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Trail Running Downhill Tips

posted by Chris Barber

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Downhills are your place to catch up on other runners.  Well, maybe, but I view downhills as a place to rest a bit, but not lose any momentum or waste energy slowing yourself down.  That’s just counterproductive.  You want to increase productivity.  It’s trailrunning-conomics.

When running downhill on a trail you want to have quick feet, a trained eyes, balance, and reflexes.  All of these items together will give you a relaxed and fluid running form.  You want to try to keep your body weight centered over your knees so you strike the ball of your feet on the ground instead of your heels.  Striking on your heels makes for a leaned back running posture that can lead to injury and creates less efficient running.  You want to be leaning slightly forward to maximize your foot movement and minimize injury.  Keep your elbows relaxed and slightly raised so they are poised to help you maintain your balance and steer.  Imagine you are a fighter plane and your elbows are your wings. Soon you’ll be ‘flying’ through the trails.  That’s right!  Ice…man.  I am dangerous.  Who wants to go play some volleyball?

You also want to make sure you are looking ahead.  Many new trail runners look at their feet when running downhill but this is not the most efficient way to run.  It is a lot of like driving a car, when you first start you look directly in front of you but the more you drive the more you look forward to see what is ahead of you so you can plan your next move.  If you know what is coming you can adjust your body movements before you get to an obstacle.  Likewise, if the trail turns suddenly you can adjust you movements accordingly as you come to it.  Grab on to a tree and swing yourself around the curve if you really want to look extreme.  Extremeness is what it’s all about anyways right?

You want to be light on your feet.  I know, you’re a 250 pounds and you are never light on your feet, not even when crawling into bed or easing yourself into a warm bath.  Why are you taking baths anyways?  When running on the trail, listen to see if you are being light on your feet.  If you hear youself stomping down the trail, then lighten up.  Man, you’re feet can be so serious sometimes.  It’s cool, we like serious feet around here.  Try to increase the number of steps you take to lighten up the load on each step.  It’s like putting a car in a lower gear instead of slamming on the breaks.  When you slam on the breaks you are putting more strain on your body and quickly stopping away momentum that gravity is giving you running on the downhill.  Put gravity to work for you.  Gravity just hangs around not doing anything anyways.  It’s about time gravity got a real job instead of always putting objects down.  Gravity is such a negative Nancy.

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