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BACKWARD RUNNING Why do it?

Here are 100 reasons to start backward running. Some of them are indisputable (backed up by research studies), some are based on my own personal experience or other runners testimonies and the rest are there for you to experience, ignore or laugh about. Its your choice whether to try running backwards or prefer to dismiss it, but everyone has at least one reason to run backwards.even you!!
The Big 10
Running backwards works the muscles that forward running (unless you do hill work, run on your toes) doesnt touch i.e. calves, shins and muscles of the front thigh
2.

1.

Backward running restores a balance to the lower leg muscles. Performing the same action repeatedly i.e. running forwards, without some effort to oppose it, means we are stressing the same area of the body and building up a dangerous imbalance, until it inevitably breaks down.

3.

Gentler running style (forefoot hits ground first) with elimination of heel to toe foot striking which means less pounding

4.

Running backwards gives you a fabulous cardiovascular workout - research shown that you have to maintain only 80% of your forward-running speed for the same amount of effort.

5.

Backward running burns up to a third more calories than forward running a great way to lose weight

6.

More erect posture and less trunk inclination as the centre of gravity is forced to push of posteriorly: what's more your shoulders will be drawn back with less slouching.

7.

There is a role reversal of muscular structures supporting the ankle and knee joints. The ankles becomes the shock absorber whilst the knees becomes the primary power producer

8.

Reduces potential for future injury e.g. backward running strengthens the muscles along the sides of the knees and works all the lower leg muscle groups not just the hamstrings so no imbalances.

9.

Backward running is a more efficient workout: From various studies 1 lap of backward running = 4-6 laps of forward running. Also 100 steps backwards = 1000 steps forwards.

10. Higher heart rate because more muscle groups are used, especially the quadriceps and

your feet hit the ground more quickly and more often (but with less force related trauma) than in forward running. Flynn et al (1994) showed that for a given pace, heart rate increased by 15% when running backward compared with forward.

Upper Body (turn your back on sport, before your back turns on you)

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11. Backward running gives your abs a workout. When you run forward, your lower back

takes most of the load, but turning around creates a nice reaction for your abdominal muscles whilst the lower back gets some respite.
12. Studies have also shown that over time backward running can lead to realigned vertebrae

and relieve pressure on the nerves. This is because the back is in partial extension when we run backwards. Partial extension is one of the six basic human postures but it is hardly ever practised unless we habitually have a good stretch by leaning back, and even then its only momentary. The longer we run backwards, the greater the benefits. As with our lower body, we have spent far too long moving in one direction and whatever we do in our lives we are usually hunched forward. May not be an issue now, but it will be as you get older so start undoing all those years of back abuse now.
13. Less strain on your lower back which no longer has to decelerate the trunk on the pelvis

with each stride


14. Backward running strengthens the glute muscles (buttocks). You will feel a squeeze in the

buttocks as you run


15. The less rounded posture means the spine has a better ability to rotate which improves

forward running efficiency and performance.


16. Creates a more supple spine 17. Because you run with a straighter posture you actually get the opportunity to admire the

scenery, rather than looking towards the ground, which you often especially when running up hill.

Injury prevention and rehabilitation

18. Its a great knee rehabilitative exercise because it can maintain an athletes fitness whilst

minimising the impact at the knee joint because there's no eccentric loading of the knee joint, so prevalent in forward locomotion.
19. You learn to fall over safely without spraining your wrists or knocking yourself out with

concussion. This will prepare you for other eventualities outside running.
20. Backward running is perfect for runners with bad biomechanics. Remember theres no heel

striking negating the effects of over-pronation or over-supination which therefore significantly reduces the force related trauma
21. Good news for anyone who hates wearing orthotics or clumsy motion control shoes

because they over-pronate for example. Ditch them and wear your racing flats or even run barefooted without risk of injury (but do it gradually) because you toe-strike.
22. Increased stride rate, decreased stride length and increased support time evident in

backward runners
23. Other conditions that could respond well to running backwards include shin splints and

muscle sprains to the lower back, groin and hamstrings. Running backwards has been known to speed recovery of injuries.
24. Less likely to hurt yourself if you fall off a treadmill because you face the back

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25. Perfect exercise if you suffer from recurring ITBS and other knee and lower limb niggles.

