3 Tips for Running Downhill Efficiently

With less than a week before the Equinox Half-Marathon, you're (hopefully) well-trained and eager to reach the finish line.

As you're no doubt aware, the Equinox is a downhill race course that descends the Poudre canyon, dropping about 1,000 vertical feet over 13 miles. Since downhill courses engage muscles in a slightly different way, hopefully you've incorporated some downhill running as part of your training routine.

Flickr photo courtesy Peter Mooney. Flickr photo courtesy Peter Mooney.

Regardless of how much downhill training you've done, we've got a few tips to help you maintain a steady pace and minimize wear and tear on your body. The most common mistakes runners on downhill courses make are leaning backward and braking with every step. Not only does this slow you down, but it also puts extra stress on muscles and joints. Avoid those common mistakes and keep these 3 tips in mind when you're on the course on Sunday, or any time you're running downhill.

1. Focus on your form.

Don't fall victim to sloppy running form because it feels like running downhill is easier. Over-striding -- a common mistake on downhill courses -- taxes muscles and can lead to injuries. To maintain a fast, consistent pace, shorten your stride and increase your leg turnover to maintain momentum.

2. Activate the core.

Your abs, glutes and back muscles are critical stabilizer muscle groups that help you run smoother and faster. Ensure you're using these key muscle groups by keeping tall and relaxed, with a slight forward lean at the hips. Avoid hunching over at the shoulders, which force other muscle groups to work harder.

3. Use your quads.

Those quadriceps muscles are your ticket to a strong finish. Use these big muscles in your legs to cushion your landings instead of pounding your shins. Avoid leaning backwards, which increases braking forces and forces your foot to strike more towards the heel. Lean forward into the hill, keeping your nose in front of your abdomen.

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