Training for downhill running
April 21, 2006 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Training plan for downhill running race

I'm doing the running leg of a multi-sport team race. This particular run drops a few thousand vertical in about 9 miles. Now that ski season is over, my training has finally started. I've got about 2 months left before the race. I've been playing lots of soccer, and running both intervals and hills as much as I can at 5-6 mile lengths.

What training should I add to my schedule to help my knees stay healthy for a downhill run like this one? I've got a gym membership, more hills to run, and some time on my hands. I'd appreciate any other ideas for changes to stride for downhill running, or any tips that you might have. Thanks!
posted by tumble to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
It's hard to train for downhill running because you need to train your quad excentrically, in other words, to carry a load while stretched. Uphill running, most biking, even squats train your quad to extend, which gets you strong quads that will still burn out on downhills. I belong to a running email list where this is discussed periodically due to the type of running involved, and the two most frequent recommendations are to run downhill (not short uphills, but long downhills), and to do squats/quad presses and leg extensions concentrating on the lowering phase. Nothing else has much effect for consistent excentric quad training.

If your interested in reading some of the other suggestions and stuff you could join the Ultralist at Dartmouth's server and search the extensive archive there of past posts to the ultrarunning mailing list. You may be able to dig other stuff out. Some suggested search words would be "Western States training" "excentric" and of course downhill and quad. Good luck, it sounds like fun.
posted by OmieWise at 9:05 AM on April 21, 2006

Are you running Hood to Coast? Here's a small blurb on training for downhill running.
posted by turbodog at 9:49 AM on April 21, 2006

I'm not an expert, but since there aren't many answers, I'll throw in my two cents. Focus in practice on not "braking" as you go downhill. It can feel almost a little out of control, but it's just a waste of energy to use your quads to effectively slow down with each step. Let yourself relax, lean back a slight amount, and lengthen your stride slightly.
posted by callmejay at 1:16 PM on April 21, 2006

I used to be a decent downhill runner, I agree with callmejay about not braking on the downhills. Braking tenses your muscles and contracts them during the eccentric extension- *not* happy news for your tendons and muscles. However, I disagree about the proper form. I've found leaning slightly forward rather than back places your center of gravity where it belongs. Leaning back puts a lot of stress on your lower back and slows you down. Dropping your hands to swing a bit lower than on the flats and pulling down on your elbows (meaning, visualizizing a weighted drop-line from the point of your elbow to the ground) helps maintain control instead. Don't worry about lengthening your stride, it will happen automatically if you relax and flow into the decline.

Definitely get some downhill runs in (just don't go crazy with them to start). Finding a short and not so steep hill to do repeats on would be swell. Do a few circuits at first and then build up to longer hills/ runs over hilly terrain over your two month training cycle. Once or twice a week is more than enough!
posted by stagewhisper at 4:09 PM on April 21, 2006

Thanks for the tips everybody, I really appreciate them. I like the idea of excentric training, and the link to the Hood race had some good info. It never ceases to amaze me how great this community is.
posted by tumble at 4:19 PM on April 21, 2006

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