Dont keep going to the physio or wearing orthotics, just run backwards.
26. A good warm up (and cool down) session dont just stretch or jog on the spot but try

some multi-planar movements. Remember backward running literally works the whole body
27. Aid the recovery and strengthening from hip joint injuries 28. Many physiotherapists and sports injury specialists prescribe backward running to their

patients.
29. Running longevity put more backward running into your mileage and your joints will last

for longer. It's a no brainer!


30. Because you toe-strike the big-toe muscles (hallux group) are strengthened. 31. Prolonged backward movement will counter the long term abuse of the back by the

desk/couch posture. The odd stretch will never be enough to undo the damage.
32. Older runners with irreversible damage to their knees (if only they discovered backward

running earlier) may find backward running less painful and even beneficial due to reasons given elsewhere. Likewise, they may find back pain lessens.
33. Backward walking/running can help anyone who suffers knee pain when going up or down

stairs or hill because the direction of knee joint shear force has been reversed.
34. Running backwards downhill (not too steep) avoids excessive force-related trauma to the

knees
35. Backward running is the last (but best resort) for the sceptics and cynics. Anyone who has

tried everything else first to sort out chronic niggles or pains (e.g. physio, osteopath, podiatrist, acupuncture) should now give backward running ago. After all running backwards is a lot more preferable to running nowhere!

Sensory/Neurological

36. Backward running will improve your balance and co-ordination. Is backward running the

ultimate wobble board?


37. Improves your peripheral vision because you need to really stretch your eye muscles. 38. Improves your proprioception which is the bodys ability to sense movement within joints

and joint position


39. Running or walking backwards is a neurobic activity, which can cause new neural

connections to grow in your brain: the nervous system is dynamic and is developed considerably by backward running (or any other repetitive movement in a different plane).
40. Backward running/walking appears to be a very powerful trigger to mobilize cognitive

resource (from a study by Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands)


41. Backward locomotion can help you deal with difficult or challenging situations and improve

your decision making


42. Backward running can sharpen your mind 43. Improves your hearing (similar to how those vision impaired adapt their remaining senses) 44. Improves your agility

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45. Improves concentration

Fitness

46. Better Oxygenation: Flynn et al (1994) showed that VO2 was 31% higher in backward

running compared with forward


47. Improves quickness and leg speed 48. Improves lung strength 49. Builds stamina and endurance 50. Run backwards up a hill or in soft sand on a beach provides arguably one of the toughest

workouts out there


51. Better achieve your athletic potential like hill reps and sprinting, backward running will

make you fitter and faster. Backward running is a super-exercise


52. You will feel more energy and pep. You will walk around with more spring in your step. 53. A good way to gauge how fit you really are. Are you gym fit? Are you average? Do you

want to be super-fit?
54. Have you hit a plateau in your times? Cant get your PBs down? Try backward running for

6 weeks and I guarantee you will get a new PB

Mental and Well-Being

55. Backward running increases your confidence and makes you more assertive. Why? You

learn to ignore disparaging comments and do what you want to do and not what you think you should do.
56. Become more outspoken and opinionated due to comments from others 57. Gives you a real sense of accomplishment. Running backwards is not easy to do physically

or mentally (e.g. feel embarrassed), but once done it leaves a long lasting euphoria.
58. Its fantastic fun on your own just turn around and try it during a training run. 59. Get younger well you will certainly feel younger with a spring in your step as your lower

leg muscles wake up. Its actually a great feeling to behave younger than your years.
60. There's a great camaraderie with backward running when done in a group. 61. Backward running trains you in good habits when moving forward e.g. you become more

aware of your posture and habitually correct any slouching as you walk and stand or when you sit at your desk
62. It spices up and adds variety to your training sessions. Great cross-training idea 63. It will sort out the running doldrums or your gym boredom great new stimulus. 64. Develop a sense of humour to deal with the insults and comments. Think of a funny retort

ready to fire back at that group of cynical gym types.


65. Gives you a psychological lift its great to do something contrary and on the fringe. In

fact you will feel utterly exalted.

