Whenever a runner has a hilly race to run, the focus is on the uphill. After all, that’s the hard part, right? Running uphill makes your heart pound, your lungs burn, and your legs scream. So you prepare for such a challenging event by uphill training, getting stronger and more adept at running up those hills. And the result is a more successful race.
Quite often though, after finishing that hilly race, after killing those hills, you’ll find that your body aches, and may even have some slight injury, not due to the uphills, but because of all the downhill running.
Running downhill is a lot more difficult that it might seem at first glance. It’s easy right, after the physical and cardiovascular challenge of running uphill? It should be a breeze! But running downhill causes muscles to lengthen or make eccentric contractions, which can cause microscopic tears and generate more force than when running uphill or on flat surfaces. And running at top speed, which is easier on the downhills, causes your feet to hit the ground harder, which in turn causes the muscles, bones, and joints to endure more pounding.
What can a runner do to prevent or minimize these negative effects? Simple. Just add some downhill running to your training plan.
4 Benefits of Running Downhill
- Running downhill will train your body to…run downhill.
- Running downhill can improve leg turnover.
- Running downhill can improve speed.
- Running downhill will cause the microtears mentioned above in training, which will repair themselves stronger than before and prepare your body to handle the downhills during race situations.
While running downhill can be incorporated into your training at all times, it is especially important if you are planning a hilly race, or one which has extended downhill sections.
Tips for Running Downhill
- When you first get started, run on softer surfaces such as grass or trails. You can move to the road after a few training sessions.
- Don’t practice on too steep of a hill. Look for a hill that has no more than an 8% drop (and start out even less than that, about 3-4%). Anything steeper can cause excessive impact and increase the risk of injury.
- Focus on your form. Don’t overstride. Instead, shorten your stride and increase your cadence, focusing on your turnover.
- Land mid-foot. Resist the urge to either lean back or slow down. You will have a slight forward lean from the ankles, but keep your core engaged and your posture aligned.
- Once or twice a week is fine, but make sure to recover fully between each downhill session.
- You can incorporate your downhill training with your uphill running or do it as a separate workout. Make sure that you can maintain proper form for both types of training.
- Downhill running can be formatted as a hilly tempo run or broken into repeats. Here are three hill workouts that you can use if you choose to combine the two types of workouts (the first two would be perfect to incorporate downhill running).
- Reduce or eliminate your downhill training the last two to three weeks before your goal race. As with any type of intense training your body needs time to rest and recover.
I’m linking up with Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday!
I’m also linking up with Kristen at Jonesin’ for a Run for this National Running Day interview!
1. Why do you run?
Oddly enough, I wrote a whole post answering just this question. In a nutshell though, I run because it makes me a happier and therefore, better person.
2. How do you plan to celebrate National Running Day?
By running, of course! And by writing about running. I’ll be heading out about 5:30 in the morning and running six to eight miles.
3. How many miles have you run so far this year?
As of Tuesday I’ve run 428.7 miles in 2015.
4. What big events do you have on the race calendar so far this year?
My goal race for the second half of the year is the Honolulu Marathon in December. This will be the seventh time I’ve run it, though it’s been 13 years since the last time. It was my first marathon back in 1996.
5. Before I leave for a run I must have…
A banana. Plus sunglasses, my phone, headphones, water if it’s a long and/or hot run, extra fuel for a long run. But mostly a banana.
6. Do you have one favorite running app to track your runs?
I don’t use an app while I’m running (I use my Garmin instead). I do track my mileage though, with Log My Run Pro (for Android).
7. Who is your favorite running partner?
My husband Alan. We’ve been training together for almost 20 years! In second place is my Dalmatian Penny, though at 14 she’s not doing much running anymore.
8. What races have you run so far this year?
Sadly, my race plans have kind of gone up in smoke so far this year. My goal race last April was the SLO Marathon, but I injured my back the week before and I chose to skip it.
9. If you had to give someone one piece of advice about running what would it be?
Ha! I give a whole lot of advice around here! You can pick your favorite! But, if it was a new runner I was advising, I’d say start slow. Don’t expect to run three miles straight your first time out. You’ll end up getting hurt, stop running, then when someone asks you’ll say, “I hate running!”
Instead, start by running a little combined with walking a little. Gradually increase the running, decrease the walking. Before you know it, you’ll be able to skip the walking altogether!
10. Describe your relationship with running in one word.
Jeez, I can’t describe anything with just one word! It’s complicated because, as I get older, deal with my old knee injury, running is not always the pure joy that it was when I was younger. I used to be fast, now I’m slow. I used to be light on my feet, now I feel like I plod along. I still love it. I still define myself as a runner. But, it’s complicated.
Are you celebrating National Running Day? How would you fill in the blank?
Click below and join in the fun (plus you can check out some other fab runners and their answers)!