Most runners focus on the climbing and flat speed you need to be a better distance runner, but the downhills are just as important. This is even more a case in trail and mountain running where the descents can be long and technical. Below are a few simple tips that you can easily apply to your training without the need of expert tuition.
Shorten Your Stride
A short, fast stride will not only reduce impact, but keeps you in contact with the ground more directly beneath your body as opposed to being too far in front and generating breaking forces that lead to sliding.
Throw Your Arms Out
Wide arms give you greater balance, like a tightrope walker using a pole. So throw your arms out as wide as you can, with a slight bend at the elbow so your hands are above your shoulders. Typically, you’ll find your palms will face forward, at the ready in case you need to grab something.
The more confident you are, the better you will descend. The hardest thing to do is reduce the tension and fear that inevitably makes you want to run slowly down steep descents. Often, it’s due to breaking and being overly cautious that you stumble or even fall. You need to relax and be positive. A small amount of fear will mean you have respect for the potential outcomes, but being overly scared will hold you back.
Look Where You Want to Be
This is a technique used in mountain biking and motorsport. Always focus on where you want your next few strides to go, not the place your trying to avoid. Stay focused on the trail ahead and never become distracted by views, other runners or by looking at the steep descent off to the side that you’re desperately trying to avoid!
Gloves are not only ideal for warmth, but for protection against abrasions caused when falling or grabbing hold of things to help give you stability. By wearing gloves it makes you feel more confident, which harks back to the earlier point about having no fear, plus it will also make you more inclined to grab trees and things to steady yourself as you descend.
Practice Makes Perfect
The more you practice good descending technique, the better you’ll get at it. Apart from becoming more confident, your legs and joints will get conditioned to the impact and overall strength will improve. With that comes better form, particularly on long descents where you can gradually lose technique as you get tired.