These downhill running tips can save your legs
It’s no secret, running on hills is beneficial. You strengthen your lower body and your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Over time, running gets easier, allowing you to push your body further. You think hill workouts and your mind immediately goes to the uphill climb. But don’t forget, coming back downhill is just as important. Incorporate these downhill running tips to improve your form, become a better runner, and save your legs. With a ~300 ft. elevation drop from start to finish, this advice will benefit you at 3M Half Marathon.
Lean forward from your hips
Gravity naturally pulls you downhill (thanks Sir Isaac Newton!). Lean slightly forward from your hips, not your shoulders, to help maintain control of your body as you descend. If it helps, you can lean your shoulders back slightly, but not too much. This combination might feel awkward during your first couple of runs. Maintaining your center of gravity when running downhill will help avoid injuries and give your body a chance to recover from running uphill. Pro tip: engage your abs and glutes to provide extra control.
Use your arms for balance, not power
When running downhill, you don’t need the forward-back arm movement to generate power. That’s mainly used when running on flat ground and uphill. Take the above advice and partner it with your arms. As you descend, find the arm placement that best helps you maintain your balance. Your arms will naturally move back-and-forth, that’s okay. But remember that specific movement needs to focus on balance, not power.
Shorten your stride
As mentioned above, coming downhill doesn’t require as much power as going uphill. You need to alter your stride just like you altered how you use your body. Don’t overstride, you’ll overextend your body which forces you to lose control. Shorten your stride and keep your feet underneath you. You’ll feel like you should fly down the hill, but maintaining a controlled descent will benefit you during and after the race or workout.
Focus beyond your feet. Continue to pay attention to your surroundings and the terrain, but don’t look at your feet. Doing so will disrupt your center of gravity and throw your stride out of sync. Adjusting your stride going downhill is designed to prevent injuries, maintain control, and allow for recovery. Looking at your feet leans your shoulders forward and disrupts your center of gravity. Then gravity takes over and you begin running faster, overextending your stride as you descend. Focus on what’s downhill and trust that your lower body will take care of you.