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“Posing” the Question of Proper Running Form: Natural Running vs. Pose Method

Posted on 30 July 2013

Natural running is not some ideal, archetypal running form; it’s what happens when you let your own body figure out what works best for you when you minimize interference between the foot and the ground. It’s what happens when you let your own muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones do all or most of the work. It will vary depending on the type of ground under your feet, how fast you’re running, and so forth. It could hurt you – just because it’s “natural” does not necessarily mean that it’s always good. It could also help you – some people have overcome chronic injury by going “natural.” It’s a form employed by you, not necessarily a form employed by all. And your natural running form can change with time and practice. It might reach a comfortable steady state, or it might continue to change in small ways.– Pete Larson, Runblogger

The Pose Method is a system for teaching of human movement developed by tw0-time Olympic Coach Dr. Nicholas S. Romanov in 1977 in the former Soviet Union. The name of the method comes from the word “pose” or “body position.” {It’s the} ability of certain poses to integrate the whole chain of preceding and subsequent movements into one whole, wasting no energy on inconsequential movement. --Pose Method website

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Screen shot 2013-07-29 at 7.56.05 PMIn 2012  at the University of Virginia RunMed conference, I was asked to contrast Principles of Natural Running with the Pose Running method. I  continue to get weekly emails and blog comments asking to help differentiate the two running form methods.

So to clarify or contrast these two approaches to running, I had prepared the following summary that was included in the handout for all participants at the RunMed conference.

What is the comparison between Principles of Natural Running and Pose Running? In my mind, there is no debate: we agree runners were not designed to land in the heel-strike overstride pattern with modern pronation-control. elevated-heeled shoes.

Natural Running is best learned while you are in motion. Unless runners understand the important principles of the gait cycle, or running movement, it can be difficult to know how to make the personal (and go-it-slow, gradual) adaptation to Natural Running. Still, it bears mentioning: Natural Running is not a brand or specific method, but rather what humans have done for several million years. View our NRC video here called “Principles of Natural Running.” Although this video might appear technical in a few places, the information can be easily learned for all runners. Also included in the video are some simple drills that will help you run natural.

So let’s move on and dissect a bit of the Pose Principles and Methods being taught and how we compare.  I’ll use 20 Pose Method teachings to highlight the discussion. My purpose is not to specifically critique a method, but rather to highlight what I think are the key principles in an efficient running gait. I think all methods including Pose do a huge service to draw attention to the risks and inefficiencies of the heel strike/overstride pattern.

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 2.00.51 AMThe Pose Method Principles below are presented in bold numbered bullets as taken from the literature on Pose and guides given with is DVD (see references at end). My comments following are not in bold.

 •    Pose Principle: Raise your ankle straight up under your hip, using the hamstrings

I differ here. The lower leg passively springs forward using quick reflexive knee drive forward maximizing the elasticity from Achilles, plantar fascia, and hip flexors.  The abdominals initiate the lifting of the leg with the hip flexors perpetuating the motion.  The glutes primarily, assisted by the hamstring,  decelerate the swinging lower leg and snap it back to ground when eccentric stretch  kicks in. Hamstring works in harmony with the glutes to get the foot back to ground in terminal swing. Use angular momentum to swing heel up instead of using hamstring contractions.  Hamstring fires briefly at preswing to assist in flexion of the knee and fires again at midswing through full foot loading. Also, heel goes way back in a wide arc due to hip extension. The lower leg doesn’t come “straight up”. At slow speeds there is a much lower heel recoil.

What is described in Pose Method is not observed in elite or natural running. Under Pose there would be no hip extension. I have seen runners doing Pose instruction and with abnormally high ‘butt kick’ well above horizontal even at slow speeds. They are getting nothing from the glutes to generate adequate forward thrust.

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 11.52.26 PM•    Pose Principle: Keep your support time short

Yes….you should pop off the ground.  But allow full elastic loading and recoil.  Do not cut this too short with an active early “lift off”.  Think of a pogo stick  A strong and active core promotes this.  If you are weak in core or have poor timing of activating these muscles, your center will not support the strong pop off the ground and assist in forward motion of pelvis.

Support time is in part dictated by how much EVA foam in the shoe needs to be decompressed and also how strong the foot muscles are. If the foot cannot control pronation, it will not create a quick and effective take off.  The elastic phases are passive but strong; think of a carbon-fiber spring.

Shorter contact times (as speed increases) are the result of increased hip extension velocity (for example, using more power to the ground from the glutes and hamstrings rather than lifting off.)  The Achilles complex and foot are loaded and unloaded more rapidly with a strong foundation (the foot). Think of throwing a Superball to the ground.  Firm is good; mushy isn’t good. World-class elite runners have been shown to have a higher hip extension velocity, even running at similar speeds as slightly less talented competitors.

