Usually when the topic of running hills comes up, people focus on the uphill battles. But the downhills are just as important for your race times and training as the uphills. Learning how to glide down hills without putting any extra strain on your joints and muscles can help you reduce your chances of injury. Downhills can also be strategic places to make moves forward in races and training runs.
Here are some basic tips for running down hills:
- Maintain a consistent effort. Many people ease up on the downhills, thinking it’s time for a break, especially after running up hills. But if you maintain your exertion level going downhill, your speed will increase and you will be able to pass people in races. Keeping up the same effort level will also balance out your slower times from uphill portions of your run.
- Focus on form. You can lessen the pressure of striking the ground going downhill and maintain the natural forward momentum from the hill by running with good form. Avoid overstriding, which can be tempting when flying down a hill. Overstriding places extra pressure on your legs and can increase your chances of injury. Keep your shoulders, feet and hips aligned and run with shorter, quicker strides than usual.
- Think gradual. Running downhills takes a toll on your leg muscles and joints. Gradually add downhill runs into your workouts and treat your downhill run days as hard workout days, allowing your body time to recover. Running down hills can cause micro-tears in your muscles, which need time to heal.
- Try softer surfaces. Running on pavement and asphalt already puts more pressure on your legs than softer surfaces, and the extra impact of downhill running adds more stress. Try running on softer surfaces for your downhill training — such as grass or dirt trails — especially if you are injury-prone. When trail running, beware of uneven surfaces such as rocks and tree roots, however, as these can trip you up on the downhills.