Most runners think downhill running is easy by taking off brake and roll. While it is essential to let gravity do much of the work, you must practice to master the technique of letting yourself go while running in a controlled manner. If you plan and train properly, you can achieve some fast mile splits and beat your goal. Good downhill runners gain a huge advantage when they can increase the speed of their descent without using much energy.
One of the most common injuries for a distance runner is a steep slope at the end of a long race.
Some compare it to “throwing” themselves downhill while others feel like a mountain stream rowing smoothly with the hill. Still, others flail their arms and legs all over the place in attempt to get down a hill as quickly as possible which may get them injured or lose their rhythm and speed.
Running downhills Technique
1. Many distance runners have an unconscious fear of falling and automatically slow down but you should lean slightly forward while running downhill, with your foot strike coming just behind your centre of gravity. Your forward momentum keeps you from falling on your face and the lean of your body and the length of your stride regulate the speed with which you run downhill. Develop a feel for downhill running. The best descending pace on downhill should leave you feeling as if you are just about to tip over. Leaning too far forward will pick up speed while leaning back will slow you down.
2. If you strike behind the ball of the foot, lift your feet quickly, hit lightly, and push off against the slant of the running surface. Most importantly, do not bounce on your toes or over stride by landing hard on your heels, instead keep your arms, shoulders, neck, and chin relaxed.
3. Keep your form as close as possible to that used on the flats and allow gravity to do most of the work for you. Keep your body perpendicular to the grounds, back straight , and hips pushed forward over lead leg. The angle of your lean helps determine how fast you go downhill. Maintain a steady pace by holding the angle of your body so that the center of gravity is over your lead leg.
4. As you lean forward going downhill, lift your knees higher to maintain your stride length. Control your speed by where you place your lead leg. Since the foot and leg absorb shock much better when landing on the ball of the foot under a bent knee, concentrate landing this way rather than landing on the heel in an almost stilt-knee position besides landing on heels is over striding.
5. Push off your back foot to keep your arm swing under control as downhill running uses the arms mostly to maintain balance and rhythm. There is no need to swing the arms hard since gravity is powering you downhill. Do not swing your arms wildly as this can lose balance and rhythm. Keep your elbows slightly away from the side of your body and get your arms in rhythm with your foot strike that you use on the flats. As you increase your leg speed, increase your arm swing to keep a smooth and flowing rhythm.
6. Do not attempt to lengthen your stride by reaching over stride, which makes you land hard. Reaching out will cause you to be on your heels and actually brakes your forward progress. Increase your stride length by increasing push-off and knee lift
7. Since you are running downhill at a fast pace, your breathing rate may increase or become heavy. Concentrate on maintaining rhythmic breathing; continue breathing deeply and avoid shallow panic breathing. Lastly, Relax, let go, and allow your body to fall downhill. You will have more control if you learn to push fear and tension out of your mind.
Steep Or Long downhills
- Reduce the length of your stride slightly to hold back your speed. Decreasing the length of your stride, increases its frequency.
- On a very steep descent, you may want to slow down when running downhill so lean backward slightly.
- Bend your knee slightly as you land to allow greater shock absorption and keep your center of gravity over the lead leg.
- Use your arms for balance and rhythm by bringing your elbows farther away from the sides of your body
- Lastly, relax and allow your body to move freely without tension to avoid exhaustion and soreness.