Some Pose proponents mention getting faster primarily by cadence increase. This is a “U” curve.  If contact with the ground is too long or too short you compromise elastic recoil.  A cadence above 200 steps per minute will not be more efficient or make you faster than 170-190. You are sacrificing elastic recoil in efforts to increase cadence. The proof is in the cadence of elite marathoners who may approach 190 at top gear but rarely if ever go faster than that.

•    Pose Principle: Your base of support (BOS) is always on the balls of your feet

Midfoot is the ideal settling place. Adequate balance between the tricep surae (gastroc/soleus) and anterior compartment are paramount. A midfoot settling is preferred as it reduces the forefoot variation foot types. A forefoot varus or valgus person may not be safe forefoot striking as imbalances may translate to knee. Let your heels settle to load your foot springs and pop of the ground. In stance you may slightly favor the forefoot but the heel must touch the ground to engage the springs. Some efficient barefooters have a gentle “proprioceptive” heel landing where they roll gently from the heel to load the elasticity.

If the heel does not touch down, the loading phase will be cut short and elastic recoil will be diminished, if not lost. Also this Pose cue might encourage the athlete to stiffen/plantarflex the foot too much ahead of and during contact causing a hard, potentially injurious landing with high loading rates. Stretch and spring is preferable to maintaining stiff, shortened muscles in the lower leg. Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome might follow!

Any discussion of BOS is not complete without discussing neutral posture and static and dynamic posture and how it affects the efficiency of running. Bad posture habits in standing and walking can leak into dysfunctional movement patterns during a run.  The poor posture becomes one’s “default”. How you stand, sit, and walk dictates how you run. A stable and strong spine leads to efficiency at any speed.

One must learn to control unconsciously one’s center of mass (COM) in relation to the base of support (BOS) – the full  foot. Enter proprioception: good static and dynamic posture is one that allows you to be more aware of where your body is in space. Being proprioceptively aware of your body and the relationship between the COM and BOS is essential for your ability to load, unload, and recover properly.

Do you land with the BOS directly under the COM?  You should land slightly in front of your COM for shock absorption and energy storage during the loading phase and maximal force production during the propulsion phase of running. When done correctly you are storing and then releasing energy–like the pogo stick or Superball.

Some great runners may have seemingly awkward form (for example, Paula Radcliff or Emil Zatopek),  but in fact they have excellent dynamic posture to load, unload, and recover correctly allowing for a highly efficient transfer of energy to the ground and back.

What then is considered neutral standing posture and how does this relate to walking and running? Good standing posture is the straight vertical alignment of your body from the top of your head, through your body’s center, down through the middle of your feet. From a side view, good posture is seen as an imaginary vertical line through the ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle. The three natural curves in your back will be maintained. This posture will result in the COM being directly over the BOS allowing your weight to be primarily over the heel when standing but evenly distributed throughout the whole foot in athletic posture of running (ready to spring).

Now for the connection to running. The dynamic posture is essentially the same as one’s static posture, but one now employs a very slight lean forward from the ground (ankle joint), not from the waist. The forward lean shifts the COM forward,  allows shock absorption, and sets up the glutes to be the primary force producers during running. The posture coordination will result in the center of mass (COM) being directly over the foot/base of support (BOS) allowing your weight to be evenly distributed throughout the whole foot and not just the ball of foot.

One caveat to all this is the truly elite runner with an incredibly strong foot and ankle. When racing at high speed, I think some elite runners do favor the ball of foot. but this is not an “always”scenario as the Pose principle suggests.  The new or recreational runner does not have the foot and ankle strength and forcing them into this position might be bad advice.

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 2.01.41 AM

•    Pose Principle: Do not touch the ground with your heels

I disagree. This may occur in sprinting but not in endurance running.  When making contact with the ground, the lower leg from the knee down should ideally be perpendicular to the ground. This results in the ankle joint being neutral, setting up the calf and Achilles tendon to be loaded for a recoil effect. This effect can be easily understood by taking a rubber band, stretching it, then letting it go. The energy that is created by stretching the rubber band is returned relatively for free; it just needs to be taken advantage of. This is the stretch reflex. At loading, if the heel is off the ground or the foot is taken off the ground too fast, the “free energy” that is given by the calf-Achilles complex (rubber band effect) will be reduced. This will ultimately lead to more work and inefficiency. The calf will try to do the work and act as the hip. This can lead to reduced force production, potential calf strains, Achilles tendinopathies, and dysfunction up the body chain

Making contact primarily in the rearfoot with overstride heel strike pattern allows for significant braking forces, reduced elastic energy storage, and longer ground contact times which can lead to a number of different injuries. Landing on the outside of the foot is ideal for the foot to be loaded effectively. This helps the transfer of weight from the outside of the foot to the big toe. This transfer of weight allows for the foot to passively lock-up, creating a natural rigid lever to push off of in the propulsion phase of running. The leverage is from the big toe.

