For any regular runner, uphill running requires mental strength, which can also slow some runners down. To improve speed, prevent injury and soreness, downhill running can help you to become a much more efficient runner. Perhaps some runners believe that uphill running is the way to improve on speed and stamina, but the stress to the joints may cause an injury if the correct posture is not sustained. Both uphill and downhill running performed together, or on alternate days, will help to improve leg speed, prevent muscle soreness, and help to prevent injury.
Running can cause muscle soreness, especially if you run on various surfaces to improve on speeds, distance, and inclines. Any new exercise that the body performs, such as weights or various aerobic classes will usually cause delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and this will be painful for the muscles for around 24-72 hours afterward. An easier and beneficial way to avoid that painful soreness is to participate in downhill running. Carry a timer, and perform downhill running for a set amount of time and muscles soreness will be gradually avoided.
What is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?
Delayed onset muscle soreness takes place when the muscles undergo a higher than normal quantity of eccentric movements. Eccentric movements actually shorten the muscle, while the original exercise movement elongates the muscle. One of the muscles, which undergo eccentric movements, is the quadriceps. Gravity pulls the knee down (knee flexion) every time the foot strikes the ground. This impact stretches the quads at the same time they attempt to shorten, which helps to prevent extreme knee flexion.
The high tension, repetitive strain occurs around ninety times per leg per minute for runners and may cause a substantial amount of damage to the quadriceps. Normal running does protect the quadriceps to some degree because they eventually get used to the eccentric actions. If training is increased, however, the quadriceps may not be able to sustain the additional stress and then causes muscle injury. Downhill running can help greatly, as it helps the body to become accustomed to the extra training, but without causing unbearable pain or damage.
Why downhill running?
Downhill running expands the eccentric movements on the quadriceps because, with each stride, the legs fall farther. What this means is that the increase in speed of each leg offers an easier force when the foot hits the ground, and as a result of this, the forces which produce knee flexion are higher. The quadriceps still carry out their resistance of knee flexion, but the pressure on them is higher. Microscopic tears may occur in the connective tissues and muscle fibres of the quadriceps. This may sound worse at first glance, but the controlled damage on a small scale connected with synchronized downhill efforts will push the quadriceps to strengthen and adapt. This means that during exerted efforts, the muscles will become much more resistant to damage. At first, downhill running may be painful but added to normal running; it can protect the legs from pain.
Lean the body slightly forward with downhill running to at least 90% of the slope and allow your own bodyweight to carry out most of the work. Try to land on the ball of your foot rather than the heel to build up speed. Relax the arms, shoulders, and legs. Tension will only slow you down.