It's no surprise that running up a steep incline can have toning and strengthening benefits. But downhill running also plays an important role in a runner’s training. Sure, climbing the hill builds endurance, but the descent is not to be ignored.
If done correctly, running on a decline can help a runner prepare for any kind of terrain. From road races to trail running, runners encounter varying slopes and uneven surfaces. Downhill running can train a runner for these challenges.
When running downhill, your body is fighting gravity. The natural reaction is to slam on the brakes by leaning back and striking through the heels. This motion can actually be damaging to muscles and joints. An article in Runner’s World by Mackenzie Lobby shares that a runner comes down with 2.5 times their body weight, and that increases 14 percent on the decline.
Minimize the potential for injury by leaning forward when running downhill. This may feel unnatural or seem counterintuitive, but it is actually proper form. Center your bodyweight over your knees. You should be tilting forward with your hips, not your shoulders. Aim to come down on the middle of your feet as opposed to digging into your heels.
Keep your strides short and quick if you’re just starting to try downhill running. To gain speed, lengthen your stride when you feel comfortable. Don’t gallop by taking huge strides or leaping downhill. Always remain in control. Use your arms to your advantage, and allow them to help you gain your balance. Don’t feel that you have to keep them in your normal running form; you can stretch out your arms if it helps you stabilize.
Did you know some treadmills actually decline, allowing you to mimic the muscular effects of running downhill? The Precor 445 provides this feature, allowing the runner to get the benefits of coming down a hill, indoors.
Running downhill is an essential training opportunity, not just a chance to catch your breath. Focus on form and use the descent to build strength. Once you master the proper technique, it’s all downhill from there.
For our runners out there, how do you feel about coming down hills? Was downhill running a learned skill for you? How does it benefit your overall running?