Advice to prevent injury and improve your downhill running technique
Jogging uphill can be a difficult feat from a cardio perspective, but running downhill is a lot more challenging for your body. Why? Muscles shorten and lengthen or contract concentrically and eccentrically. Eccentric contractions require more energy and experience more wear and tear. The downhill running technique uses a lot of eccentric contraction, especially on the lower leg muscles and quadriceps. By mastering your downhill running technique, you will improve your form and put less stress on your body. Pro tip: make sure you complete those hill workouts with this advice to maintain your training during the holidays.
Tips to improve your downhill running technique
Remember, it’s important to properly warm-up before any run, especially a hill workout. This 10-minute warm-up will get you started!
Look ahead, not at your feet
The human brain is adept at instantly interpreting what the eyes see ahead. Proprioceptors in muscle, fascial, and connective tissues send direct signals to the brain about where you are on the hill. When you look ahead, it gives your body and brain enough time to respond. This allows you to use gravity to your advantage. Take a few seconds to stand and look six feet ahead of you. Now look down at your feet and get a sense of what’s happening to your hips. They’re probably behind your center of gravity. Benefits include:
- contract and shorten the quad muscles before movement
- strengthen big muscle groups like hamstrings, glutes, and quads
- strengthen hips to stabilize joints and maintain alignment
If you look ahead and engage your core your hips will stay in your center of gravity. It’s easier to absorb force, propel forward, and stabilize from this position while running downhill. Pro tip: running downhill provides a great opportunity to recover and build your mental toughness.
Engage your core
What is the core and what role does it play in your form? The core is a set of muscles that connects the lower and upper body. From the deepest to the top layer: transverse abdominus, internal obliques, rectus abdominus, and external obliques. These muscles work together to provide you with stability while helping you propel forward in your running technique. If these muscles are not working properly, the large muscles try to offer stability but with a lot of tension and alignment issues. This can worsen your injuries. When you have a strong core, you will develop a good posture. This can help maintain your center of gravity as you dart down the hill. Keep in mind, running surfaces change as you stride downhill, especially on long runs. A strong core will help you move nimbly. Pro tip: recover faster with this long-run recovery timeline.
Perform running downhill drills
Forward or lateral hops
This drill will help you develop a stable core and quick tempo. Try to stay tall the entire time while keeping your feet together. Begin by practicing for 20 seconds and work to 45 seconds.
Go to a grassy area such as a park or golf course. Start with a hill that’s easy to tackle. Run down this hill with quick feet. Begin with quick repeats, anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds. This will give you more confidence and help your brain build new movement patterns.
This exercise engages and strengthens your core. While lying on your back, pull your belly button in, toward the spine. Engage in marching steps.
Mastering the downhill running technique is easily accomplished if you practice downhill drills, engage your core, and practice forward gazing. Better your technique and incorporate these 12 tips to make running that much easier.