Backwards running or retro running is no joke. Many are turning around to run and you might too when you learn why.
The Chinese have been walking and running backwards for thousands of years. They know and understand the benefits of retro movements. It is necessary to do opposing movements to keep our minds and bodies in balance.
It has only been since the 20th century that backwards running has gained popularity in western cultures. Currently, there are backward running racing being held all over the world and there has been six World Backward Running Championships. The latest was in Germany in July 2016. The distances range from 100 meters to 10 kms. The others were held in Switzerland (2006), Italy (2008), Austria (2010), Spain (2012) and Italy (2014).
Some doctors are now recommending it for injury rehabilitation and cross-training for athletes. It's a wacky way to run, but the benefits far exceed the risks.
All our movements in our normal day are forward -- walking, running, climbing, cycling, sitting and bending. Retro movements can help balance our bodies and improve our posture.
There are so many runners injured every year mostly because of the impact and jarring that running places on their bodies. Backward running is gentle on the body as the knee is bent on impact and the landing is on the forefoot. The ankle and the knee are in the reverse position, which helps make them stronger and reduces the risk of injury.
How many runners suffer from knee problems? With backward running, there is very little impact on the knee joint and the reverse angle actually makes the knee stronger. Running backwards is often used and recommended for rehabilitation because it is so gentle on the body and it strengthens weak muscles.
Try running backwards to help you recover from these injuries: hip joint, groin, hamstring, knee joint, shin splints, Achilles tendon, ankle sprain (Source: Backward Running: B.T. Bates, Ph.D.)
Retro running can be used to correct posture. Our spine becomes more supple and we have better spinal column alignment. During backwards running, the back is in a partial extension position with a more erect posture. As your spine straightens, you will actually become taller.
In this position, the lower back can take a rest for a change as the abdominals do all the work -- a great workout for the tummy muscles.
With regular practice of running backwards, your senses of vision and hearing will develop as the normal dependency on the eyes is not available. Your senses adapt to meet the extra demand.
Retro running develops and increases your balance and proprioception and you will have less fear of the retro movement.
Muscles become more balanced, resulting in fewer injuries, as we begin to use them in a new way. Ankles, glutes, and quads become stronger and we develop greater flexibility.
The video below is from the first UK Backwards Running Championships in Manchester, England in 2010. It demonstrates and provides great information about retro running.
Backwards running adds a new dimension to running. You will have increased cardiovascular with a better cardio workout. You will receive the same benefit of forward running using only 80 percent effort while backward running. It is a more efficient way to use time. For example, 1 lap of backward running is the equivalent workout of 4-6 laps of forward running.
Backward Walking is also more efficient than forward walking. One hundred backward steps provide the equivalent workout of one thousand forward steps.
You will be working out at a higher heart rate as you are using more muscles, using a shorter stride and taking more steps per minute. Running backwards burns one-third more calories than regular running. You will experience better oxygenation, stamina, velocity, endurance and lung strength.
Your overall running performance will improve, you will have fewer injuries, recover faster from existing injuries and you will feel so much better. Still think retro running is crazy? Start practicing today. There may be a race starting near you soon. Maybe you would like to challenge the current World Champion, Garret Doherty of Dublin, Ireland!
So you have decided to give backwards running a try! It is best to just start with Backward Walking to get used to and develop confidence when moving backwards. Treadmills or running tracks are safe places to practice. Start running short distances backwards, switch to running forwards and repeat for as long as you are comfortable.
Try doing a set distance workout on the treadmill or track. Start by running 50 meters backwards and then do 50 meters forwards. Repeat. You can increase this distance as you feel more confident. For more tips on how to get started, check out the The Beginners Guide from The UK Reverse Running Website.
Want to read more? Check out Backwards Running by Robert K. Stevenson, N.D. It is a classic that shows you exactly how to incorporate proper backwards running techniques into your training. It explains how it enhances your fitness, improves your mental strength and attitude for a more fulfilling life. Sign up for our Newsletter to download a free copy of this classic and other great freebies!
Back to Top
Return to Running Posture