Hi friends,

 

This week I wanted to talk about downhill running and how you can improve your downhill running and build confidence when running downhill on the trails.

 

For the first few years of racing on the trails I used to hate downhill sections. It was then that I got overtaken the most and have lost a lot of races because I was so slow and scared on the downhill sections. It was very frustrating for me doing so well on the uphills but being overtaken by fellow runners as soon as I got to a downhill section.

 

🎥 Downhill Running Tutorial

 

 

I spent a few good weeks learning everything I could about the art of downhill running and then I would go out and practice on a small road hill next to my house till I finally got it. I started to enjoy downhill running and even looked forward to downhill sections in races. Suddenly I was the one overtaking other runners on the downhills.

 

Here are a few things I have learned over the past few years about downhill running

 

  • When running down on a road downhill you have two options: Go fast and "smash" your legs or go slower and "save" your legs. For any long races, I would look to "save" my legs in the early stages of the race so I can run strong for the whole race and not fight my jelly legs for the next few hours.

  • When I'm trying to "save" my legs my goal is to land under the body so the impact is distributed around the legs and hips.

 

 

  • To land under my body I think about getting the leg turn over behind me so when I'm about to hit the ground my foot will land right under my body (if the leg turn over would happen without thinking about it I will usually be landing in front of my body due to the incline of the road and gravity).

  • During shorter races and at the end of races I usually don't try and save my legs anymore and go down as fast as I can. In order to do that I open up my stride and lean a little more forward. This leads to landing in front of my body and impacting any feet/quads a lot more.

 

 

  • Gaze forward: When you are running on the trails you want to always look 1 - 1.5 meters forward (most people look straight down at their feet and get surprised when the ground is uneven). By gazing forward you will see your predicted landing spot before you get there.

  • Be agile: Downhill running on the trails means that you have to adopt - you might need to take few small steps and a few bigger steps so don't go out there thinking that it has to be a set stride length. Adapt as you go.

  • Look for even ground: Always look for the most even ground. By landing on uneven ground you can waste up to 70% more energy to try and balance yourself through the push-off. This is also the leading cause of twisting your ankle on the trails. If you land on uneven ground you tend to lose balance and the next step is less predictable which makes it more likely to twist your ankle.

  • Keep your arms relaxed: Stay relaxed with your arms and body, use your arms for balance - they shouldn't be "stuck" in one spot like when you run on flat roads.

  • Pick the best path: On the trails, it's not about sticking as close as you can to the corners but rather trying to pick the most even and the safest path - also if that means taking a few extra steps!

 

Reading this newsletter and watching the tutorial is a great start to improving your downhill running but where you will really improve is going out there and doing repeats of downhill sections on the roads and on the trails so you can learn and feel what you are doing right/wrong and how you can improve. Take your phone with you and record yourself in slow-mo, that would be a great way to see yourself in action and pick up little things you can improve on

 

Also for those of you who follow me on social media and Strava you might know that I participated in a 50k race in the Australian outback 2 weeks ago. Here is a short documentary of the race and my trip to Kalgoorlie 👇

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