Many people believe that once they feel the slightest twinge of injury, they have to sit it out. While it is true that pain is an indicator of something wrong, it could also be very well true that there are modified exercise movements, and even completely different fitness activities that hold the potential to heal and possibly make stronger the injured body part. Among the plethora of modified exercise movements, backwards running is an incredible and different fitness activity, that we strongly recommend.
Ankles and knees are two joints that have a reputation for causing set-backs for athletes. But what about the average person who just enjoys staying fit and occasionally partaking in the healthy fun of Sports? Anyone can be impacted, especially by the mental aspect of an ankle or knee injury.
It doesn’t have to be a dead-end though when we are recovering from an injury. Once the injury begins to heal and the recovery process is along its way, it is important to take advantage of other types of exercises that can build neglected muscles and to help overused muscles get a break. It also helps to strengthen the mind, as the brain absolutely loves learning new concepts and movements.
This article’s focus is on running injuries—most specifically overuse injuries. The constant pounding on the ground, especially the road, can cause the cartilage in the knees and ankles to wear away. Even avoiding the roads and getting on the Nature trails can pose a problem, as tree roots and other natural obstacles such as uneven ground can cause us to sprain an ankle or twist a knee. Trying to push through the pain to get through your normal exercise routine, which may consist of a 20-minute run, is unbearable, not to mention completely fruitless since you are causing further damage to the muscles, joints, tendons, and/or ligaments affected and already inflamed. Other exercises that include forward motion or especially side-to-side motion may be excruciating as well. Sometimes this inability to be active whenever we want to, and the anxiety that might set in from the fear of losing fitness levels, muscle atrophy, and fat gain may become more unbearable than the pain of the injury itself. But there may be a solution.
Retro Walking or Running, also known as backpedaling …or maybe more simply recognized as backwards walking or running… has proven to not only allow us to exercise as we heal from a forward motion injury (i.e. from running or Sports), but it can also increase strength in muscles and ligaments that we never even knew were weak in the first place.
Many people who suffer from ankle and Achilles injuries, such as a sprain recovery or that annoying clicking sound that just happens out of the blue when your ankles decry your excessive running habit, have seen incredible results from backwards running. It’s almost as though the ankle has not been injured, as the backwards running causes little to no pain at all. Additionally, it burns 30% more calories as forward running (if done at the same intensity), it builds muscles that need attention, it lets muscles rest that need to be left alone for a while, and it strengthens brain function since it is a new activity that the body is not used to doing for long periods of time, and it needs to learn to become better attuned to and better aware of the placement of each step and alignment during the movement.
So, next time you suffer from an ankle twinge or some knee pain, give backwards walking or running a try. If not for the rehabilitation aspect of it, maybe just try it as an experiment and see how much it improves your fitness levels!
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