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Turn Your Training Around With Backward Running

This is recovery, in reverse.

As crazy as it sounds—and looks—the increasingly popular sport of backward running is not only fun to do, it can even relieve leg pain.

Backward running exerts 24% less stress on the knees than forward running because runners land on the forefoot—a softer motion than heel running, a study out of the U.K.’s Cardiff U. found.

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Paulien Roos, Ph.D., the study’s co-author, recommends backward running as a rehabilitation tool for people experiencing pain in the front of the knee.

Former collegiate runner Brian Godsey got into backward running in 2004 to cure a twinge in his knee; when the pain disappeared, he went into it competitively.

“It’s absurd,” he says of adults sprinting backward around a track. But that hasn’t stopped him: He ran a reverse 5K in a record 19:31 at the backward-running world championships in Germany in 2008.

Ready to rewind your run? Find an area clear of tripping hazards, or have a spotter run forward next to you, Godsey says. Be sure to land on your toes, and occasionally switch the shoulder you look over so you don’t strain your neck.

Note: Running backward on a treadmill isn’t advised, as you can’t control the speed or hit the kill switch if you fall.

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