I think most sprinters also fully load by touching down the heel– possibly most, but I’ve not looked into it enough. Usian Bolt’s ground contact time is 0.08 seconds; a top distance runner 0.12-0.13 seconds.

•    Pose Principle: Avoid shifting weight over your toes: raise your ankle when the weight is on the ball of your foot. Don’t point your toes.

You do dorsiflex and shift weight to the toes on toe off for windlass effect (action of plantar fascia to restore arch and makes it into a rigid lever) and propulsion.  Plantar flexion of the ankle is assisted by dorsiflexion of the hallux, otherwise the windlass effect does not work as well. You must load the big toe for maximum efficiency. Think of hammering with four fingers gripping the hammer without using the thumb (The “hammering” analogy  is from Jay Dicharry’s book “Anatomy for Runners”).  The big toe provides  a majority of stability, leverage, and power.  Though your other toes are small, they are powerful and mighty. Moving weight onto the toes with the forefoot rocker helps engage the posterior compartment.

Note: hallux limitus (limited mobility in big toe joint) will impair the windlass effect and will cause premature calf engagement.  Do not strive for an active toe off, but rather allow your foot to roll forward and spring off. If timed poorly (and it frequently is) it creates premature gastroc/soleus engagement which creates premature heel rise and then the gastroc drives lift instead of propulsion.  This puts too much axial load into the foot and first  MPJ  joint in an untimely manner. This may have been my problem prior to corrective surgery for hallux limitus.

•    Pose Principle: Keep your ankle fixed at the same angle

There is dorsiflexion and plantarflexion; this is the magic elastic effect.  If you disagree watch any high level track race.

•    Pose Principle: Keep knees bent at all times

Yes , I agree. Knees are flexed on landing and  in stance and flexed more in leg recovery to bring lower leg parallel to ground. Amount of knee flexion in recovery is dependent on speed.  Run fast, the heel folds up. Run slow, there’s lower heel recovery.  It’s as if you were holding a hinge from the top and whipping it forward. In skilled runners the knee flexes more during contact/stance, especially during easy running. As the pace increases the spring stiffens and the flexion on contact becomes less. The knee extends pretty far during maximum hip flexion. The good runner increases knee flexion before contact.

•    Pose Principle: Feet remain behind the vertical line going through your knees

Yes this should occur ideally, but the key is landing and loading with balance (land slightly in front of COM, fully load under COM)  and having foot behind hips on recoil/propulsion .  Do not focus so much on this to be free-falling forward and off balance; this is inefficient!  Practice running with a jump rope.

•    Pose Principle: Keep stride length short

I disagree.  Do not overstride in front of you. You want to increase stride length and thigh angle through mobility on hip extension and applied power to the ground.  Stride angle opens up as speed increases, but equally in the front and back; it’s like a pendulum. I’m not sure how one would get faster without covering more ground with each stride.  Cadence can only go up so much before it begins to compromise elasticity. Again just study the elites.  When going fast they cover huge amounts of territory with each “leap.”

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 1.57.26 AM•    Pose Principle: Keep knees and thighs down, close together, and relaxed

Again watch the elites run.  You need to use knee drive forward, activate the abdominals in swing, and use eccentric stretch of hip flexors as triggers.  This is a bit active at initiation of swing but then passive.  In forward swing thigh angle is often 45 degrees to ground for the faster runner.  Sprinters may be 90 degrees to horizontal.  This increases thigh spread.  Good knee drive enhances eccentric hamstring stretch for better acceleration of foot back into the ground with the glutes. All elite runners bring thighs forward.

•    Pose Principle: Always focus on pulling the foot from the ground, not on landing

I think this creates the flaw of actively lifting your foot.   Instead, focus on driving your foot to the ground down and back from the glutes and some hamstring at terminal swing. (See photo below.)  Your “foot should “pop”  or “push” off the ground and not be “pulled”.  For faster running, the foot is driven down and back into the ground using hip extension and allow push-off to become a powerful “pop”.  Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 2.16.52 AM

It would be more helpful to encourage runners to pursue an active landing (using hips, knees and ankles). Habitual heel-strikers delay this activation by keeping the toes up or foot and ankle dorsiflexed ahead of landing.  Running barefoot enhances active landing.

•    Pose Principle: Do not point or land on the toes (toe running)

I agree! Do not land on toes in a prancing style.

