By the end of running a marathon or ultramarathon many runners find that their quads are shot.
The downhills start to hurt even more than the uphills.
The reason: not enough downhill training.
Yes, downhill training is just as important as uphill training.
When running on the flats your muscles shorten as they fire, and while blasting down hills the muscles elongate as they control your forward motion and speed. This elongation causes muscle tears and creates muscle growth.
When you practice running fast down hills you will gain muscle strength and speed.
Focused training on the declines also helps with DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness). Quads that are not prepared for the relentless downhills of a trail race will be sore for days after the race.
Even if your training for a race that is pancake flat, down hill running is beneficial.
Down hill running will strengthen muscles and joints that are not used during uphill and flat land running.
Try to do at least one down hill session a week.
The Downhill Drills
Like any training, it is best to start gradually and not overdo it. Choose a slope that is not too steep or technical. Treat downhill sessions as hard workouts and be sure to recover fully on the following days.
- Walk or jog up the hill at a very easy pace. Descend back down at 5K race pace for 2-5 minutes. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Choose a run with a lot of hills. Every time you come to a downhill pick up your speed to race pace. Recover on the flatter ground.
- Find a long sustained decline. Run mile repeats at your 10K race pace. Repeat 2-4 times.
As the old adage says, “what goes up must come down.” Strong runners understand that it is best to come down fast and train running down hills.