As trail runners, the parts of our training we usually focus on are speed, uphill, and distance. Often one of the important part of our trail runs that is forgotten, is downhill training. If we have to deal with lots of elevation, the downhill running will often times wear down our legs. When we run long distances, we focus on ways to get quicker, better and finish strong. We train to get fitter, and pace ourselves to be able to sustain our effort through the run or race, if we don’t take some time to train downhill, after a few hours of running up and down we will feel the strain in our legs. Feeling the soreness in our quads and knees will slow us down on the uphill and flat.
Downhill training should be done carefully, as it does put a lot of impact on our knees and joints. How downhill training works is by creating little tears in the quad muscles to increase muscle strength and healing.
Benefits of downhill training:
– Improves leg strength to make the downhills in a race a lot easier. By building strength in the quads, glutes and calves you will be able to run harder and faster downhill, leading to less soreness, and making running until the end of the race much easier.
– Improves coordination and “fast feet”. In order to get comfortable with “flying” downhill, we need to practice running down technical terrains when your brain is forced to adapt and react quickly at decision making and finding the best line. Also running down steps to increase your “fast feet” agility, and down concrete to really strengthen the leg muscles.
-Strengthens and stabilizes the core and ankles. Running downhill engages all the core muscles, strengthens the ankles. Running downhill involves rapid changes of directions and a lot of instability, that’s why it engages our whole body. Training downhill will reduce the chances of twisting an ankle as the ligaments, tendons in all the joints are fortified.
Downhill training has to be done cautiously, especially at the beginning, as it does increase the risk of injury by increasing the forces on the body. Downhill training should be done once every two weeks at most.
Downhill training will help avoid slowing you down or death-marching on trashed legs at the end of a race!
Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!