Running backwards, a.k.a. reverse running, retro running, or retro locomotion, is a retro movement (the reverse of any normal movement). It’s popular in Japan, China, and Europe. The Japanese and Chinese have been walking or running backwards for thousands of years as part of their daily exercise. It was adopted in Europe in the 19th century. Where they now have backwards races from short sprints all the way up to marathons.
Why Run Backwards?
Backward running will strengthen the opposing muscle groups that you normally work when running forward. Forward running puts a lot of pressure on the hamstrings and knees. Backward running will strengthen your calves, quads and shins to balance your muscular strength. This is why it is used in rehabilitation programs for recover from back, hip, groin, hamstring, ankle, shin splint syndrome and Achilles’ injuries. It also allows those who suffer from arthritis to keep fit with less pressure on the knees.
Running backwards requires more effort in terms of movement because it is more difficult to move from one point to another. It has been said that taking 100 steps backward walking is equivalent to 1,000 steps forward, and that going backward burns a fifth more calories than running forward. Not only is this great to enhance weight loss, but for those who are busy, going backward burns more calories in a shorter period of time. It may help improve your times when you’re running forward.
Your posture will also improve. Many runners will slouch, drop their head, and lean too far forward. This is especially true when runners are tired, and often results in lower back pain. But with backward running, you will naturally keep your back straight as you move. The added benefit to running with straighter posture? You will work your core abdominal muscles as well.
Even though there are many good reasons to run backward, there are also risks that you should be aware of. The most obvious problem is that you can’t see what potentially dangerous objects are in your path. You can turn your head to look over your shoulder, but this will slow you down and may strain your neck. Some of the most prevalent dangers are tripping, stepping into a hole or dog poop, and running into stationary objects such as signs or parked cars.
Incorporate backward running into your regular routine to lessen the stress on the body that forward running causes and you will keep your workouts fresh and exciting.
Getting Started with Backward Running – The Basics:
- Start slowly. As with any new activity you will be using different muscles which must be conditioned gradually. Begin by walking backward and as you get more comfortable, begin to jog.
- Choose the terrain carefully. You want smooth terrain or even a treadmill with handrails for support. Find a quiet or low traffic area. Since you can’t see where you are going, make sure you won’t run into anyone or anything.
- You can also try backward running or walking on a treadmill. Start very slowly and gradually increase your speed.
- Do not perform backward running on a busy walking / bike path, for example. Not only will you be a danger to everyone else, but you will get a lot of mighty odd stares and comments.
- Alternate sides when looking back over your shoulder to prevent neck cramps.
- Work out with a forward-walking / running partner, if possible.
- Limit your backward training sessions to two per week.
- Start with about 60 seconds of backward running followed by 60 seconds of forward walking and repeat about 5-10 times.