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Running Downhill: The Proper Technique to Perfect Your Running Form

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The hills and running, they do go hand in hand, don’t they? For that perfect blissful run, one does end up going to their favourite hill and feel fresh even after some tiresome downhill runs. But, this run does come with a lot of setbacks if not done properly. One needs to have the ability to run downhill perfectly and this can happen only with running with techniques and correct guidelines. You will feel a lot of breathlessness, burning in the legs and cramps if you run fast and not correctly. While running downhill the most important thing that you need to keep in mind is that your foot needs to hit the ground with correct force and with a lot of technique, to avoid any kind of foot, back or other running injuries.

Table of Content

  • Running Downhill- The Right Way to Do it
  • Top 10 Tips to Master Your Downhill Run
  • How to Prepare for an Efficient Downhill Run

Gravity plays a very important role in running downhill. The correct foot action and a stable body is necessary for you to have a good and efficient run. 

Running Downhill- The Right Way to Do it

It is necessary to keep the speed in mind while you are on the move. Don’t just make it a point to run fast but also understand that running quickly with proper running mechanics is important. When you are doing this form of running, the muscles of your leg lengthen which stresses the leg muscles further.

Running downhill gives you pace and a study published in the ‘Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research’ showed that when sprinters trained on uphill and downhills, they improved speed and foot turnover more than running uphill or flat surfaces alone. By incorporating downhills into your training, you can weather them better and bounce back from them sooner. 

running downhill
Master the Art of Running Downhill

Don't think them as hills; think them as mounds of opportunity!

Top 10 Tips to Master Your Downhill Run

Running downwards with confidence and having fun at the same time is what every runner wants to experience. Running downhill is not the same as running uphill. You might ace the run when you climb but may have difficulties in coming down. You cannot be a novice or a jogger when you are running downwards. This run requires techniques and commitment with a whole lot of balance and strength! 

Here are the top 10 tips to master the art of running downwards:

Tip #1: Quick Foot and Leg Turnover

The way you run is the only thing which will make you different from other runners. When you are light on the feet and run downhill you are considered as a good runner. This will also help you have a good leg turnover and this will set you apart from a weak downhill runner. When you run fast your contact with the ground is short. You tend to touch the ground faster and this is also because of gravity.

Livingit Tip-
If you take heavy and bumpy strides you will leave yourself imbalanced and might have a fall too. 

Tip #2: Look Ahead, Not Straight Down or Your Feet

Always eye your path and never look around or down when you are running. Always make sure that irrespective of the trail you are running on, never lose your focus. Once you keep your focus right, you can also see how the trail looks like from a distance too. 

tips for running downhill
Look ahead 

Tip #3: Lean Forward, Not Back

You will feel very stiff and strong when you run downhill and that should be your aim too so that you have a good run. When you lean back as you run, you are putting a lot of pressure on your heel and also on your leg. But what we don’t realize is that gravity is playing a very vital role in this type of running. When you run leaning forward you are way more stable and have a very comfortable run as well. This helps you to lift your legs up instead of forwarding which is very effective while running. This also helps in keeping the foot light and doesn’t throw your weight on the heel. 

Tip #4: Always Descend with Confidence

Downhill running is always about confidence. Even if the slope is steep or the terrain is curvy, if you are confident then there is no looking back. Even if you are having a shaky run make sure you always are confidence doesn’t shake. 

Tip #5: Use Your Upper Body for Balance

Keep your shoulders loose and light and your arms tucked near your chest. That is the right posture to run. When you run with posture you allow your upper body to stay in balance making the complete run effective and technically correct. 

proper technique to run downhill
Learn the right way to run the hills (source)

Tip #6: Use your Arms for Balance

Downhill running is very different than flat or uphill running. Lesley Paterson XTERRA world champion says that “It can help give your body the control it might need if speed takes over or a sudden change in direction is needed.”

Tip #7: Lean Forward from the Hips, not the Shoulders

As we all aware that gravity pulls you downhill anyway, avoid leaning backward and straining your back. If you lean your upper body ahead, then there are chances that you might imbalance your posture and even fall straight on your face. 

