Runners and triathletes run over all sorts of terrain because of training and racing. Even if you live in a flat area, chances are you’ll travel to a race or a vacation spot that will bring you to some hills.
When it comes to running hills, embrace them, don’t avoid them in your training. You’ll benefit from the varied terrain both physically and mentally. Physically, it will activate your muscles differently. Mentally, it will give you some variety during your run. Check out this post for a great description on how the body reacts to uphill running.
Running uphill may get a lot of press, but let’s not neglect the downhills. Running downhill can cause soreness from all the eccentric contractions and if not done correctly, can also cause knee or back pain. So here’s a quick list to keep in mind when running downhill.
- Have confidence. Fear will tighten you up and cause you to want to “hit the brakes”.
- Stay relaxed and keep your knees soft to prevent overstiding and locking your knees.
- Think “quick feet”. Take advantage of the free added speed from gravity and quicken your stride to keep up.
- Keep a neutral body. Just like when running on the flats, leaning forward will speed you up. To stay in control, keep a neutral body with your center of mass over your legs.
If you’re a skier, you have the advantage of knowing how to get down hills quickly and safely. Use that to your advantage and pretend you’re skiing downhill…without all the zig zags
- Leaning back will slow you down. This can be helpful when controlling your speed on steep descents but use caution that you don’t lean back too much. Leaning back and “braking” while going down a hill will put more strain on your joints from the impact of going down.
- Stay in control. If your speed from a steep downhill is getting away from you, decrease your cadence and shorten your stride.
- On technical trails, use your arms for balance.
- Lean back.
- Try to slow down by overstriding. Reaching out with your heels will extended your leg and knee and put unneeded stress on them.
Do you enjoy running hills? Tell us about your favorite (or not so favorite!) hills in the comments. Start implementing these tips into your downhill running and you’ll be on your way to more enjoyable running and passing your competition.
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