Thursday, March 20, 2014

Downhill Running

I really enjoy running on trails and because of this I have multiple trail races planned for this year. I have found that running on trails and trying to run them fast requires some unique training. One running skill that I have been avoiding until just fairly recently is running downhill. Running uphill seems to come easy for me, I have to thank the fact that I used to run while 100lbs heavier for that. Actually, losing weight has helped every aspect of my running except for the downhills. Since downhill running is my weakness and I have gotten tired of other runners flying past me on the downhill portions of races, I decided to do a little research.

A few tips that I found useful with Coach Google:

1. Don't lean back or over-stride.
2. Quicken your cadence and land mid-foot.
3. Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed.
4. Look down the hill and not at your feet.

I practiced these tips a few times in my training for the Sheriff's 10K trail race last weekend. I found that practicing the downhill technique was helpful but I believe that the biggest benefit was the increased confidence it gave me. Every trail race I have ran, I have witnessed several runners fall during the downhill portions. While falling down the mountain is a way to get down it, I remained very conservative with the downhills in hopes that I would stay on my feet. But now that I have added a little downhill training I have more confidence in my ability to stay off of my butt.

Downhill running does do a lot of muscle damage. This is because running downhill is an eccentric contraction. Meaning the muscle elongates while under tension. So it is recommended that you allow your muscles adequate time to recover.

Here are some pictures that I found from a study showing the damage caused from downhill running.

Muscle before downhill running. No Damage.
Muscle immediately after. Damage is present.

Muscle one day later. Damage is still occurring.
Muscle 14 days later. Back to normal. 

I, of course, am not an expert on running. I just did some research for myself and am sharing the information I have found. I will end this post with a list of some of the more useful links that I found below.

Perfect Your Downhill Running Form -

Downhill Running LIVE from Miwok -
This link has video from Miwok of one of the fastest downhill runners, Ian Sharman.

Don't Let Downhills Be Your Downfall -
This link also has strengthening exercises to help your downhill running.

Is anyone else also afraid of running fast downhill like me?


  1. I'm super confident downhill on roads, but put me on a trail and I have a harder time. I already registered for most of my races this year (all but one are road) but I think my 2015 running goal is going to be to hit the trails more! I stated out trail running, my first year of running, and I miss it. I never got a chance to get really good at it.

    1. I do love the trails but I have been thinking of adding a few more road races in. Just to mix things up a bit.

  2. I'm a slow downhiller too. I think I am nervous that my overwhelming clumsiness will take over and I will end up rolling down the hill. Great links. Definitely some important things to think about.

    1. I think with some more experience I hope that I will get better/braver. lol.

  3. Just think of how many people you will finish before if you take them all out when you fall down the hill... Glass half full, eh?!