Hard?

Going downhill can be more strenuous on the body compared to ascending an incline due to a variety of factors.

First, a bit of biology. Your muscles move through two different movements: contracting and relaxing. With concentric contraction, muscles shorten—like when you’re running uphill. With eccentric contraction, they lengthen—like when running downhill.

When running downhill, your muscles stretch and contract to regulate your velocity on the descent. This will outcome in a higher number of tiny tears in the muscle fibres.

Going downhill may seem simple, however, for many runners, it is the most taxing part of a run due to the extended toll it takes on the joints and muscles from the consistent braking.

However, it should be made clear that just like running overall does not cause knee problems, running downhill will not cause any injuries either. If you’re engaging in a lengthy downhill competition or hoping to make the most of skimming down a slope you toiled to ascend, it is crucial to have sturdy knee strength.

A few reasons downhill running can feel so hard:

  • Running downhill results in more ground force, in other words landing harder
  • This more intense pounding creates more tears in the muscles, causing that burning sensation when you finish
  • Natural tendency to lean back results in slamming the ground with your heel and pushing pressure up through the knees
  • The body thinks that’s a break signal and tenses all the muscles to slow you down
  • Running downhill for a long period requires different muscle control than flats, uphills or rolling hills
  • When running uphill our knees are bent and we naturally lean forward
  • Inhibited range of motion in your hips can create strain as your legs need to lengthen out

5 Downhill Running Technique Tips

It is essential to learn proper techniques for running downhill to keep injuries at bay and reach personal bests as it necessitates involving diverse muscle groups and greater force.

When executed correctly, it is an excellent way to build up your body so that you can perform optimally regardless of the surface you are running on. One can easily master downhill running techniques by implementing the following pointers.

1. Look up

Maintain your focus on objects about 30 feet in front of you and stand erect as you run. When you glance downwards at your feet, you are more likely to stumble forward.

By gazing downward at your feet, the neck will be bent forward, which can deactivate the hip extensor muscles such as the back and hamstring muscles, thereby increasing the possibility of tripping.

2. Lean slightly forward

Incline your body forward to stay balanced on the slope you are jogging on to keep your centre of gravity centre.

Even if it looks like you are tempted to lean backwards as you are running downhill, slightly flexing your ankles to take shorter steps will help increase your speed. The midpoint of your foot can be employed to control your speed if needed, which will take the pressure off your knees when you land.

3. Take shorter steps

Increase your running speed or reduce the length of your strides so that your feet are hitting the ground close to your body’s centre of balance, instead of in front of it.

The muscle control of the quadricep is necessary to stop from falling forward quickly during the eccentric contraction. Therefore, if you take shorter strides, it will put less strain on your knee and quadriceps muscles.

4. Keep your arms low

Moving with your arms close to your torso will offer improved stability. Don’t move your arms in the typically forward/back motion. When going downhill, make sure to hold your arms down and close to your body, as it will help you to remain balanced.

5. Run with your feet diagonal

Go at an angle while sprinting for a steeper drop. This skill can be challenging to understand but when you have a good understanding of it, you’ll notice remarkable improvements in your exercising.

Tips for Downhill Running Training

It is essential, when running, to imitate the terrain of the event you are competing in. Can you be taken to a route that predominantly goes downhill? It’s difficult to find routes that possess sufficient length and have a steady downhill slope, however, it is achievable.

Once you have a spot where you can do extensive running downhill, it’s time to consult these tips to ensure that your body remains healthy and makes the most of your efforts.

Training Frequency

Those getting ready for a Revel downhill contest or another steep decline must incorporate it reliably into their practice regimen.

If you’re going to do any running, don’t do it all on an incline. Make sure to include at least one lengthy and steep descension in your weekly routine. Begin by running 2 miles downhill and check for any unexpected discomfort after the run.

You could experience extra DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) from running uphill which would promote muscular increases as well as serve as a signal that you should target your training for hills. Utilize that jog to practice considering the subsequent style guidance.

Mid to Forefoot Landing

It is essential to keep your attention on hitting the ground with your mid- or forefoot when you run. When you land with your heel, it instantly creates a jarring reaction throughout the body like a braking action.

When running on a level surface, you should work at planting your footing in the middle of your foot, but it is significantly more difficult to do so when decreasing in elevation. We need to aim to land on the entire foot so that our body can benefit from the full surface that is making contact with the ground. However, if you find that you are heel-striking, then it is best to focus more on landing on the forefoot rather than the heel.

It is important to bear in mind that simply landing on your heels when you run is not inherently bad. When running downhill, you are probably taking longer strides, which means a higher amount of stress on your leg upon landing.

You should maintain focus on the way you land as you take advantage of the gravitational force on a sloping descent, making sure that your foot stays in line with your centre of gravity.

This is vital to stop you from having lost toenails or discoloured toenails from running. Incline running is less likely to cause blisters compared to running downhill, which puts a consistent strain on the foot while wearing a shoe.

