I know how much you love hills! Pushing yourself up the hill to build that strength and endurance that only a hill workout can give you is FUN! In reality, you are sweating profusely and cursing Coach Jeremy. Trust me, I feel your pain.

But have you ever done the work in reverse? No, not running backward, although I may try that for next week’s Workout Wednesday. I’m talking about running down the hill instead of up. Downhill workouts usually get overlooked because it seems too easy. Just cruise down the hill, right? Wrong.

If you have ever run the Baltimore Marathon or the Boston Marathon, you know that the first half of each starts downhill. You fly down those hills with reckless abandon thinking how easy the second half will be. Then “BAM!” you start to feel your quads burning as you get to mile 16. By mile 20, you are toast. Calves cramping, hamstrings tingling. Why? You probably did not work on your downhill running to help your quads and calves adapt to the stress of running a decline.

Your body’s natural reaction to running down a hill is to lean back toward the hill and use your heels as a brake. Your stride also elongates because gravity is helping you cover more distance in each stride. This change in your stride creates a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. To avoid this, try to tighten up your stride and take quicker, choppier steps down the hill. Lean forward from the hips and keep your body’s center of mass over your feet as best as possible, not behind. Remain in 100% control of your body and your running form. Don’t let the pull of gravity helping you down the hill cause you to get sloppy form. Control the chaos and focus on your form to minimize the chance of injury.

Hills, whether uphill or downhill, are sometimes where races are made or broken.

A downhill workout you can try to learn how to fall in control:

  • 1-2 mile warm up to the top of a decent hill. Not a crazy drop in elevation, but a gradual, steady decline.
  • Run hard, but under control, down the hill for 30 seconds. Walk or jog back to the top. Take advantage of this recovery time.
  • Repeat this 6-10 times. If you work this into your normal routine, add a rep each time you do it.
  • Finish with a 1-2 mile cool down.

Just think of that burning sensation in your quads the first time you do this workout as a hug from the hill. You two have become such good friends recently! Admit it. You love hills!