Tip #8: Perfect the Position of your Foot

Your foot has to be in a perfect position when you run downhill. Make sure that you balance out your body evenly with every step you take. 

Tip #9: Engage your Core and Circle your Stride

Always think about your glutes, abs and your back when you run. That is the core of your body. Don’t over stride but it is necessary to keep the feet under your body and in proper balance.

Livingit Tip-
The steeper the downhill the more circular your stride should be. 

Tip #10: Always Adapt to the Trail

When you decide to run you should be you should be up for anything and everything, in fact trail running has tons of health benefits. When you are running downwards, it is necessary to use your hands and legs both evenly. Loose rock, wet rock or if you make the run in the spring always keep your feet light and firm. Never lose your grip. 

proper downhill running technique
Proper running technique

How to Prepare for an Efficient Downhill Run

Downhill running is considered difficult because of the gravity pull the body witnesses when running on a slope. The greater the force the greater is the tension on the muscles. A lot of individuals think that running uphill is tough but the ones who have tried to run downhill exactly know the efforts that need to be put for an efficient run. 

The ability to run fast and properly downwards doesn’t happen by chance it is a result of techniques and efforts. There are a few things that a runner needs to keep in his mind when running both off and on road. 

Let’s understand how to get the efficiency when you prepare for your run: 

1. Follow Proper Running Mechanics

Maintaining a tall posture and a good circular stride will help you master the running techniques. This is the foundation of downhill running. In other simple words this means that you need to lift your knees outwards and in front when your run and then pull your heel back to move forward. Always remember that you should never run with just your legs and not move the hip region. That will not help you get a good stride. Raising knees to a decent height is important. 

2. Joint Stability

This will control the direction of your body. Joint stability means that you need to control your hips, knees, spine, and ankles at every step that you take. You will need strong muscles surrounding these joints to create the required stability of your run. This is very crucial. 

There are many exercises which are available to strengthen these muscles. Single leg and double leg exercises can be done which help in gaining both linear and lateral movements. This will also help in avoiding injuries in the long and short term and also make you more agile and quick in the run. 

3. Activate your Glutes and Abs

This is a part of the core of your body. Activate them and make it strong. If this is in place and worked upon well then, your entire body will remain in control. This will also control your legs in a much better manner. As this is a downhill run controlling the effect of gravity while running is important and if your core is strong this is possible. This can also be done with the help of various core strengthening exercises and training. 

exercises for downhill running
Work on your Glutes

4. Elasticity

This is the most ignored element while an individual does endurance training but turn out to be the most vital of them all. If you want to attempt downhill running then elasticity should be the key element of your body.

Mark Verstegen in his book Core Performance says “Think of your body as a pogo stick. The metal framework is analogous to your pillar and the springs are like your muscles. We want our bodies to be able to store and release energy powerfully, just like that pogo stick. It is like your body's shocks and springs.” Elasticity also means how fast and agile are you. You need to move, turn and change directions fast when you are running downhill. 

Mastering the art of run downhill will also let you fight the contractions and improve your body performance. The terrain in your downhill run makes all the difference. The more muscle you have in your body you will have a more fast and balanced run. This will make you run faster by putting less effort and you will be able to apply more technique in your run. When you train for a downhill run it is a lot of fun as well. Keeping your body in control of what it demands should be of high priority. When you descend from a hill it is challenging as well as rewarding.

Downhill running works on almost your entire body and most of it your lower body. It strengthens the muscles and allows them to be more flexible and elastic. Dr. Greg Wells, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Toronto and the author of Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World's Best Athletes says that “Descending feels easy aerobically, but each step triggers muscle-damaging eccentric contractions in the quadriceps and lower legs”. He also adds “on level ground, these muscles shorten as they fire; on declines, they elongate while under tension as they work to control your speed”

So, the next time you are planning your downhill run, make sure you keep the above points in mind and don’t ever think about how to run downhill.

Have you tried running downhill? If yes, then we would love to hear your personal tips in the comments below.

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