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Downhill Intervals

  • 03-03-2022 3:02pm
    Registered Users Posts: 693 ✭✭✭

    So I was on an easy run last week, in the pouring rain as you do, and as I was heading down the Swords road I took note of the runner who passed me by. He had a super running style, nice heal lift, long strides, bouncing along. Very jealous altogether.

    Anyway as I get to the junction I noted that he had lapped the watch and was heading back up again. So it got me to wondering (shower thoughts!) on whether downhill intervals are a thing and if they are a thing then are they used to work on running form, perhaps with running downhill you can concentrate on form at pace while not taxing yourself too much?


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,978 ✭✭✭Duanington

    They're certainly something that Lydiard and others were advocates of, lots and lots of talk of it on various sources I've come across. Generally speaking they're included in broader hill sessions bounding up for 800m then relaxed, brisk striding on the way down....with a an 800m flat jog at either end to recover.

    The reasoning behind it was almost a running specific S+C session rather than just pure fitness, promoting that good form and turnover, strengthening and preparing the body for harder intervals etc

    I can't say I've tried them yet but I will be when the evenings get longer (so I don't snot myself on the way up or down, my hill of choice is poorly lit)

  • Registered Users Posts: 661 ✭✭✭marathon2022

    Im sitting here thinking " I hope that was me he is talking about, the cheek of my misses to say im gangly and run funny :-)" I just happened to be out in Swords doing hill(including downhill) reps last week.

    I suppose in my case its ignorance that has me at them, I decided to do the upcoming manchester marathon as a means of keeping focus during the winter and picked the Boston Athletic Association online free marathon plan as it was very clear on sessions and paces. One of the main sessions every week is reps, with every second week being hill reps,e.g 400m uphill at 10k pace 45 seconds rest and then 400m downhill followed by a 2 minute rest. Rince and repeat.

    On reflection I suppose this is more got to do with the BAA plan being for a hill course and more specifically Boston being a downhill marathon (quads strenght really needed).Manchester is flat so I guess it doesnt really matter in the end as long I got to the line healthy with enough miles in the legs and proper taper.

    Im probably muddying the waters with my waffle but there ye go.

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    I remember a few years ago when on holidays at a location where it was up and down regardless of the direction you go. Impossible to do really any speed work and too dangerous (traffics wise) to do tempo runs.

    so coached had me do “kenyian hill reps”. Aim was running uphill steady for 5min and then back downhill in 3min (or 2.5min? 🤔).

    still not sure what exactly the purpose was but it felt tougher than a standard hill rep as it was still hard enough of an effort going uphill and no real recovery going downhill. Quads were working.

    @E.coli I’d say you are the man to really answer this one 😁.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,079 ✭✭✭BeepBeep67

    There is risk associated with downhill intervals, so best to ease into them.

    You will probably be taking certain muscle groups beyond their normal range of motion, which is a good thing but needs to be controlled.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,182 ✭✭✭demfad

    Lydiard defined speed mathematically as stride lenght X stride rate.

    His hills worked on both lenght (uphill) and frequency (downhill). I don't think the frequency increases really rather the efficiency and strenght with high turnover increases. He called it getting rid of the leg viscosity i think, or similar.

    I know from hill running that downhill causes DOMs due to eccentric contractions in the quads. from memory, that means gravity is pushing knee forward (lenghtening quads) where as the nerves are directing to quads to push off (almost brake) and this contradiction causes damage to the muscles. The strenght from one DOMs hill running soreness lasts for 6 weeks I read. Anyway as well as strenght gained, you learn to not break, and turnover more efficiently. Instead of pushing off, you may start to lift the leg going forward more than pushing off as the more efficient downhill (and flat) technique. (You still do both but in more efficient ratio)

    As @BeepBeep67 says there is risk here.

    Start with easy hill runs, then steady, AT etc. then move on to controlled reps maybe like those Kenyan hills described above. ie start with the absolute minimum and slowly evolve to be safe and sustainable.

    I don't 'freewheel' down hills myself. I think foot stays too long on ground if so. Better to run down. So if doing a steady run, for the downhill, pull back a gear but keep running down concsiously using the muscles rather than completely allowing the hill to control your actions. Lifting and a very slight pushoff-slight but there.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 220 ✭✭E.coli

    As many have alluded to they tend to be a higher risk form of training. Personally I am not a huge fan of them. Between the relatively sedentary lifestyles of most people in Ireland (office jobs, retail etc) we spend an awful lot of time sitting in chairs coupled with many runners are return to sport types at latter points in there lives. It leads to a lot of people with chronically short quad muscles and inhibited glute function. For this reason I feel that these workouts tend to be higher risk mode of training than when Lydiard first prescribed them.

    Most people who use them these days tend to use them more for race specific conditioning (Boston, Comrades etc) which can be useful but ultimately I think S and C in the form of heavy weight squats is more useful and can be done in a much more controlled way to alleviate some of the injury risk and strides/hill sprints (max effort up hill CP sprints) can focus on form and turnover to an extent

    demfad's advice on progressing these hills if you did want to pursue this style of training is very sensible advice

  • Registered Users Posts: 693 ✭✭✭MisterJinx

    Just to clarify, I wasn't intending to do them myself, it was more an observation from me a linking together of what I saw and wondering whether there was a particular training methodology being follow by the runner in question as his form was so controlled that it perhaps made sense that there was a concentrated effort or training going on. Personally it'd be an A goal to just have form like that some day and anytime I have used hills then the downhill section is all rest :-)

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,526 ✭✭✭py

    Glendalough marathon up soon so I've been doing infrequent easy runs with a large net deficit, ~500m decent with ~100m ascent. I do them as my last (6th) run of the week when the legs are tired. Effort level is easy with pace being a little bit quicker (15-20"/Km) than typical easy run. Legs definitely feel it for a couple of days afterwards. Always make sure I get good stretching done afterwards.

    Route takes me from just north of Glencree down to bottom of stocking lane. It results in approximately 8Km of constant downhill. Logistically they're a pain as I need to get a family member to drop me to the start of the run. Weather conditions can be tricky too so it's been a no go during the storms of the last few weeks. Nice to run up there though, even if it is on the roads.