Most folks dread hilly workouts. And for good reason! Running up a hill is hard!! Your run pace slows down, your legs and lungs burn, and sometimes it seems that you will never reach the top of the hill. But what goes up must come down, and the reward for enduring the long, slow run up a hill is that you get to enjoy the fast, speedy descent down the hill.
However, did you know that downhill running is WAY more stressful on your muscles than uphill running? Did you know that the soreness you experience after a hilly workout is due to DOWNHILL running rather than uphill running? This is due to the type of contraction your muscles perform during downhill running. When you run uphill, your muscles contract concentrically (the muscles shorten to provide propulsive force). But, when you run downhill, your muscles contract eccentrically (the muscles lengthen to provide a breaking force). Eccentric contractions are extremely forceful and lead to muscle damage and the resulting soreness we feel one or two days after a hilly workout.
The good news is that our muscles can adapt and get stronger when faced with eccentric contractions in training. Every time we stress and damage our muscles, we repair so that we can handle that same stress the next time. So, think about the soreness you feel after a hilly workout as a sign that you pushed your muscles to their limit. Then know that your muscles are repairing themselves to come back stronger for the next time you face the hill!!
Check out this article on downhill running. It provides tips on how to efficiently and safely negotiate downhill running.
Have a great week!