Backwards Running

Full speed, dark, and in the mountains on Interstate 25, cresting Raton pass from Colorado back into New Mexico, we passed a grizzled rancher pulling a gooseneck and his two cow dogs hunkered down on the iron of his flatbed. Can you imagine planking on the bed of a flatbed truck through the mountains at interstate speeds? This was no flatbed parade as it was for these four:

Nor were they smiling and sporting goggles like these two:

The evening we came upon them, we were on the way home from speed training at Rocky Mountain Performance in Trinidad, CO. This entails lots of form drills, abductor work, and treadmill sprinting. Speed training seems superfluous?

Quite the contrary, distance runners can get fairly sloppy in form, foot-strike and upper body drive. Good sprinting is biomechanically the most efficient way to run. The more we distance runners can take from sprinting and use the better.

Determined to further what I’m learning from the training, I set out on my morning run with backwards running on my mind.  I took to exploring a desolate gravel road. Before the road turned to gravel there was a small residential section and just before that a sign. Now, I love animal warning signs like: cattle in range land or deer in Iowa land, because I expect to see something.  This one was new, on it there were four creatures. Top left, bear. Top right, a bear-sized skunk – what!? Bottom left, turkey – huh?  Bottom right – elk. Could you get a more motley crew? Supposing that really none of the above would be too fun to slam with a car, I ran on shaking my head, laughing to myself and, of course, expecting to see at least one of each on my run. As it turns out, I saw 25.

I came to the bottom of a slight grade and turned to do some backwards running. Exactly as I turned around I saw one turkey crossing my tracks 50 meters back. I stopped and watched, along came four more adults and then the babies. I’ve seen wild baby turkeys, my dad even incubated and raised one once until it flew the coop.

This was over the top; they just kept tripping out of the weeds, 21 wee babes in total. No bear, skunk or elk today, which was just fine. Smiling, I carried on with my backwards running. Here’s the deal, most people are very tight in the hip flexors and weak in the glutes. Running backwards counters both of those problems. Start with backwards walking up a slight grade (not a huge hill), or punch in 2 on the incline of your trusty treadmill using nice long strides and really focus on reaching back while walking.

Next go to running. If you have a track nearby, try this workout: backwards run the straight-aways and forwards run the curves (keep tight form on the forward, don’t get sloppy with all of the flippy floppy back and forth). I did a mile like this at the end of a trail 10-miler. You’ll get in a half mile of backwards running, and I think you’ll feel it. Work up to longer distances, but always focus your form on driving the elbows straight back, reaching your fist past your hip and really reaching with your back leg.

Shoot me a question if you have thoughts.

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