Uphill hill workouts get all the glory, but are they overrated? – Click to Tweet
While running hard uphill is something you should do, I think performing downhill hill workouts can be more beneficial.
Chances are you’ve done an event with a great deal of downhill running, and felt it for a few days afterward. Running downhill, especially fast, puts a lot of eccentric loading on your muscles. This means they are lengthening and tightening at the same time, which cause a great deal of muscle damage. While running hard uphill may FEEL very difficult, running hard downhill is doing the most damage. This is why you should do downhill workouts in training, to prepare for the hard downhills in races.
“But my race isn’t a net downhill” you may think. Yes, that’s true. But even a looped course is half downhill!
Uphill workouts don’t let you run as fast as you’re likely going to be doing in a race setting and they are not quite as hard on the muscles since you’re not hitting the ground as hard, lengthening your stride as much, etc. Hard hill workouts can be too intense as well, which works the anaerobic system (not necessary for most runners).
So, uphill workouts may not be as important as you think because:
1) They are too slow (not close enough to race pace)
2) They may be too intense and not focus on the correct energy pathway
On the other hand, doing workouts on a slight decline serve to:
1) Work on your leg turnover rate
2) Help you run at a faster pace
3) Prepare your body for hard downhills during events
4) Stimulate the leg muscles to strengthen.
Remember: Because downhill workouts and running is so damaging, it’s incredibly important to be very very progressive with them and ease into them. I’ll often start my athletes with doing simple thirty-second downhill strides during regular easy runs. That can progress into a once monthly (or so) downhill workout of increasing length.
How to do them:
This is simple. You may really take any track type workout and do that on a downhill. I will do my warm up with an easy two or three mile climb and then start the downhill reps at the top. Run hard downhill for 800m and then do a 400m easy uphill recovery.
You don’t need something very steep, preferably it’s only a slight downhill grade. Too much of a downhill will not let you run faster.