So firstly shoes – grip is so important! A road shoe will slide and cause you to lose confidence in your foot placement- invest in a shoe with grip to give you confidence especially on muddy or sandy trails.
Next… Get wings! Your arms are so important to descending safety – they are your wings to help you glide safety down a trail. They will help keep you balanced and counter act the descending trail. Hold them out so they are just under your shoulder height, but keep them relaxed and loose and let them counteract any movements your legs do.
“Running on trails can be scary!
STEEP DESCENTS CAN BE A CHALLENGING ASPECT OF A RACE AND I HAVE AT TIMES SLID ON MY BUTT DOWN A TRICKY SECTION! HOWEVER IT A SKILL THAT CAN BE IMPROVED AND WITH PRACTICE CAN TURN INTO ONE THE BEST BITS OF TRAIL RUNNING! “
Body lean – like skiing you need to embrace gravity and lean down the hill- the more you lean back the more you will brake, this will jar your joints and trash your quads and put you out of control! To help bend your knees stay compact but always keep leaning forward. Try – like when you are running on the flat- to keep your feet under you and your hips ahead of them. You still want to land with more of your midfoot on the trail rather than your heel- not only is there is more grip on your shoe but also means you are putting your foot where you want to rather than letting it fall uncontrollably down. To get in the best position stand normally then lean forward with your whole body until you feel like you need to take a step or you will fall- this running angle is what you want to maintain on the downhill!
Fast feet – the faster your feet the more controlled and efficient you are, the more you can react to the surfaces and changing terrain and it saves your legs too! With the forward lean you will find the fast feet keeps you flowing down the trail. You can never move your feet too fast when going downhill!
Smile! A relaxed body can react and go with the flow of the trail- so smile and have fun!
4 steps ahead
Rather than look at your next step look about 3-4 steps ahead and think about where you need to go. Look for the changes in the trail from steepness to direction to help glide down the trail. Try and have gentle curves and go with the trail and terrain- don’t fight it! Sometimes you end up going wider and off the trail to help keep you flowing.
Steph’s Practice tips
Zig-zag-on very steep terrain! It’s safer and easier to weave down the hill in an S shape. It will help keep you in control and in a good body position
Like most skills the best thing to do is practice find a steep bit of trail about 20m-40m long and 10-20% gradient Start off slow and weaving down the trail in an S shape- each practice lap focus on 1 area listed above. You then integrate all components together, add pace and tighten your turns down the hill. You can use cones to weave around to help guide your path.
Try and integrate this once a week into your training on terrain similar to the demands of the race! 20minutes of hill specific trail skills once a week can make minutes difference on race day! It also gives the chance to practice uphill hiking skills which I’ll cover next time! ??
Note: If you don’t have an adequate hill a set of stairs can be an alternative place to practice! The skills are the same!
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