Of the many decisions you make when you head out to run, which direction to look probably isn’t one of them. You have to pick your clothes, your path, your music, and more, but you probably just run forward without thinking twice. What if I told you there were many benefits to running backwards that you might not know of? Believe it or not, running backwards is a popular pursuit and can do wonders for your fitness level and your regular, straight-ahead running performance.
The following five benefits can all be gained by spending some time running backwards. Since you can’t see what you are about to run into, this practice is usually best completed on a track where there are no obstacles and you can follow the lane lines to stay on course.
Benefit #1 – Posture Improvement
It is easy to slouch over at the waist when you are running forward. Poor running form not only hurts your time, but it can lead to back problems and neck pain as the miles add up. Running backward will require you to stand more upright and keep that posture throughout your run.
Benefit #2 – Keep Running though Injuries
Many running injuries are repetitive stress injuries that will only be painful when running in a traditional forward motion. If you turn to running backward, you might find that your ankles and knees are not sore in the same spots and you can get your exercise in while letting the injured area recover. If you are able to alternate running forward and backward once healthy, you may be able to avoid developing any of those pains to begin with.
Benefit #3 – Get a Better Burn
If your main motivation for running is to burn calories, running backward might be the trick you have been looking for. Research indicates that you will burn approximately 20% more calories when you run backwards vs. running forward. This means two things – you can get a better total calorie burn if you run the same amount of time, or you can get your desired calorie burn in less time if your schedule is tight. Either way, running backward has great calorie burning effects that will soon show themselves on the scale.
Benefit #4 – Reduce Boredom
Let’s be honest – even the most committed runners have to admit that the long miles can get a little boring from time to time. If you mix in some backward running to your routine, you can breathe new life into your runs and have a little fun at the same time. You will still be getting all of the great health benefits that come from running, but your mind will be more engaged than when you head out for just another run.
Benefit #5 – Even Muscle Development
In the weight room, it is good practice to work opposing muscle groups to develop your whole body evenly. However, when running, you only work your muscles in the same way time after time. Backward running will chance that up and help you to develop the muscles opposite of your regular running muscle groups.
The biggest problem you are likely to have when running backwards is funny looks from other people on the track. As long as that doesn’t bother you, and it shouldn’t, you can enjoy the many benefits of running backwards that are listed above. While you won’t want to run backwards every time out, mixing this technique into your schedule will help take your running ability to a new level.
This article was written for RunnersGoal.com by Matt R., a guest author.