I was reading an article recently in which Fergie (from The Black Eyed Peas) mentioned that one of the things she does at the gym is put her treadmill on an incline, decrease the speed, and walk backward. Yes, backward.
I did some research and this is called Retro Walking and it puts greater strain on your cardiovascular system than moving forward at the same speed. This means you can strengthen your heart and lungs while burning calories quicker than forward walking and that extra level of difficulty requires more energy, resulting in more calories burned. It also works your muscles in a different way and targets your quadriceps and calves. Forward walking works your hamstrings and glutes so moving both forward and backwards is a great way to target all of the major muscle groups in your lower half. Retro walking is great for your core and your back and will condition your hip, knee, and ankle stabilizers for added benefit to your daily tasks and sporting endeavours. It also offers the benefits of an improvement in your balance and less stress and trauma on your joints.
After I tried this the first time I was hooked. I made my gym buddy try it too and now we’re sure to include it whenever we can in our gym sessions. I set my incline quite high and steadily increase my speed as I get more comfortable. For me, the key to a better workout here is the incline. I want to feel like I’m working and maximizing the benefits of this adventure. We get some crazy looks from other gym-goers but once I explain that we’re not crazy and why we’re doing what we’re doing they seem to chill out. And of course I sometimes hear “oh, I’ve heard about that.”
Intervals for this are great – start off forward walking and switch it up to retro walking. Increase your incline here and there and increase/decrease your speed depending on your direction and comfort level.
Obviously, if you’re going to attempt retro, do be careful. Stay in your comfort zone to start, keep your speed and your incline down and gradually build up to faster and higher.