Recently I decided that I needed to learn how to run backwards. I came to this conclusion after several group training runs with Team Challenge when I wanted to be able to face my runners while talking to them during a run. I felt like I would be too clumsy if I did it though, and the odds of me falling down were probably pretty high*. So I did what any self-respecting geek girl in this day-and-age would do when they’re curious about something… I Googled it!
Turns out, there is a lot of information on running backwards. And it’s also known by several different names: backwards running, retro running, retro locomotion or the German name of Rückwartslaufen.
The practice does have cult followings that have decided it necessary to run that way all the time. Can you imagine if you saw someone running down the road backwards? Then can you imagine if you saw that same person doing that regularly? Kind of weird… but the reasons for it are pretty interesting.
One benefit is that it’s supposed to help counter-balance the strain that comes from regular forward running. Backward running is a way to overcome fear (like walking on hot coals?). And integrating backward running and side-step running into your routine can help you develop a more effective range of motion, thus reducing the chance of injury.
Just like with barefoot running, I have no aspirations to do this all the time or in a race. But I think mixing some drills into my training could make me a stronger running. Most sources recommend that you begin with backward walking (retropedaling) to begin the strengthening. I considered trying to incorporate a little of this into my day on my treadmill, but that feels really weird. I think this is due to the direction the belt travels. I could always drive to one of the resorts on The Strip or to the airport and walk on moving walkways, but that’s way too much effort out of my normal schedule for something that I’m not even sure would be that beneficial.
Here are a few sources I found:
– Wikipedia entry on Backward Running
– Backward Running Benefits by Barry T. Bates, PhD
– Backward Running Backward
What do you think – would you run backwards if it could help improve your running?
*Sometimes I think my parents should have named me Grace, as a sort of ironic opposite to how I really am. If there’s a wall nearby, I’ll run into it. My legs are always covered in bruises that I have no recollection of how I obtained them. And trust me when I say that falling down the stairs at a movie theatre is not the show the audience was expecting and it’s embarrassing to have to describe to the staff there that it’s your butt that is wounded.
Backward running image from www.backward-running-backward.com/
I would have named you Grace because you are so much more coordinated than I am!
It’s kind of funny because I have been doing “circles” on the treadmill lately. I go forward for a minute, turn to the right 90 degrees for a minute, turn backwards for a minute, then turn again to the other side for a minute. I have been doing this to try to strengthen my knee joint from all angles. Of course my backwards and sideways moves are all at a slow walk. I’m certainly not coordinated enough to go sideways on a fast treadmill.
I’m not coordinated to go fast on a treadmill in multiple directions either! It’s funny how I keep finding that your physical therapy is good for everyday improvement too!
You’ve listed some good resources for it, and I know your ‘students’ will be super impressed!
I’ve done a bunch of walking backwards to help stretch my calves and it helps a ton. You’ll have to share how it goes!
I remember a few drills in football and track where I coaches told us to run backwards, but for the most part I thought it was just to have another drill to put us through (although for football in did serve a purpose for cornerbacks). Anyway, a couple of thoughts that I have on this:
1. Change a rountine can help keep running fun. Even though I have different types of runs 4 days a week, week to week is still the same. Throwing in some backward runs might kept things interesting.
2. Running backwards seems to apply the principle of muscule confusion. You are using the same primary muscules as running, but you are asking them to work in a completely different way. I would love to hear more info on the results of continued training with backward running.
You know, my husband told me he had to do backward running drills for football too! He told me he’d setup cones for me to run between in the backyard to practice diagonal and backward running!
When I lived in DC, we used to see a guy running backwards all the time! He’d run right down the middle of 16th Street in front of our apartment.