When it comes to hill training, the focus is usually on running uphill, with the downhill portion often regarded as a rest. This is for good reason: running uphill is definitely harder cardiovascularly and requires practice, and training uphills is a great way to improve your strength, power and form. Many runners don’t realize that downhill running also requires practice and can be very taxing on your body. This is particularly true for trail running, where races can be won and lost on the downhills. For this reason, if you want to have strong legs to last through a hilly race, it’s important to dedicate some time specifically to downhill running. Try these downhill workouts to strengthen your legs before your next hilly race.
The downhill fartlek
To perform this workout, you have to find a route that has some hilly terrain. Run as you normally would, maintaining a steady pace on the flats and the uphills, but every time you reach a downhill section, pick up your speed until you hit 5K to 10K race pace as you descend. Ideally, you want to run at least five or six hills throughout your run.
If you don’t have a good route with plenty of rolling hills, don’t worry. All you need is one good hill to perform this workout. Ideally, you want to find a hill that takes you one to two minutes to reach the top, so you get plenty of downhill time on your legs.
Warmup: 10-20 minutes easy jog, followed by form drills
Workout: Run at an easy pace up the hill, until you reach the top or you’ve run for one to two minutes (this will depend on your fitness level). Rest for 30 to 60 seconds, then run back down the hill as hard as you feel comfortable running (it may take time to build confidence running fast downhill). Rest again for another 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat. Aim to do 6-10 repeats.
Cooldown: 10-15 minute easy jog, followed by light stretching and mobility.