Downhill running and muscle pain

Downhill running and muscle pain – Brief Article

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS is the all-too-familiar miserable muscle pain you will almost certainly suffer after a bout of hard, unaccustomed eccentric training.

Eccentric muscle contractions are the braking forces your muscles employ during downhill running. Since hill running is such an important component of a good training program, is there anything you can do to avoid or minimize the pain? The answer is to do more of it.

Researchers at the University of Wales studied the difference between two groups of runners following a downhill run. One group was prepared for the downhill session with a prior bout of maximal eccentric exercise–100 maximal, eccentric activations of the knee extensors in the dominant leg two weeks before the run. The control group ran without the exercise pre-treatment. Measurements of strength loss, plasma creatine kinase (a muscle enzyme that is a marker for DOMS) and DOMS were made following the downhill run and all values were better for the pre-trained group. Among the pre-trained men there was less tenderness in the trained knee extensors than in the other leg. The authors concluded that prior eccentric training reduces muscle damage and resulting strength loss caused by eccentric exercise.

Even though this research isn’t new, it is worth noting since little else has shown objective evidence of softening the DOMS sting. Research has covered the gamut including pre-stretching, post-stretching, ice, and NSAIDs, all without effect. Downhill running is not advised for runners with patello-femoral pain since it can aggravate and worsen patellar tracking problems. For the rest of us, hill running pays off, not only in helping to attenuate the effects of hills you may encounter in a race situation, but also in improving your overall running performance as well.

(Journal of Sports Science, 1996, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 291-299)

COPYRIGHT 2001 American Running & Fitness Association

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