Downhills and running power | 80/20 Endurance

Downhills and running power

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    Hi, I’m new to running with power and I’ve noticed that if I keep my perceived effort the same when transitioning from flat terrain to a downhill, my power output goes down significantly. I’ve read this article from stryd, which has some useful information on why;

    Is anyone able to shed some light on why my heart rate spikes significantly if I increased cadence (and therefore pace) on the downhill in an effort to maintain power? It seems that gravity isn’t the gift I’d hoped it would be. It certainly *feels* harder to maintain power on the downhill and my HR seems to indicate I’m working harder but I’d be grateful for some sort of best practice advice and/or links to some articles on the subject. Cheers!

    Matt Fitzgerald

    No use fighting the laws of physics! A descent is a descent and cannot be neutralized by an adjustment in effort. Perceived effort and power are supposed to go down when you’re going down. There’s nothing wrong with it; just let it happen. Run the way you would if your device were broken.


    Thanks for the reply Matt. My instinct would probably be to maintain perceived effort on the downhill, which thus far has corresponded on a decrease in power, although I’ve not checked my pace, perhaps pace is staying fairly constant/increasing even though power has dropped. What I do know, is if I attempt to maintain power, it feels harder and my HR goes up.

    If I’m on one of my foundation runs, which says no higher than the top of Zone 2, shouldn’t I attempt to stay in that zone or instead race down the hill and maintain power? I can certainly do either but my preference would be to maintain RPE as some of the hills are long and it can take quite some time for my HR to settle down after and can leave me fatigued for the rest of the run (plus I hate not hitting my workout targets, the OCD in me, Haha).

    Matt Fitzgerald

    At the most basic level, the 80/20 method is really about emulating elite best practices. What do the world’s greatest runners do when they encounter a descent during an easy run? They do what is natural for anyone, which is to enjoy gravity’s free ride, allowing their pace to increase and their perceived effort to drop. Far from overthinking these situations, they don’t think about them at all, and I encourage you to do the same. If it works for the finest athletes on earth, it will work for you!

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