Top Key Techniques and Tips To Use The Downhill To Your Advantage.
Running downhill should be easy, right? Or at least easier than flat or uphill?
Yet so many runners are actually fighting the downslope, losing buckets of energy and to add insult to injury see their pace reduce. (Speaking of injury: bad downhill form is a major cause of shin splints and other lower leg trouble.)
Let’s make sure you are not one of those (anymore), all right? YOU could be the one recovering AND doing the overtaking on the downhill! 🙂
Basic rule: Gravity should be your friend. Meaning you should not lean back and stick your heals in. Minimize ground contact time. Don’t put the brakes on! How, you say?
Well, downhill running shouldn’t be all that different from your efficient flat ground style. Just keep those legs under you.
To achieve that, you ideally need to have the following 4 key areas covered, as presented by professional triathlete Jessi Stensland. Straight after, you’ll find 6 Top Tips on how to actually train for those downhills. Practice is vital! READ ON!
The 4 KEYS to running downhill.
- Proper Running Mechanics
As in all running, the foundation of running efficiently downhill relies upon maintaining tall posture and a strong circular motion of the legs underneath the body. In its simplest terms, this means lifting the knees out in front, foot striking directly beneath the body and then pulling the heel back around to start again.
In general, I see many people running lower-leg dominant instead of from their hips, with minimal knee raise. This alone would greatly reduce the ability to keep up with momentum while running downhill and certainly make it necessary to put on the brakes very early on.
- Activating the Abs and Glutes
In any type of movement, the abdominals and the glutes are important to both force production and overall control of the body. Activating and utilizing them properly within your running mechanics gives the body much greater control over the legs. It also minimizes the impact on the quadriceps and knees that so often take most of the beating during downhill running.
Having that control is pivotal to taking advantage of gravity and keeping control over the momentum, especially while avoiding obstacles when on the trail. Be sure to integrate core strength and stability work along with glute activation exercises in your training.
- Joint Stability
Your ability to maintain stability through your spine, hips, knees and ankles during each step is crucial to controlling you body’s direction and forward speed as you hit the ground. Having strong muscles surrounding the joints is key to creating this stability.
Your joint muscles can be strengthened with single- and double-leg strength and balance exercises that challenge both linear and lateral movements. Especially for extreme trail running, being able to remain stable during quick changes in direction is not only great for preventing injury, but helps with quickness and agility.
Elasticity is one of the most overlooked elements of endurance performance, and I would consider it like icing on the cake for downhill running. ……..
You can also think of elasticity as how fast your body is capable of changing the direction of force. In tennis it might be a lateral move to get back across the court. In running it would be how quickly you can get your foot off the ground once it hits, ideally while scooping up all the force you hit with and bringing it all with you into your next stride.
It is pivotal to being able to keep your legs under you, as mentioned earlier. You can train the body to be elastic with explosive exercises, like jumps and bounds, and specific running drills. Opt for fewer reps and make perfect form a priority. (source)
6 Top Tips to train those downhills
Find them on the next page. Click Next!