Scratch’s Guide To Alternative Exercise: Backward Running

Running Backward

Here’s something you may not have heard about: backward running. Also known as reverse or retro running, this exercise may seem unnatural, but it can have benefits, not least of which is breaking up your exercise routine.

This is not the same as regular running. According to a study published last year by biomechanics researchers at the University of Milan, backward running is biomechanically it’s opposite. The researchers had subjects run forward and backward on a track equipped with force sensors and cameras.

When you run normally, you hit the ground with your heel and push off with the front of the foot. When subjects run backwards though, they landed on the front of the foot and pushed off with the heel.

This difference was also seen in their muscles. Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times reports, “In forward running, the muscles and tendons were pulled taut during landing and responded by coiling, a process that creates elastic energy (think rubber bands) that is then released during toe-off. When running backward, muscles and tendons were coiled during landing and stretched at takeoff. The backward runners’ legs didn’t benefit from stored elastic energy. In fact, the researchers found, running backward required nearly 30 percent more energy than running forward at the same speed. But backward running also produced far less hard pounding.”

So, what does this mean for you? Backward running burns more calories than forward running at the same pace. Try some backward running during your regular cardio sessions. If you use the elliptical, you can easily switch directions to really work your muscles. Just make sure you can see where you are going. I recommend trying this on a track and only start with short periods of backward running and slowly work add more.

Have you tried backwards running Rockheads? Let me know in the comments!

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