Hill repeats.  Whether a veteran or novice runner attacking an ascent at full speed with inevitable power and will as gravity fights to slow you down is never an easy task.  As you use your momentum and power to gain strength to conquer each hill, you feel your muscles burning and your will power increasing; there is no doubt you are building strength in your muscles.

Did you know that you can build even greater strength by running downhill?

Let’s reverse those thoughts and explore how running in the opposite direction on an incline can also strengthen muscles and improve strength.

Practicing running downhill from time to time benefits runners by preparing the body for undulating courses and helps strengthen and toughen muscles that often get ignored when running uphill and on flat terrain.  Whether you are running races downhill or not; downhill training can also serve as injury prevention by strengthening the weak area of the muscle. 

Although running downhill requires less effort, it can be very hard on the body and must be taken with caution. As a warning, be aware of over-striding which causes a braking effect forcing you to land harder on your heels and can make the body more susceptible to injury.

So how exactly does running away from hills improve strength for runners? According to Gary Brimmer, the 1996 U.S 50k trail running champion, states “by incorporating downhill training into workouts it helps runners get used to running race pace while going downhill and helps condition the quads for the pounding.”  Although running up hill is a no brainer when it comes to burning calories and gaining strength, consider incorporating downhill training as well to fill in the gaps of weak muscles that can often be overlooked.  By incorporating downhill training into workouts it can make you as a runner become more versatile and stronger to better tackle the challenges of both up and downhill running.

As you tackle you next race, marathon or daily run, consider what comes up is also worth coming down.

Happy Running!