Reverse Running: What To Know Before Trying It

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As the most popular sport last year, backrunning is growing fast in the fitness world. The technique is seen as a way to reduce the likelihood of common running injuries, burn more calories and improve posture. Just moving your legs backwards does a lot of good. If done well, running in the opposite direction can add variety to a routine and improve the performance of any exercise!

Simply put, running backwards is running backwards. You can also call it the reverse operation. In any case, it goes against the standards and advanced technology that we are all aware of. Running can be done outdoors or indoors, but each environment has specific precautions in place to ensure the safest journey.

Before you try, there are a few things you need to know.

Is it safe to run backwards?

It's possible -- but it takes focus, practice, and the right skills. Because we don't have eyes in the back of our heads, the change in perspective can affect our balance, and running backwards increases the risk of falls and other injuries.

However, "in some cases, it's safe to run backwards," says Melissa Prest Pino, a physical therapist and owner of Corn and Blue Rehab in Sparta, New Jersey. So it's best to learn how to run backwards first, finding your way around a track or another level, predictable surface. After ruling out the risk of tripping over rocks or potholes, etc., you can build your body into your sport to help reduce the risk of injury.

Benefits of running backwards

Although running backwards is popular these days, it is not a passing fad. Research supports the benefits of running backwards. A key benefit is how reverse running uses and emphasizes muscles and muscle groups that are not normally used for forward running or other physical activities. This reduces stress on the muscles that regular runners overuse. And there's more:

Increased energy consumption. Since this is an atypical exercise, running in the opposite direction requires muscles to work harder and requires more energy. A study published in Advances in Biological Research found that running backwards burns more calories than normal running, about 30 percent more.

Recover from injury. Running may be a way to help those injured by running get back on track. "Runners can get injured from repeated strain when using forward techniques," Prestell noted. She further explained that running backwards can help your body adjust because it emphasizes different muscle groups, ligaments, and tendons.

Because of this, people with knee injuries are often advised to run backwards. A study in the Journal of Biomechanics found that running backwards puts less strain on the knee joint than running forwards. As with any exercise, consult a health professional to determine which exercise is right for your body.

Better posture. Reverse running is a form of exercise for perfect posture. "Yes, running backwards requires you to have good posture and stand up straighter so that your spine gets more support from all the muscles around you," explains Dr. Preste Pino. If implemented successfully and regularly, this may also help to promote a better balance.

Overcome boredom and burnout. Adding a reverse run to your fitness routine may make your workout more fun because it adds variety and presents different challenges.

While driving in the opposite direction is safe, there are some additional risks. In addition to the risk of falls and other injuries, running backwards will inevitably slow you down. Since you still have to see where you're going, you'll tend to rotate, which over time can affect your neck and spine, so running in reverse for long periods of time is not recommended.

And preventive measures to be taken.

Adding reverse running to your routine can be a win! Remember, it's best to start small.

Start with a flat surface, such as an indoor or outdoor track. Using a treadmill is another option. It provides handrail support, but it's important to keep an eye on speed. If you choose the treadmill, take your time. Go as fast as you can. "If you go faster than your running speed can handle, you may lose your balance or cause yourself to fall," Dr. Prest warns.

Instead of starting out with a lot of miles or running as many miles as you normally do, fitness experts recommend adding fast intervals to your workout routine. You can start with 30 seconds of exercise and then increase the time or frequency and duration from there.

Once you're confident in your ability to run backwards on a horizontal surface, you can improve your ability by running backwards uphill, or backwards for more of a challenge.

Either way, be safe. In winter, or when there is a risk of rain, ice, snow or other inclement weather, it is essential to use indoor surfaces for safety. Wear flat running shoes or cross-training shoes for short distances. If it's time to upgrade or replace your old running shoes, do so before attempting to incorporate reverse running into your workout routine.

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