Running downhill is easier. No big news there. Still, most runners use more energy than necessary and do not generate as much speed as they could. This chapter will show you how to generate that extra speed without getting more fatigued.
Running successfully downhill hill requires the ability to run relaxed. This takes more focus than running on the flats. So the trick is to be more foucses, yet at the same time remain relaxed.
Most runners run in an upright position. To maintain balance they tend to run back on their heals. Running in this manner is like driving a car with the hand brake on. a person to run slower compared to runners who know the proper technique to running downhill
Before giving an explanation on what to do, this isn’t something to practice too often. Running downhill fast is hard on the body. This can lead to injuries. During normal workouts, I NEVER push my downhill runs unless I am specifically prepping for an upcoming race that has downhills in it. Normally if I am on a designated hard hilly run I will push on the up hills but run very relaxed on the down hills. This is opposite of what we on race day where it is best push on the downhills and run slightly more relaxed on the uphills.
So once you master this trick do not use it for long portions of any workout!
Now running successfully downhill isn’t a matter of simply running harder. The goal is to use the same amount or less energy as you would on flat ground. To do this, we must observe what people normally do. It is best to use walking as an example. When people walk down hill people will keep their center of gravity at the same plane as a person walking on level ground. The reason for this is simple. If you lean forward you be apt to fall on your face.
Most runners while running downhill tend to keep their center of gravity in the same perpendicular plane as people that walk downhill. However, by keeping their body posture so upright they are in effect apply the brakes. This will cause more shock to the body, which will cause the body to get fatigued sooner.
So here is the trick. The goal is to shift one center of gravity slightly forward. For starters simply lean down the hill. Because you are running you do not have the same problem with the act of falling as one does while walking. This simple shift in weight allows you to run much faster.
However, you have just created a several slight problems as you now be going much faster and are now out of the normal comfort zone. Balance becomes an issue. So it is best to ease into this.
Another problem is over-striding. If you keep you same cadence, your strides will keep getting longer and longer. This is something we want to avoid. Over-striding is actually a waste of energy and can also lead to injuries. It is very hard to run smooth with strides that are too long. The better technique is increasing your turnover in your legs. Again at first this is difficult.
To accomplish this we actually use our arms. The use of your arms generates a greater turnover rate of your legs. The faster you turnover your arms, the faster you legs will go. So let your arms dictate your tempo, not your legs. Keep your arms loose and relaxed.
To do this successfully one must mentally focus. During this portion of the workout, active focus is required, it is best to turn off distraction like music.
The second problem we have created is one of balance. I find one trick that helps is to hold your arms a bit further away from your body.
You do not need your arms to help generate speed only tempo.
Now in the previous paragraph I said a simple way to shift your center of gravity is to lean forward. If you have relatively little experience on running downhill’s fast I suggest you stick with this approach. However, it is better to shift the center of gravity slightly forward from the hips. This is not an easy thing to do and It may be a harder thing to teach. The shift isn’t much. Maybe a degree or two forward.
Whereas it is an easy thing to lean forward at any point during a run. The shift with the hips takes place once you are already going downhill. This shift will allow for better balance. It also helps you keep proper form.
It is fairly easy to generate speed once you know this trick. The question is how do you know if you are doing this right? This is a delicate balance. Generate too much speed you may find yourself going into oxygen debt. Try to make sure the feet are still landing under your center of gravity.
Breathing is related to cadence. Be mindful that if your cadence increases too much, so will your breathing which will eat up additional energy. So while your legs feel great, there is still an overall impact on your energy consumption.
Running with Arms
The next thing to focus on is smoothness. This is accomplished by keeping the body as relaxed as possible. There is a natural inclination to tighten up simply because you are going faster. To keep thing smooth pay attention to your foot strike. If you feet seem to be landing way in front, then you may be over striding. The feet should be landing just forward from your center of gravity.
For advance runners, this is where some of your speed workouts will really pay off. You will be used to the higher turnover. Also, you ability to lift your knees a few more millimeters will allow for longer strides, without over-striding.
But remember to stay as relaxed as possible.
In workouts, I have noticed some slower runners have their set walk breaks. For example, they may take a walk break every 5 mins or so. I have seen them running up the hills but walking on the downhills. In Base training, I am indifferent. However, once you get in the workout phase you need take advantage of every downhill. I really do not see the point of ever walking downhill. These are the muscles you will using most during the race. For the slower runners, take your rest on the uphills.
There are a few marathons that are mostly downhill. For these marathons, different preparations are necessary. There are countless horror stories of perfectly fit runners bombing down the first portion of the course only to have their Quads tighten up and they end up running a slower time than if they ran a marathon on the flats. If at all possible try to get a few Long runs in where the majority of the run is downhill. A point to point course is best. No need to race the course. Focus on running smooth and quiet and avoid over-striding. This does not be a hard tempo run. Try to keep close to the pace you will be running on the flats.
But if you do not have a lot of down hills in a race. I think it is best to keep the pace relaxed and easy.
This is one of the easy areas runners gets injured. Best to keep it cool.