•    Pose Principle: Gravity, not muscle action, controls the landing of the legs

Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 7.26.09 AMYou need active glutes to drive leg down and back into ground to get best pop off the ground.  This shortens stance time and gives more elasticity. See photo to right. Gravity pulls down (equal and opposite is up) – hip extensors (glutes most powerful) need to drive leg down and back (equal and opposite is a forward force vector). Also hamstrings recoil in “preparation” ; they get stretched out in faster running then contract with knee flexion ahead of contact.  With the best runners, even in very easy running there is activity to get foot to ground 

•    Pose Principle: Keep shoulder, hip and ankle in vertical alignment

Yes, this should all happen in midstance.  With faster running there will be a very slight lean to set up the forward force vector. But the foot and ankle will have a wide arc in the gait cycle and not just come straight up. Really strong runners seem to get a massive hip extension and still hold a strong neutral spine in hip extension.  This I think separates the elite from the world class. Have a look at the runners below. If there is a lean there it’s very small.

Screen shot 2013-07-27 at 6.13.27 AM

Photo courtesy of Brian Martin

•    Pose Principle: Arm movement is for balance, not for force production

Elbow drive to the rear complements the hip extension and glute activation. The arms then recoil forward.  I think an active elbow drive back enhances the hip extension.  Kind of like classic style cross country skiing.  Upper arm and opposite hip extend back in harmony. Lats and strong shoulder muscles are the drivers.  Coaching legend Arthur Lydiard said “when I train athletes I try to make their legs go faster, not their arms”.  I think this is 100 percent true at slower speeds. The science was catching up to Lydiard as what he did worked.  Lydiard had his runners do lots of hills and bounding and if you watch the arm action of his runners they were using them even though not actively thinking about it!

Additional Pose Principles from companion book to DVD:

•    Pose Principle: Don’t try to increase  stride length or range of motion to increase speed

I’m not sure how one gets faster than other than picking up cadence to a ridiculously high number and compromising the recoil. Harness the free energy. You need range of motion to increase thigh spread.    You must also create enough power to lengthen stride length. Remember power production ceases when foot leaves ground.  Increased thigh spread is a result, not a cause of, increased stride length. It comes from increased power and range of motion and it has to happen to increase speed.

•    Pose Principle: Don’t try to move your knees and thighs too far apart, forward and backward, during stride

I disagree. You want thigh spread for faster running.  This happens as a result of glutes driving foot to ground and good hip extension (see #15).  For really easy running and warming up there is little thigh spread as minimal power is generated.  Watch the Kenyans warm up.  They still have the springy 180 cadence but strides short.  As they really start running the cadence increases slightly but thighs now open in full flight. Watch this video and see the thigh spread in the easy vs the faster running in the naturally running Kenyans.  Also witness that they do not lift their ankles straight up. Glutes are driving the engine.

•    Pose Principle: Don’t fix on landing, just lifting

I’m sounding redundant here.  Do not focus on lift. To get off the ground you need to apply a force to the ground.  Period.  You need to activate glutes to get foot to ground to enhance elasticity.  Glutes are powerful and move only hip joint.  See photo below from the Principles of Natural Running Video.  Focus on pulling foot down and back before it is weight-bearing using hip extensors.  Hip extensors must generate propulsion, you can’t just “fall forward”.  Think of a tree falling in nature. Which way does it fall?  The way it is leaning.  Does it ever move forward?  No, there is not power on the ground.

•    Pose Principle: Don’t push off or toe off, lift only

You need to apply force to the ground to get off the ground, this is what we see with force plates.  Practice jumping romp to feel the natural bounce which is passive (you are not “lifting” when jumping rope). You cannot run without applying a force to the ground.  It is physically impossible to “lift” when three times your body weight is being loaded onto the ground. Once foot-strike is initiated with a powerful hip extension, the generation of propulsion from hip extension and plantar-flexion are mostly passive, not voluntary contractions.  Efficient runners set it up and allow the energy release instead of  forcing it happen– like an archer with a bow and arrow or a sling shot. Most efficient is releasing energy quickly, the longer you hold it muscles start activating and it gets shaky. Agree an active “toe -off” would encourage runners to spring onto their tippy toes  — and a good way to blow a calf.  We have seen runners overuse the calves as a  way to compensate for no glute strength or hip extension.

•    Pose Principle: Keep body leaning forward and free falling

You do not free fall, this is off balance and uses more energy. Keep balanced at all times as if running with jump rope or skateboarding. For a recovering heel-striker, it may feel like a bit like you are falling forward.  Once learned, it will feel balanced.

