Q After a recent run, my training partner did a few minutes of backwards running. She said it helps prevent injury. Is she right, or mad?
A Shes quite sane, and shes on to something. Backwards running works well as part of your cool-down for several reasons. Easing into a gentle backwards run lets you gradually decrease your heart rate, and it stretches your calf, quadricep and hamstring muscles, which have all been working hard during forward running. This will decrease muscle soreness in those areas. Backwards running is also fun; it adds a playful element to your running and will improve your balance and coordination.
Heres how to do it: at the end of a regular training run, turn around and jog backwards for a minute or so. This will feel odd, but youll soon get the hang of it. Go slowly, taking small steps at first, and stay in control. Let the ball of the foot contact first, then allow the heel to touch just briefly. If this feels okay, repeat the one-minute segments two or three times, jogging forwards slowly in-between.
After a few weeks you will feel more confident with backwards running, and you should work up to five or six minutes in total. At this point, you can try taking longer steps and, if you want to stretch your legs more, try running backwards on a slightly downhill slope.
Jon Wang, orthopaedic surgeon