Did you ever meet on your running trips somebody running backwards? To tell the truth, me neither. Nevertheless back running is gaining popularity.

Retro running as this sport is also called, was already at the beginning of the 20th century a part of the training schedule of some important sport giants. So for example it seems the champion boxer Gene Tunney run every day between four and eight miles backwards. Also Mohammed Ali, who was famous for his captivating leg speed, made use of retro running in his daily training. In sports like soccer, tennis, rugby, basketball backward running belongs to the most common warm up exercises. But backward running as a separate running discipline showed up only in the eighties. Some doctors pointed out the healthy advantages of this form of training and retro run enthusiasts in America, France and Italy practiced it avidly. In Austria this running discipline has been made known mostly by Johannes Gosch, who brought into life the first retro running race in Weiz, and the ultra runner Paula Mairer, who broke 4 world records in retro running (over the distances of 5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon).

So what are now the advantages of this quite new form of running? First it is suited for the professional athlete as well as for the hobby jogger as an excellent alternative of training to the normal forward running. The reason lies in the usage of different groups of muscles by retro running compared to forward running and so an overloading of the running muscles can be prevented. This increased compensation and balance between different groups of muscles produces a change of the consciousness for the body and the economy of running.

Through retro running the thigh muscles, calves, gluteal muscles and the shin muscle are been strengthened in the first place. As the movement is not stressing the kneels, it is specially recommended for people with kneel problems. American scientists yet found out that you consume more calories through backward running as through forward running. Furthermore they determined a better assumption of oxygen (84% VO2 at backward running opposed to 60% VO2 at forward running), as well as an increased circulatory activity (184 pl/mm compared with 162 pl/mm). Or to put it in other words: by using the same speed you get from 20 minutes backward running the same gain as by running forward for 30 minutes. As it is known that backward running is additionally stimulating the right side of the brain, it's no wonder that more and more athletes are making use of this alternative way of training.

Now, how do you fit in best such a backward running unit in your daily schedule? Look for a straight even track which is rarely or never used by others. The best would be a 400 metre running track. Start with very slow 100 meters retro intervals. Alternatively look over your right and left shoulder. Pay attention that no obstacle is standing in your way and you don't collide with anybody. After view units you can build up these 100 meter intervals to 400 meter intervals. Through regular training you also get increasingly confident and faster in backward running. Already very soon after view exercising units you will recognize the positive effect on your body consciousness and economy of running.

Roby Schiltz