7 February 2022

Getting Ready for the Downhills!

We all love the downhills, although most of us a has suffered some major muscle soreness in quadriceps after a long Sky or Ultra-trail race.

I’m sure you have experienced the day after a race or a tough camp, when you couldn’t even get down the stairs, or in worst case scenario, needed to move backwards, in order to get down. :-).

In this blog post you will find some basic explanations to the problem, and some simple tips, advices and training videos, in how to prevent this.

Why do I get muscle soreness, and how can I prevent it?

Running downhill leads to a lot of muscular damage and wrecked legs, and it’s super important to prepare the athlete’s legs for the abuse they’ll take during races with a lot of elevation gain/loss.

When running downhill, our quadriceps and calf muscles are working eccentrically (that is the muscle lengthens whilst under load). These eccentric contractions are known to damage our muscles significantly more than concentric contractions (muscle shortens whilst under load). Therefor downhill running can trash our quadriceps and calves very quickly.

Downhills become particularly important for ultra-distance events were becoming fatigued in your calves and quadriceps early can be the difference between a PB and not finishing at all.

Downhill running is a skill, so we recommend putting these two strategies into place well before your next race:

  1. Prepare your legs with eccentric strength training.
  2. Practice downhill with good technique.
  3. Coaching and guidance.

1. Prepare your legs with eccentric strength training

Strength training is important for all runners, not just downhill running. Heading to the gym and completing eccentric training of the calves and quads will dramatically increase the distance you can run before your legs become trashed and you slow down. It is particularly important to focus on the eccentric component of these exercises, as this is how the muscle moves when running.

In below videos coach Fernando are showing you a couple of great exercises that you should incorporate into your training plan.

Eccentric Force 1 specially adapted for Skyrunning and Trail-running

Objective of the session: Quadriceps eccentric training.
Method: Dynamic circuit laps doing each exercise 30 seconds for cardiovascular exercises and 10 reps for strength exercises. 3-4 laps. Always a good warm up with joint mobility and dynamic stretching’s first.

Plyometrics session specially adapted for Skyrunning and Trailrunning

Objective of the session: Plyometric work. Training the efficiency of joints and tendons in the cycle stretching-shortening for running with jumpings and dynamic exercises.
Method: Dynamic circuit laps doing each exercise 30 seconds and recovering 20-30 seconds. 3-4 laps. Always a good warm up with joint mobility and dynamic stretchings first.

Plyometrics workout inspiration

2. Practice downhill with good technique

Specific practice is important for any sport and running is no different. By practicing downhill running, the neuro-muscular system will slowly adapt, increasing the muscles capacity to attenuate these loads. Including sessions of fast downhills in your program will improve your ability to handle these loads.

Your downhill technique is also important:

1. If not so steep you can take longer steps.

2. When it goes steeper you can increase your cadence and do more and shorter steps.

3. Silent and light steps, we search to flow with the gravity and the ground not fighting against it.

5. You do not run just with your legs….use all your body!! Your arms for balance and your shoulders to lead your running and body position.

4. Try to contact the ground with your entire sole, not nailing your heels, unless necessary.

6. You can control your speed going down not only throwing your shoulders and your body behind and contacting the ground with your heel.

7. You can also control speed by trying to lift a bit more your knees while going down, or going down doing some Z´s trying to avoid to take the path by the most desnivel parts.

8. Strength and physical condition is a must to enjoy and go downhill with safe and health.

9. Some runners also use running poles in the downhills to release some pressure from the legs.

And of course to lose the fear and improve your technique…nothing better than practise, practise, practise…..

3. Coaching and guidance

We all need some help some times, in order to get to the next level of running. Arduua Coaching is specifically focused in Skyrunning, Trail and Ultra-trail. We build strong, fast, and enduring runners and help them to prepare for race day. By building personal relationships with our runners, we create the individual training you need to ensure that you are 100% ready on the day of the competition. For more info please check out Arduua Online Coaching >>.

For more questions about our training please contact Katinka Nyberg at katinka.nyberg@arduua.com.

Have a great training day!

/Katinka, Arduua Founder

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