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Referenced Material
•    SMITH, S. (2005) Pose: a beginner’s guide. Peak Performance, 216, p. 1-4
•    ROMANOV, N. (2002) Pose Method of Running. PoseTech Press

http://www.posetech.com/library/pp-SIB-0001.html
Pose running technique principles in summary
1.    Raise your ankle straight up under your hip, using the hamstrings
2.    Keep your support time short
3.    Your support is always on the balls of your feet
4.    Do not touch the ground with your heels
5.    Avoid shifting weight over your toes: raise your ankle when the weight is on the ball of your foot
6.    Keep your ankle fixed at the same angle
7.    Keep knees bent at all times
8.    Feet remain behind the vertical line going through your knees
9.    Keep stride length short
10.    Keep knees and thighs down, close together, and relaxed
11.    Always focus on pulling the foot from the ground, not on landing
12.    Do not point or land on the toes
13.    Gravity, not muscle action, controls the landing of the legs
14.    Keep shoulder, hip and ankle in vertical alignment
15.    Arm movement is for balance, not for force production

 

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For a simple and clear explanation to what all this is go to “Dr Mark’s Running School” on our Two Rivers Treads site. Don’t overthink it….just get out and feel the spring.

http://tworiverstreads.com/natural-running-form/

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55 Responses to ““Posing” the Question of Proper Running Form: Natural Running vs. Pose Method”

  1. Hans Holter Solhjell says:

    Hi.

    Thank you for the in depth look at your style vs Pose.

    It seems to me that there is a fundamental difference in your understanding of running, and Pose, in that you seem to think that a runner creates forward propulsion in running by pushing of against the ground in the horizontal direction. Is this so?

    This is at least my intepretation of your understanding, based on this article and a few other things you have written, and your video. POSE, or Romanov, proposes that it is not pushing off horizontally against the ground that brings you forward, but rather the mechanism of gravitational torque. It would be interesting if you could clarify your understanding of this.

    This is a quite important, but not well know or well understood topic, and one that separates all methods of running into two separate categories, push and drive styles (push with the legs, and drive with the arms, which seems to be the most accepted and most thought view), and what I like to call “flow with gravity” styles (with and emphasis on the lean, like in Pose, and chi, and maybe a few others, the minority position).

    Obviously, gravity and the laws of physics works the same for everyone, regardless of how one likes to theorize or prefer to move, so only one of these basic positions can be correct, and is what is actually is happening, regardless of the implicit or explicit understanding and chosen style of the runner.

    Anyway, this question as much as all the other points you discussed, is what separates and informs POSE, explicitly, and most other understandings of running and choice of technique, so I look forward to hearing your point of view on this.

    Cheers,

  2. Dan Mozell says:

    Mr. Holter Solhjell:

    Gravity cannot make you move forward. Ask any physicist. Gravity pulls you down and you use muscle to move up. There can be no net gain from gravity and no forward movement from gravity. If you keep your feet still and you lean forward, your head will certainly hit the ground ahead of your feet. But if you move your feet, as in running, you’ll be using muscle to accomplish this, not gravity. It is also physically impossible to lift your feet off the ground when running. Try standing on your right foot and then lift your right foot off the ground. It’s impossible. You have to jump first. Jumping requires that you push into the ground (the opposite of lifting). Push straight down and your body will move up. Push backward and your body will move forward.

    • MarkC says:

      Thanks Dan, you beat me to the answer to Hans. The picture with my leg extending back and the spring on the Achilles shows the direction of force which is applied down and back. Again in running you are releasing stored energy as well as using energy to support you against gravity, but there is force to the ground and friction from your foot to allow you to project forward and up. we have simple instruction on my store site here http://tworiverstreads.com/natural-running-form/
      thanks for reading and replying. Mark

    • Hans Holter Solhjell says:

      Hi Dan and Mark.

      Dan, as we all know gravity can only pull you straight down. But no one has claimed gravity moves you forward. The argument is that gravitational torque does, which is different from gravity alone. It is very easy to show cases of gravity creating movement which is then redirected in the forward direction by a mechanical construction of some kind. This can even happen while another source of energy makes the center of mass of our device move upwards for some distance. If you can not think of such a construction yourself I am happy to give you an example.

      Obviously we do a lot of other things that requires metabolic input while running, and no one has claimed differently. Some examples are stabilizing and balancing the body on landing, providing horizontal movement, repositioning the limbs, and so on, but the question here, is what is responsible for the horizontal movement component, pushing horizontally, or gravitational torque.

      Your reply, gravity can only pull you straight down, is actually a much quoted and completely misunderstood counter argument against the gravitational torque theory of running, and is not really relevant, as the theory does not claim that gravity moves you forward, but that gravitational torque does.

