What’s the best way to run downhill?

What’s the best way to run downhill? I’m not sure I’m doing it as efficiently as I could.

A To run downhill well, youneed to let gravity be yourfriend. That way, the natural increasein speed you experience from thegradient comes at no additionalenergy ‘cost’ and has you careeringpast your opponents! One studyfound running down a 5.8º slopeincreased runners’ speed by sevenper cent – though on steeper hills,the pace boost diminished. Why?Because once the gradient in thestudy was too steep, the runners’potential speed gains were offsetby a deterioration in technique.You can tweak your technique,however. Two of the most commonerrors are leaning back (so yourcentre of gravity is behind your legsand overstriding (extending your legstoo far ahead of your body). Both ofthese actions create a braking forcecausing your stride to slow. Yourbrain is subconsciously trying tomaintain control over your fast-moving limbs – but this brakingaction will not only slow you downbut put extra force through yourmuscles and bones, leading to increased post-run muscle sorenessand the likelihood of stressed knees.

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To fix these form errors, thinkabout keeping an upright postureand both shortening and quickeningyour stride so that your foot strikesare swift and light. Visualise ‘flowing’down the hill, keeping your eyes onthe road or trail just ahead of you,not at the ground directly in frontof your feet, and trying to keep yourshoulders and hands relaxed.Start by practising on a gentledownhill. After you’re warmed up,run down for 100m at a brisk pace,staying tall and keeping your legs‘wheeling’ underneath you, notreaching out ahead. Jog or walkback up the hill and repeat four tosix times. Progress to a steeper hillwhen you’re ready, and when youfeel confident enough, try differentterrains, such as grass and trail.Your thighs and calves my wellfeel sore after downhill training dueto the eccentric muscle contractions(the muscles lengthen as theycontract). A study found a reductionin muscle force after a 6.5kmdownhill trail run of 19 per cent inthe thighs and 25 per cent in thecalves. Your muscles will adapt withpractice and repetition, though.

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What’s the best way to run downhill?

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