The so-called latest ‘craze’ toward backwards running & backwards running races has me confused. The media are making this out to a “new, on-the-edge phenomenon that is taking the running world by storm”. Well, for starters, running backwards as a form of physical fitness has been around for decades (and maybe longer!). Thus, it is certainly NOT a new fad by any means. Also, as a training tool for most sports (basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, football, hockey etc.), backwards running has been an integral part of preparation for competition since God knows how long. Personally, I started backwards running as a Grade One student (age 6) in preparation for our track and field competition and continue to use it to this day.
With this in mind, I am going to list a series of backwards running drills that I use to train my Team Over The Top clients and me:
- backward on a straight section of track or road for 5o to 100 metres x 10 reps
- backward on 1 leg for 25 to 50 metres x 10 reps. Repeat on other leg
- backward and forward alternate every 10 metres for 100 metres
- backward up and down a hill of 250 to 350 metres at 6 to 8% grade
- backward and forward alternate every 10 metres up and down the same hill
- backward on 1 leg up and down a smaller hill. Try to do the hill on 1 leg only before switching to the other leg. You may have to work up to this
Doing these once per week will:
- improve your balance
- help you centre the body over your feet
- force you to land more on the mid-foot – lighter and quicker on the feet
- help protect your knees from excessive impact (especially on hills)
- improve your ability to fire from the calves, hamstrings and gluteals whilst running
If you stick with a regular backwards running session and incorporate it into your barefoot running, the transition will be much smoother. You may even end up running almost as fast backwards as forwards!
A word of caution, though – make sure you know the terrain and/or have someone coaching you when running backwards. Otherwise, you may end up ass over tea kettle…or worse!