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66. Spice up your love life (yes, seriously) perhaps surprising but it can be very beneficial for

your relationship if you try mixed backward running, taking turns with your partner to run backwards and forwards whilst maintaining eye contact.
67. Need a fresh challenge? Set yourself a target to run a mile backwards in less than 10

minutes or 1km in under 5 minutes. Or just to run a mile without walking. What about a 10km or even a marathon backwards?
68. Backward motion actually feels smooth, less jarring which therefore makes you more

relaxed and content with its benefits on your body


69. A great way to stand out from the crowd and get noticed (if you want to) 70. Backward running races offer a unique fund raising idea why not run 1 mile backwards?

Enter one of the charity fun runs in London or Manchester.


71. Great way for children to try sport, keep fit and grow in confidence and belief. 72. Its a fun introduction into sport for adults

For those who like technical jargon

73. Reduced overall range of motion at the hip joint (greater flexion and lesser extension)

(Prof Barry Bates et al)


74. Increased active functional range of motion at the knee joint (Prof Barry Bates et al) 75. Less hip range of motion with no hyper-extension required 76. Electro-myographical (muscle) activity of the lower extremities is greater in backward

versus forward walking, which could equate to greater energy expenditure (Prof Barry Bates et al)
77. Role reversal of muscular structures supporting the ankle and knee joints (Prof Barry Bates

et al)
78. Elimination of eccentric knee joint flexion and the associated joint stresses (Prof Barry

Bates et al)

and the rest

79. Backward running will benefit your performance in other sports where

backtracking/backpedalling or changing direction quickly is an essential or advantageous quality e.g. tennis, cricket, football, boxing, basketball.
80. Could save your life when faced with an angry a bull in a field and you need to quickly

back-pedal tout de suite. Not as silly as it sounds when you do find yourself needing to run in one direction whilst keeping an eye on the opposite direction.
81. Become a world champion. Next World Champs are in 2012. Theres no need to pre-

qualify, they have age categories and its a nice atmosphere.


82. In races you can see whose behind you without twisting your neck unless you are last! 83. If caught in a horizontal hailstorm, facing a bright sun or heading into a wind that is

peppering with your grit, just turn around and give your eyes a rest.

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84. What else could be good for me? Positive results from backward running could be the

catalyst to test other fringe activities in sport that could benefit you e.g. barefoot running, cold water swimming
85. Its will save you money due to less potential for injury - less trips to the physiotherapist,

less expensive MRI scans and no need for orthotics


86. Not as dangerous or as stupid as it sounds in fact you will be hard pressed to find any

other exercise that claims such a favourable benefits to risk ratio.


87. Creates a toned lower body as all the muscles are worked 88. Legendary boxers Gene Tunney, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali ran backwards in

their road work do you still need a better endorsement? Sprinters include backward running drills in their training, including Asafa Powell. Even Angelina Jolies father runs backwards (Jon Voight)
89. Creates strong quads for skiing and other non-running sports requiring lower body

strength
90. Enter the London Championships (1km and 3km) on July 17th or the UK Championships (1

mile) in Manchester on August 14th. Enter now at www.reverserunning.com


91. Enter the European Retro-running Championships in Frth, near Nuremberg, Germany on

July 30th. Males, females, seniors and youths compete over distances between 100m and 10000m, plus a relay. [just been cancelled but see 92]
92. Next World Championships are in 2012. There is more chance at being the best at

backward running because less people run backwardsfor the moment at least!
93. You will grow! You will actually become slightly taller as your spine straightens with

prolonged backward running [see 12]


94. Being able to perform mixed running (backward and forward) could be an invaluable skill if

you need to run whilst keeping an eye on something e.g. traffic


95. Swimmers use backstroke to balance out too much front crawl and also learn to front crawl

whilst breathing to both sides. Backward running is no different in performing an essential rebalance. It just looks sillier so people assume its of no benefit. Theyre wrong.
96. Save time. The shorter, tougher workouts frees up more time for pleasure because we

dont need to keep on doing junk mileage for the same benefits. Remember one lap of running backwards = 4-6 laps forwards
97. The benefits (balance, co-ordination, stronger lower legs etc) will give you the belief you

can learn new sports e.g. skiing, skateboarding, parkour


98. Possible cure for dyslexia 99. Make you a better dancer? See above stronger toes, better co-ordination etc

and finally

100. When you hit the wall in the marathon, you wont see it coming!

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