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October 29, 2018

Gravity is a wonderful thing. Apart from stopping us floating off into the atmosphere, it is also really useful for running downhill. Have you ever tried to walk down a steep hill and found that trotting is actually much easier?

Picking up a bit of pace can help, not just with getting to the bottom quicker, but with how good it feels on the way down.

But, so many people struggle with descending at speed, me included. Why is that?

The five tips for running downhill below.

Self-preservation is a major factor in not descending well. The fear of falling, smashing your face up, twisting an ankle, breaking an arm is very real and can turn the best runners into stilted nervous wrecks. But it’s so frustrating when you’ve worked your backside off – literally – climbing up a hill, only to be overtaken by half the field on the way down.

Descending well takes practice and it takes some stepping outside of your comfort zone, but you can improve if you put these things into practice:

  1. Try to distract yourself by not thinking about what you are doing. Talking to someone, singing to yourself, even repeating a ‘mantra’ can help switch your brain off from its tendency to analyse every step you take.
  2. Take small steps.
    If you try to bound down with huge strides, you will land heavily and are more likely to overbalance. Unless you’re Kilian Jornet.
  3. Look up and about 5 feet ahead.
    Your feet will do their job if you trust them to remember what you have already scanned the ground for. If you watch your feet, any obstacles will be in front of you before you realize they are there.
  4. Use your arms.
    Let them do what feels good, whether it’s spiraling round, being an aeroplane or, a recent favourite of mine, Mr Burns style out in front. If you feel balanced in your upper body, you will be more stable overall.
  5. Breathe!
    We often hold our breath and tense up going downhill. If you can breathe deeply and evenly, you will feel calmer and you will be more relaxed, which makes for a smoother ride.

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