Lean into It

It’s easy to see why downhills can be so hard on the legs since we tend to lean back when we’re going downhill. It’s often called sitting in the bucket seat. You will move your hips forward and stand up with a straight back.

It is reasonable that we take this approach because it gives us more power over our velocity and direction. However, it’s leading to heightened tension in the joints.

Consider angling your body a bit at your ankles or hips to ensure your knees and ankles stay aligned. The extra thrust produced while descending makes your touchdown even more forceful. You should make sure to remain upright, and not just start to feel overwhelmed by the situation.

Change Your Arm Swing

Hold your arms lower, make sure there is a bend of 90 degrees, and move your arms a bit quicker. Allow your arms to guide your legs and let the motion come naturally; don’t intentionally impede your own progress.

Look Forward

When we are running both going up and down slopes, it is common for us to begin looking at our feet. This will throw you off balance and keep your mind from recognizing any possible risks.

Instead, by looking a few feet ahead of you, you allow your brain to recognize any possible danger. This enables you to turn faster or lift your feet higher to dodge roots and stones.

Relax Into It

Relax and let gravity do the work; don’t worry and just allow it to happen. This slope is a breeze, so don’t overthink it and let your body take control as you go down!

Their concern on steeper downhill trails will generate more pressure on your muscles. This indicates that you are raising the workload, as well as altering the way you move, which may lead to hurting yourself as stated.

How To Train For Downhill Running

The most effective method for becoming proficient at downhill running is to rehearse it. This not only helps you to perfect your methods but also increases the strength of your muscles to absorb the shock. To begin, start conservatively. Your legs will thank you.

Run the downhills

Begin with a slight incline ranging from -2 to -5 per cent and then move up to a steeper declivity of -10 per cent. This is to allow your physique to get accustomed to the added hurt to the muscles. Once you are acclimatized to the additional strain on your muscles, you can move on to more extreme inclines.

Start slow on soft surfaces

Begin running on surfaces such as grass or loose soil, which are easy on the muscles, and absorb the impact of falling. Once you feel confident running on grass, you can transition to the pavement. Try to do one downhill workout each week which lasts up to 20 minutes.

Be prepared for discomfort

Be ready to experience muscle pain due to delayed post-exercise soreness. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is not something to be feared, and it is not a sign of injury. It demonstrates the burden that arises from sprinting down a slope.

If a runner experiences continued muscular soreness that gets worse over the two days following their downhill running session, that suggests their training was too difficult and they will need to take a few days off before running at a somewhat lower intensity.

Be prepared for it to be difficult

It will take a while to accustom oneself to implementing the downhill running methods. But don’t be discouraged. Soon it will start to come naturally. You’ll probably observe that running downhill is not only more comfortable but that you’re able to go faster as well.

Lift weights

Doing strength workouts that target the muscles in the calf, quad, and butt areas with eccentric strengthening activities will also aid in improving your running going downhill.

Typically, running is not linked with lifting weights, but incorporating this into your routine can be a beneficial asset for every runner. Concentrating on moving heavy weights and executing slow, elongated movements.

Exercises that are useful to runners training for downhill running include:

  • split leg squat
  • reverse Nordic curls
  • squats
  • calf raises

It is essential to complete these exercises in a sluggish, measured manner, devoting up to five seconds to the straightening motion before resuming the original position with force.

When doing a squat, lower your body into the squat position very gradually, and then rise back up to a standing position. Moving at a snail’s pace with an odd gait will have repercussions akin to jogging on a declining slope.

Do plyometrics

Doing running exercises and jumping exercises is an excellent way to make the muscles suffer strain without having to run downwards. Some exercises you can do include:

  • squat jumps
  • alternating split squat jumps
  • single leg jumps
  • skater hops
  • carioca
  • skipping
  • quick feet

These drills can be very helpful for those who live in less hilly regions and may not have access to extended slopes for their running workouts.

The 4 Big Downhill Running Mistakes

Steer clear of these mistakes when practising downhill running.

Mistake #1: Do not push your heel into the ground

Be conscious of your heel and refrain from striking it forcefully against the ground. Gaze ahead and pay attention to your destination rather than the ground at your feet. Lean back when running to help stabilize your body. Quicken your stride and hold your arms back.

Mistake #2: Don’t run down as fast as possible

Travelling at an excessive speed can make a person feel out of control and can result in overexertion of leg muscles and an over-arched back, which can lead to injury. Maintain your feet beneath your torso and do not slouch either forwards or backward too much. Remain near the ground while taking those strides softly.

Mistake #3: Not changing your running form

Running on an incline or decline differs from running on a level surface. Your running form needs to change.

If you make the necessary changes, you can use the energy to benefit you and relax to prepare for the upcoming flat terrain or even the next incline.

Mistake #4: Resisting the hill

Downhills will hurt less if you don’t fight them. The strain on your quads and the associated pain are a result of pushing against too much resistance (eccentric control).

If you adapt to the landscape, you can apply the force to your benefit for what lies ahead. This appears to be a strong plan of action for the Boston Marathon, the mountainous race, and ultimately, life.

 

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