So I was driving up fields hill this morning and low and behold a crazy man was running down the hill! For those of you who are not familiar with this hill, it is BIG, windey and a high accident zone. It is also a giant that destroys runners in the Comrades Marathon. Some of you at this point may still be picturing some man with an empty bottle of whisky and lipstick on his face screaming about his lost love as he gallops fearlessly down the hill, you would be wrong but it’s ok. This man was wearing running attire and was “in the zone”. But we have to ask why, why was he jogging down the most dangerous hill in his area at 8 in the morning?
He is after the one thing that many others are after – improving health and fitness. But there are a couple of things we will not notice or know as we see this man on the trot. , by running down hill you are eccentrically loading the muscles (loading the muscles in the lengthening phase), unless you are a keen runner and have undergone many hills in the past, this can have negative effects on the muscles and tendons. However there can be great benefits in eccentric training over time. In rehab we often work with eccentric loading in a controlled environment with resisted exercises to strengthen tendons. This form of exercise was used in a study on soccer players’ hamstrings during preseason training, it resulted in less hamstring injuries during the season. So with that said, if you are a beginner runner don’t ignore the hills, but start slow and progress within reason, and maybe one day you can be the crazy man jogging down fields hill preparing for Comrades!
P.S. That was a joke, please use a different hill where there is less traffic!