Trail Running – 10 tips to run downhill faster
Line. Flow. Rhythm… Descending skills are what separate exceptional trail runners from good ones (Red Bull; 2015).
With LUT2015 on its way, these tips may help make that downhill’s a little easier!
1. Strengthen those legs
Leg strength is crucial for fast downhill running. There is a month left before the race, so get to the gym. One exercise that works wonders for downhill running is one-legged squats (Red Bull; 2015).
2. Do downhill repetitions in training
You do hill repeats, right? Downhill running is no different and needs to be practised. Find a gradual off-road downhill gradient and do sprint repetitions down it, ensuring you use a long stride length. Each repetition should be about a minute to a minute-and-a-half in the effort. Jog back up the hill after each repetition to recover. Depending on your level of downhill fitness, start with 4-6 repeats and build it up to 10 (Red Bull; 2015).
3. Keep your strides long
The most common mistake runners make is shortening their stride. Longer strides equal faster downhill running. It takes time and a degree of bravery to improve your downhill running but the end benefits are huge (Red Bull; 2015).
4. Lean forward into gravity
Avoid leaning backwards and jamming on the brakes, causing serious damage to your muscles. Tiredness can mean you will lean back slightly, which will give you a little more control in your downhill running, but you won’t go as fast (Red Bull; 2015).
5. Scan ahead and pick the best lines
Rather than looking directly at the terrain under your feet, look slightly ahead at what’s coming in two strides’ time. This will allow you to make choices especially in the LionHeart where the shortest option is not always the quickest. Avoiding wet rocks in favour of a grassier, but slightly longer, alternative route, which could be quicker (Red Bull; 2015).
6. Keep your legs bent
Don’t run downhill with straight legs. Not only could this result in knee pain or injury, but slightly bent legs will give you more spring in your step (Red Bull; 2015).
7. Flap your arms
Your arms play a key role if you want to run downhill faster. For balance, especially around corners, spread your arms out to the side using a slight windmilling action. Don’t worry about looking silly, it definitely works. Imagine you are on a tightrope, what would your arms do? Now replicate that when running downhill (Red Bull; 2015).
8. Switch off your brain and lose control – a little bit
Runners worry about falling, slipping and hurting themselves, which is understandable. However, to think like this will only slow you down. It’s not easy, but what you have to do is, at the top of the hill, switch off your brain and let your legs take control. When you get a little out of control, your brain is forced to think in overdrive mode which actually speeds up your ability to make decisions on where to step next (Red Bull; 2015).
9. Trust your gear
Lion’s Head is rocky, sandy and can become very slippery early morning with dew or mist. Choose shoes with an aggressive tread and trust them and your feet (Red Bull; 2015).
10. Adapt to the terrain
Be ready for anything you might encounter on Lion’s Head. When clambering down use your arms and legs. Loose rock will move forward with you underfoot, so ride it out and don’t fight it. Wet rock is the most difficult to negotiate – the less time your feet are in contact wet rock, the better, so stay light-footed and springy (Red Bull; 2015).
#Bonus tip for downhill beginners:
If you are a novice downhill runner completely ignore the above. Take small steps and go sideways when in doubt. You won’t win but will live to run downhill another day (Red Bull; 2015).
Red Bull (2015) Trail Running – 10 tips to run downhill faster. https://www.redbull.com/za/en/adventure/stories/1331758742187/red-bull-lionheart-2015-descend-better [Accessed 11 November 2015]