Is running downhill cheating?: Hi! I’m currently... - Couch to 5K

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Is running downhill cheating?


Hi! I’m currently on Week 5 Run 2, and have the 20 min run looming! My route is rather hilly and I sometimes feel like I’m cheating when I run down hill but also think I compensate for that by running up hills too. However for my 20 min run I don’t see how I’ll be able to run up hills and keep my stamina... Any tips? Is it best to change my route or tackle the hills?

26 Replies

No it's not cheating, run where you feel the most comfortable, you can keep your normal route for run 3 of week 5, take that run especially slowly, once you have completed it you will be very proud of yourself.


W5 R3 is actually the shortest overall duration of workout since W3, so you don't need any tricks to get you through.

If you are going to run downhill for 20 minutes, does that mean you are going to have to find a longer downhill for 25 minutes, longer again for 28 minutes and even longer for 30 minutes?

I always plan hill routes with the steepest or longest climbs at the start, for when I have most energy, but as you say, if you run up, then you can run down afterwards.

I have heard of downhill skiers, but I think runners need to be able to get up hills too.

Just keep pace nice and slow, head up, short stride, arms pumping and you will build your stamina far quicker than just running downhill.

This breakdown of W5 may allay your obvious uncertainty about the next run

Thanks so much for the tips ☺️


Personally I find running downhill tougher overall than on the flat - I have a harder time keeping my stride and pace under control.

And, tackling steep uphills certainly is a better workout and the satisfaction when you finally conquer an "impossible" one is awesome :)

Beaupeep in reply to Irish-John

Thanks John!

Irish-JohnGraduate in reply to Beaupeep



I avoided hills like the plague for absolutely ages I can remember practically crying with relief when running up a hill I saw a street sign “Hillcrest”, and knew I’d made it 🥵

You can avoid them til you get fitter post C25k as they are soul-destroying and very hard when you’re new to runnjng

Having hated them I now don’t mind hills. I live in Derbyshire and you can’t turn round for the beggars 😃

Beaupeep in reply to misswobble

Thanks! I done W5R2 today and included a few short hills and felt better for it :)

This is what I did for my W5R3, and it worked okay.

Start with the uphill part. Go slowly. You have a 20 minute run, so try and go for 10 minutes uphill. If you manage that, you'll find the rest of the run a dream (but don't speed up too much on the downhill, you want to avoid injuries.)

Have a 'spare' target of 7:30 uphill. You can turn around and run downhill, knowing that you've only 2:30 more of uphill to do. The downhill will recharge you almost as much as the walks you've been breaking your runs with. (But really, do go slow). When you've got your energy back, you can turn around again and do the rest of the climb.

Running downhill is totally not cheating, as long as you run uphill too. In fact, running a hilly route is harder than running on a flat, because the climbs take more energy than the drops save.

Good luck (though you need it less than you think, if you've already done up to W5R2) and enjoy yourself.

Beaupeep in reply to Magellan

Thanks so much! At the moment I can literally last about 2 minutes up hill! I just finished w5r2 and had 2 short hills that I went up and down and I smashed it, can’t believe I ran for 8 minutes continuously!


Could you maybe reverse the route as that can make a difference if the worst uphill is early in your run?


There are pros and cons to running downhill. Okay you use less energy as you don't have lift your sylph-like self up the hill, but on the other hand your ankles and lower leg muscles have to work harder stabilising your vast bulk as it crashes downwards...

The really important thing is to be well warmed-up before starting uphill, otherwise you're asking the muscles to work hard before they are ready for duty.

Oh, and Week 5 is the start of the easy ones...


Sylph-like, I nearly spat my coffee out 😂. Thanks for the tips!

Running downhill isn't cheating - it's great for your core stability because you have to hold your balance and not go too fast.


So all my routes include hills, I've accepted them. But do what makes you feel like you want to carry on first. That maybe downhill now, but later you may decide tou want to challenge yourself.


Ha ha!😂 I was exactly in your position last week! I decided that W5R3 was going to be tough so planned a downhill route, which was actually about half downhill and then flat, but I had to walk uphill to get home afterwards. I felt as though I'd cheated though, so two days later did it again but on my normal fairly up and down hills route - and it was absolutely fine. I felt pleased to have done it properly.


I start of going slightly downhill until I get through the toxic ten and then my route is mostly flat with on short but steep hill towards the end. On 20 mins I didn’t reach it but as I progressed to 25, 28 and 30 I hit it but had worked up to it so instead of a sprint for the last minute I just did the hill and knew it was the end.

Beaupeep in reply to TomatoRun

Amazing work! What is this toxic ten I keep hearing of?

TomatoRunGraduate in reply to Beaupeep

It is the first ten minutes of running when you really don’t want to do it! Someone who knows more could probably give you some idea of why it happens but from what I remember I’m not sure that it’s fully understood. Running downhill a bit certainly helped me at this stage


I find going downhill puts a lot of stress on the knees, I would rather run up a gentle incline than do a long down hill, but that's just me, my knees have done a lot in their lifetime!


Why is it that in the first 10 minutes of your run you don't feel quite right?Your legs may feel heavy, you're breathing harder than normal and you can't seem to get your stride. The first part of any run is often referred to as the 'Toxic 10' and affects even elite athletes. So why does it happen and how can you counteract it?

Think of your body like an old car on a cold winter's morning. You don't just jump in and drive off. First you have to let the motor run before the engine starts running smoothly. The same applies to your body when you run. You have to give your body time to adjust to the increased demand for oxygen and body supply.

How to deal with the Toxic 10

Use a foam roller

Using a foam roller on your quads, calves and glutes before running will help improve blood flow and loosen your muscle prior to working out.

Pace yourself

Even if you're doing a shorter faster run, start out slowly and let your body adapt to the workload. Build up your pace gradually.

Be mentally prepared

Understanding that the first 10 minutes of struggling is short-lived can help you push through the pain barrier.

Use music or milestones as motivation

Pick great motivating running songs like Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen or Iron Maiden's Run to the Hills to add to your playlist as a distraction or set yourself a distance goals.

Regulate your breathing

Breathe as normally as possible and don't panic if you feel breathless because with every step, you're a second closer to finding your natural rhythm and closer to the runners high.

Just found this online, hope it helps

Beaupeep in reply to TomatoRun

I see! That makes sense, I always find it easier after my first run. Thanks!


Not at all, I’m a great believer in doing whatever makes you comfortable enough to make the program work for you 😊

Irish-JohnGraduate in reply to Dtay1978

Exactly! :) If we don't keep it enjoyable on at least some level - it's self defeating :)

Beaupeep in reply to Irish-John

I’m not sure how enjoyable my first 20 min run will be in tomorrow’s 26 degree heat! I’ll have to make it an early one

Irish-JohnGraduate in reply to Beaupeep

Just think of how it will enhance your workout :)

I've heard that running in hot weather is the equivalent of the same run at twenty percent faster speed in cold :)

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