      Apart from that, the second part of your argument both wrong, and correct at the same time. First, no one is claiming that if you lean forward, and keep your legs still, you will run or otherwise move forward any longer that your own body length, untill you fall on the face. But, as you say, if the person leans forward and then moves one leg forward, he will actually move forward. This is called walking, which does not require a horizontal push, just a release forward, unbalancing of your bodyweight, and a repositioning of your leg and foot forward. It is very hard to walk without this unbalacing of the bodyweight, and nescessary creation of gravitational torque that can not do anything else than move your center of mass forward. Try to keep your bodyweight completely in balance, preventing the lean and gravitational torque, and move your leg forward. What happens? You are standing still, with one leg pointing forward.

      This is actually not controversial, and generally accepted as a valid model of walking, even if this is not generally accepted as a valid model for running. This is due to the misunderstanding that since running involves an upward movement of the body’s center of mass, gravity can not play a role. But since the argument is that gravitational torque moves you forward, not gravity alone, and it is easy to demonstrate that gravitational torque can do work even while the center of mass moves upwards for the relevant degrees of rotation, this is not a valid counterargument. In fact, it is empirically wrong.

      There is more to say about this, but my main question was about Mark’s viewpoint on this, which is now clarified, even if it less than satisfactory as a basic understanding of forward movement in running, and as a counter to the gravitational torque model.

      I am happy to discuss this more, if there is any interest in exploring the topic more in depth. It seems relevant since this post is about POSE, and POSE theory is the only model that makes a big thing about this, even though Romanov’s account of this is mistaken in some aspects of his theory.

      • MarkC says:

        Hans,
        thanks for the insightful reply. and as it with the Pose piece, it is not debate, but rather trying to flesh out teaching methods. Walking does require a push to the ground and cannot utilize the mass spring effect as running does. a great paper that gait lab guru Jay Dicharry shared from his mentors is called the “Determinants of Gait” by Croce, Riley, and Kerrigan. Not a simple read but a good one. Human Locomotion by Michaud is a great text. These reads outline the biomechanics as researched through time.
        Keep up the comments and share thoughts.
        Mark

        • Hans Holter Solhjell says:

          Hi Mark.

          Thank you for your comment, suggestions and encouragement.

          Seems like you are getting a lot of comments on this blog post.

          I did try to locate the paper you referenced, “Determinants of Gait” by Croce, Riley, and Kerrigan, but could not find it online. But the “six determinants of gait” theory is well known. I am not sure if the article you are pointing to are based on the same basic thinking or not.

          Anyway, there are two basic theories on walking that has been dominant over the last 50 years, and one is the “six determinants of gait” theory and the other is the “inverted pendulum” model. The “six determinants of gait” theory has mostly proven to not fit well with the observable facts of walking, while the inverted pendulum theory has fared better in this regard. For reference and an overview of the theories and the research I suggest looking at this article
          http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167945707000309

          So it seems that my previous comment that a inverted pendulum model, that implies a Gravitational torque model, holds well and is generally accepted as a good model for understanding walking is reasonable.

          This also means that no push in the horizontal direction is needed to produce forward movement in walking. Obviously the body pushes against the ground, and you can measure both vertical and horizontal ground reaction force, but this does not mean that the body makes a pushing movement that moves it forward. It only means that the body weight is pressing against the ground and various angles. It does not imply a horizontal pushing movement, which is pushing COM forward.

          So, the question is really if this is also the case in running, or not.

    • Dave says:

      “There can be no net gain from gravity and no forward movement from gravity.”

      What about running downhill?

      • MarkC says:

        Dave
        yes gravity does move you down a hill but the vector is down and forward as the ground creates the friction. you cannot run truly into the ground unless it is a soft sand dune or a lake. same goes true with going up. some folks think running on T-Mill with an incline is the same as running uphill, but it is not. there is more net work to move up. the T-Mill does not gain elevation.
        Mark

  3. Alfonso says:

    Fantastico great article. Hats off to you. Your experiences and opinions are of great importance and interest for a barefoot runner instructor like me (recognizing method explanations and a pinch of salt more competitive I add to my experiences with the teacher more recreational Ken Bob Saxton). Receive my sincere admiration and appreciation for their work, greetings.

    • MarkC says:

      Thanks Alfonso,
      this takes what my friend Ken Bob is doing and adds a bit of performance edge. I’ve been teaching seminars in the USAF for several years and they have to pass a fitness test where the speed counts. So we need to go beyond just reducing injury.
      Mark

  4. Bob says:

    Great article. I appreciate you referencing elites. There is such a tendency to over-analyze this topic. While it is good for amateurs to be aware of specific aspects of improved form, like faster cadence, shorter stride length, more mid-foot landing, etc., it might be good to also have poor runners watch and try to emulate world-class athletes. What is their posture like? Do they really lean at the ankles? How do they carry and use their arms? It’s possible that elite runners do not have good form simply because they are elite. They are elite because they have good form.

