As I'm getting myself back into a running routine after shying away from the cold this winter, I happened upon a phenomenon called backwards running. At first read, I wondered if I was being April Fooled, but further research validated that this is something that people are doing and there has even been a study demonstrating the benefits of backwards running. The study showed that though running backwards is less efficient and prevents runners from taking advantage of the natural ability of the leg muscles to spring-load, that there is less pavement pounding, and less likelihood of injury. I have a theory that improved posture is a likely contributor.
I often suggest to my students that they practice walking backwards a few steps and see how it feels different from walking forward. Clearly the mechanics are different, but something else is at work. They generally start to notice that they feel lighter and more fully aware of their bodies and the space around them. Walking backwards is less habitual and we have to rely more on our kinesthetic sense since we can't see directly in front of us. Our attention becomes more three-dimensional, and we start using our bodies more three dimensionally. Our posture is determined by how we are reacting to the stimuli around us and when we have to pay attention, it often improves. One of my regular students has found that his posture, breathing, and general feeling of presence improves greatly when he's playing soccer regularly. The attention placed outside of himself and all around him, gives his body a signal to expand out into the space, rather then contract into itself.
Based on my research, it seems that "rennurs" (backwards runners) look back as they run backwards, but nonetheless they can't rely on their vision as much as they would when running forward and their heightened kinesthetic awareness in all directions likely helps to bring them into a more natural alignment, resulting in safer running (in terms of strain injury - maybe not in terms of bumping into things!)
Have you experimented with walking or running backwards? Any "rennurs" out there? If so, share your experience below.
Also, what other things (that you do all the time) could you do in a different way that might help to bring you out of your habit, out of compressing in on yourself, and expanding out into the word?