If you’re looking to improve your balance, try walking both frontward and backward regularly.
Towards the tail end of my baseball career, I’d take swings in the cage left handed. I had no aspirations of becoming Victor Martinez (fine, of course I did) in my thirties, but I recognized the danger of creating more muscular and biomechanical imbalances. I wanted to train my body from both sides. In our sport, we throw from one side and run in an arc one way. The least I could do was try to rationally offset some of the unavoidable damage done by being so one side dominant.
Reversing our direction has similar applications as my concept of swinging from my unnatural side. From mahotamagazine.com:
Backward locomotion improves the functions of our cerebellum which coordinates and balances our bodily movements as well as flexibility.
We walk endlessly forward and subsequently train the muscles associated with the movement. From livestrong.com on walking normally:
As your feet hit the floor, normally with a heel-to-toe movement, your calves interact with your ankles to allow each foot to be pulled back on forth. This part of your walk will engage your gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris, and tibialis posterior and anterior muscles.
When we change direction and walk backward, we recruit the muscles of the front (tibialis anterior) and back (gastro/achilles) of the shin and ankle. As a boy, I always dreamed of having huge shins. Who doesn’t?
Walking backward contributes to our overall balance as well as our muscular balance. From the University of Oregon:
Given these performance differences and other observations, we can identify potential benefits from backward locomotion. From a training perspective, benefits of backward running may include:
- Facilitation of balance and proprioception
- Improvement of muscle balance (agonist / antagonist relationships)
- Development of a stronger foundation upon which to improve performance (due to improved muscle balance
- Facilitation of neuro-muscular function
- Assistance in prevention of injuries
Lest you think we wouldn’t talk about calorie expenditure for those of y’all looking to trim down, I’ve got you covered. From mercola.com:
Interestingly, when you walk backwards, your heart rate tends to rise higher than it does when walking forward at the same pace, which suggests you can get greater cardiovascular and calorie-burning benefits in a shorter period of time. In one study, women who underwent a six-week backward run/walk training program had a significant decrease in body fat as well as improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness at the end of the study.
Being more efficient with our exercises means we need to spend less time on them. I’m sold. The rate of walking accidents on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica are about to increase exponentially. We’ll just have to practice making eye contact some other way.
Looking forward (see (see?)?) to looking foolish,