  5. ken katz says:

    Hi mark
    I was curious your thoughts….when you watch a child run its obvious there is simply a falling or leaning forward and the foot comes up and lands right back under the body. I saw my own child do this naturally. In fact before he could harness this he literally fell so fast his feet couldnt keep up and he did a face plant. To me this seems the inherent way to run except that we have developed a fear or falling and simply letting go , allowing gravity to do the work. I’m not sure why anything changes from childhood to adulthood except shoes and fear. I would be curious your thoughts? Thanks!

    • Bob says:

      Here is an interesting video. I’m sure everyone will differ in their interpretation of the degree of lean on display, however there seems to be little or none. Besides the arm carriage, I think the most interesting part is the position of the upper body. Particularly how the head sits atop the neck and shoulders. If the link doesn’t work automatically after I post this, I would encourage you to paste the web address in your browser and check it out.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY3A8nPYL-c

      • ken katz says:

        Bob
        he is running pose. His land is always under gcm. His lean is slight yes. But its all it needs to be to go forward. Nothing more nothing less. And the alignment is untarnished and natural posture.

      • ken katz says:

        Good video. He is running pose. Feet under gcm. Slight lean. Neutral posture

        • Bob says:

          It might also be interesting to check out a couple of other videos. Type “running robot” into Youtube, and you’ll come up with videos featuring Honda’s humanoid robot ASIMO and Toyota’s version running. It looks as if the engineers tackled this problem by having the robots execute an exaggerated counter-rotation of the upper body. They certainly don’t fall forward and catch themselves. While humans don’t twist like those robots, there is a certain element of counter-rotation involved in forward locomotion.

          Here is one video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sv35ItWLBBk

    • MarkC says:

      Ken the child is learning how to balance and move and through proprioception creates the neuromuscular timing and coordination. stay out of the way and let them feel the ground and fall . get them barefoot to enhance proprioception. after time and practice they become agile and balanced. trust me as an adult you want to run with balance not in a free fall. this is not smart of efficient. run with a jump rope and you’ll se what I mean. must be balanced and with max loading under the center of mass. thanks for comment
      Mark

      • ken katz says:

        Hi Mark.yes balance is quite important. I guess my point was however that gravity is the driver of the engine. The child doesn’t pish into the ground with muscular effort. He doesn’t know any of that right? He finally finds a tipping point which he can handle and just lifts the foot. That’s really all it is! Thanks ken

  6. TG says:

    Dear Mark – I find your article addresses your style vs pose in a very theoretical manner. It would have been best addressed if you had gone through some Pose lessons and actually understood the theory rather than tried to re-interpret what you have read.

    You stated you are trying to compare methodologies but to people who have an awareness of techniques your article is painful to read as it shows your lack understanding and appears to criticise rather than compare methods.

    Sorry I cannot find much positives from this article

    TG

    • MarkC says:

      Thanks TG for the comment and I know this piece will stir some debate…that is all good. I have the pose DVD and handbook and love some of the drills which help train the elasticity of running. like most end users I did not have a Pose instructor, but relied on what was written and demonstrated in the videos, so did my best to try it and then figure out the biomechanics of it all. I may be off in parts and welcome full explanations of the “pull” and not having the thigh separation. I do not over think things when I run, so this piece was a bit challenging to put together as was the talk to the scientific audience when asked to “debate” the methods. it’s just running to me :) Best Mark

  7. Jeremy Huffman says:

    Marc,

    Hi…I share in your zeal for teaching people to run injury free and efficient. I can relate and appreciate what you have and continue to do in regards to actively help others. I want to attempt to point out the mis-interpretations you have in regards to the Pose Summary list of do’s and don’ts as it relates to natural running. Due to time limitations I will probably need to list them in installments but I really want to help you understand the Pose Method as it is conceptualized and applied. Whether we get to a point of agreement is less important. Must go for now but will be back as soon as possible……

  8. Cody R. says:

    great article, great breakdown

    when i began running minimal, and now barefoot…

    i kind of used a bit of pose running as that was one of the things that came up when reading up on this kind of thing

    but after reading more into things, i got away from the pose and more towards your direction, mark

    after your video came out, that’s how i do it, that’s how i coach others

    thank you for nailing it

    • Cody R. says:

      sorry, hit submit too fast

      not to totally hate on the pose method, but as my track coach also emphasizes, you are not trying to run up, you’re trying to go forward…just GO

      and this is what the natural running accomplishes imo compared to pose running

      pose running seems to use some unnecessary movements to go forward….

      running form is incredibly interesting

  9. Great Post, Dr. Mark! After you shared this write up with me last year I knew it would only be a matter of time before it showed up on the NRC. What took so long? It has good information for the runner or clinician that has started to incorporate more natural running form but is still fuzzy on certain details or theories of thought.

