Many runners 'take a break' during the downhill sections of a road, trail or cross country race, but the benefits in practising the skill of this area can be seen in the gap one can open up over fellow competitors who have not given much, if any, thought to utilising the downhills to their benefit.
Practice should be carried out on grass, forest or woodchip downhill areas. A gradient of 5-6% is preferable. The key features to address are:
- short strides
- avoidance of heel strike first
- body angle
- driving off the ball of the foot
Let us look at these areas one by one.
Concentration - Focus on the fact that you are trying to get down the hill as quickly as possible then concentrate on the following factors.
Relaxation - There should be no tension in arms, shoulders or legs.
Gravity - Let your body weight do most of the work.
Short strides - Increase your leg cadence relevant to that on the flat.
Heel strike avoidance - If you land on your heels, this will act as a brake. Concentrate on landing on the ball of your foot.
Body Angle - Aim to lean forward slightly so that your body is at 90 degrees to the slope.
Driving off the ball of the feet - This is the final factor to take into account once the rest are in place.
Practice the above regularly and you will be surprised how the skill of downhill running quickly becomes part of your weaponry in a race.