Learning to run downhill efficiently, with confidence and speed takes practice. If you don't make time to practice you won't see change, so try to choose one or two of these points per run and really think about it until you get it and then move on to a new focus point.
I still have to remind myself sometimes to look ahead, or take shorter strides. It's something that can make a huge difference to your performance, not only in speed but as you build more confidence, it also contributes to you enjoyment and faster recovery!
- body weight is stacked. shoulders, over hips over ankle which help prevent you from over striding (reaching the foot out in front of your body).
- lean into the hill via the ankle joint while staying stacked.
- avoid leaning back or pressing your hips back like you're sitting in a chair. "pump it" with your hips stacked.
- shorten the stride and take smaller, quicker steps which will help keep your feet underneath your hips and help keep the weight in the forefoot **not the heel**. This will also help eliminate ankle rolls.
- arms help you maintain control and steer.
- if you pump your arms you'll go faster
- if you stretch your arms out they will act as a lever and work with gravity to help slow you down.
- relax your upper body and shoulders. Staying relaxed helps you build confidence opposed to heading into the downhill stressed and tense.
- practice looking 6 feet ahead and then glance closer to your feet and back out again to anticipate obstacles.
- if you are looking down you will not only tend to run slower downhill, however you increase your risk for injury because you won't be able to see and anticipate what's ahead.
- weight should be in the mid-foot and avoid weight in the heels.
- weight in the heels will cause you to heel strike which is not only inefficient, however you're almost alway guaranteed to slip/fall this way. (see my slip in the video when I had my weight back and in the heel as a good example)
- practice scuffing the earth on a non-technical downhill to get a feel for it before you practice on technical terrain.
- if you hear a slapping sound, you're 100% heel striking. Try to run downhill quietly :)
During the winter months, in particular we are forced to run on snow packed trails that are much more narrow then when they're snow free. For some of us, it can create a poor habit called crossover gait. Some athletes tend to cross midline simply due to weakness or tightness (essentially imbalances) within their bodies such as glute medium and Oblique Abdominals
What is crossover gait?
If you drew an imaginary line down the middle of your body, cross-over gait occurs when your foot lands either on or across that imaginary line.
How do I know if I am crossing mid-line?
You could video yourself from behind running on a treadmill, or the trail and watch the video to see if this occurs. Or have your spouse or friend watch you and give you feedback.
OR you could use a line/stripe on the ground and try to keep it under the midline of your body as you run. If both or one foot is hitting the line, you're running with a cross-over gait. Some people use a bike lane line on a quiet street to test this out. Obviously, please be mindful of traffic if you go this route.
OR if you ever clip your heel against your other ankle as you run, leaving muddy scuff marks on your inner ankle, it's a fairly strong indication you're crossing midline while you run.
Is this movement necessarily bad?
It's considered inefficient and increases risk of injury. A crossover gait excessive side to side rotational movement which wastes energy when you run. Opposed to staying on a mostly sagittal plane, where your limbs and torso primarily move forward and back while you run.
The excessive side to side and/or rotational movement also means you're likely overloading particular muscles, while other muscles aren't working at all. It's this imbalance that can lead to injury.
What are some common injuries related to crossover gait?
- IT Band Syndrome
- Runners knee/knee pain
- Piriformis Syndrome
- achilles tendonitis
How can I correct this if I think I am running with a crossover gait?
- the first thing is to create an awareness to it and engage with this on your run this weekend.
- try to picture a 2x4 between your feet when you land, which will feel a little awkward at first but it's a good starting point to ease into this gait change.
- next try this drill while walking in a straight line: hike your right hip up before you take a step. then hike your left hip up before you take a step. Repeat this drill for about 5min before you start your run and then use the 2x4 visualization to keep you on track.
- it's important to note that you need to make the mobility/strength exercises on the website here a priority to help build strength and increase mobility which will help correct this imbalance overtime.
This space will essentially become a diary for the spring clinic. I will be uploading weekly videos to share information, motivation and instructions on particular workouts or the new clinic format.