Boilermaker Blog

Moving Forward by Moving Backward

In the December 6th issue of The New York Times Magazine was an interesting article written by Gretchen Reynolds called ‘Running In Reverse’.
Recent studies are now pointing out the benefits of backwards running. Giovanni Cavagna, a professor at the University of Milan, conducted a study on athletes running forwards and backwards on a track.
Backward running tends to burn more calories. That sort of makes sense. Our bodies/ muscles are constructed to move forward in an optimum way. Ask your body to do something in an opposite manner and it’s going to strain. Professor Cavagna found that you would need 30% more energy to run backwards at the same speed running forwards. So theoretically, assuming you can run as fast driving the human-car in reverse as forward you could get the same calorie burn in a roughly 30 minute run rather than 45 minutes.
There is a huge benefit on the balance component side. When we break out of the familiar we tend to focus more carefully. I can speak first hand to the benefits of at least walking in reverse after a knee operation. There is an added bonus in going backwards; it reduces the impact on the knees. Forward runners typically impact the ground with their heel sending a shock wave up the leg; the reverse runners will strike with the front of the foot. Just try doing it walking- your lets will do this instinctively.
Finally, mixing up your workout helps keep the boredom beast at bay. Start slowly (in both speed and time) and record your progress- what gets measured gets better.
It is strongly suggested that you do not try backward running on the road! Best case scenario you will get some interesting comments yelled at you from cars; worst case you get hit by one of those cars. Stick to a surface track.
While I doubt this will be included as an Olympic Event any time soon (although the unofficial fastest 5k was run in 19 minutes, 31 seconds) it certainly seems to make sense to move your health regimen forward by going backward.

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