  10. Jon P says:

    Hi Mark, thank you for the discussion article.

    Something that hasn’t been mentioned either in your article or the replies, is the difference between physical reality and perceptual reality. Much of the Pose Method principals quoted are in the realms of perceptual reality and not necessarily a physical description of the actual biomechanics. So to a degree you are using some physical reality to counter a perceptual description of running given by the Pose Method principals.

    I think it is true to say that there will be a number of runners who will take the Pose principals and interpret them as physical reality; and basically end up doing them incorrectly from what was intended. There will also be a group of runners who will read the principals and perform a good running action because they take the principals as a mental visual guide. At the same time I can absolutely guarantee the same things happening when reading your physical descriptions – some will interpret and perform action as you would want them to, others will mis-interpret, over-egg, mis-read and so forth, and will not end up with a good running action. This is the difficulty of trying to teach running mechanics through words and pictures alone. At least teaching in person you are able to instantly correct when your instruction isn’t being met with your desired outcome.

    I think what we can take from this is that teaching technique through paragraphs alone is really not very ideal – at least for some, and that ideally 1 to 1 coaching is very desirable.

    Regarding some of the things discussed in your article, and from the comments, it is at least worth putting a few things down in clarification.

    Firstly, I think the Pogo stick analogy is quite good. It is one I use myself to help describe the dynamics of a moving body. We could probably use that and see how it fits into Pose Method and Pose theory of running:

    Pose method describes running in terms of Pose, Fall, Pull – we could use these as our perceptual and mental instructions.

    Pose – position of alignment where the centre of mass (COM) of the body is aligned over its point of support (the foot on the ground), and also over the centre of mass of the swing leg.

    Pogo stick – The pogo stick isn’t multi jointed and only has one “leg”. So its Pose is literally a vertical alignment with the centre of mass of the stick directly over the spring end on the ground.

    If we start with a forward moving pogo stick coming from airborn to landing, we can see that it lands close to vertical – certainly not a deep angle. It will not land directly vertical due to conservation of angular momentum of the stick, if it did, then the stick would be flat on the ground in a spring or two. The same with our runner, a runner will never (physically) land directly under their centre of mass for the same reason. Nevertheless, the principal is to try and land in the “Pose”, your unconscious brain will not allow you to land directly under the COM which it learnt as a toddler, but the idea is that if you think of landing in “Pose” you will likely reduce the instinct that many runners have of putting the foot in front of the body to move forward.

    Fall – rotation of the body around the support foot (which is stationary due to friction “force”).
    Pogo stick – the pogo stick is not multi jointed, it can do nothing but rotate forward (given the person riding it is not exerting a force of their bodyweight laterally or backwards!)

    So the pogo stick has landed, and rotates forward into the Pose position and then carries on rotating forward and downward as an angle of deviation is created between its COM (part way up the stick) and its supporting point still on the ground.

    From the landing of the runner, their body will slightly compress and load the calf\achilles complex through an eccentric contraction (this is delayed if the runner’s foot lands ahead of its knee joint and on the heel), while momentum is bringing the COM of their body into the Pose position described above. After this point the body continues to rotate horizontally while the height of the COM is roughly maintained (there is some resistance of the body to the vertical pull of gravity to maintain its stable rotation). There is also a horizontal component from the force of gravity as the COM is ahead of it’s supporting point (the foot).

    Pull – The runner removes their support from the ground (the foot) and in a direction towards the still forward moving COM of the body.

    Pogo stick – The rotation forward of the pogo stick is eventually overcome by the force of the spring loaded base which springs up and forward from the ground.

    The “pull”, for the runner is another of those perceptual guides. It’s purpose is two fold. 1. To create the correct timing of unloading the foot and utilising the elastic recoil of the achilles\calf structure. 2. to direct the foot back to the COM of the body without causing an over-swing forward and landing too far ahead. When the runner pulls the foot, it releases the elastic recoil (which counts for about 40-50% of vertical force), and also causes an unconscious push response (the other 50%) due to the eccentric nature of the loading. So when the Pose Method principal says don’t push it doesn’t mean that a push isn’t occurring, it is simply a perceptual clue to reduce concentric muscular contraction which in turn lets the eccentric contraction do the work. The runner’s COM is lifted vertically (6-8cm) by this “push” but due to the rotation of the body will also gain horizontal direction.

    I think in those terms, you can see that Pose Method and the pogo stick analogy are really quite closely aligned.

    There was some discussion of stride length that you mentioned. I would just like to quickly address that too (sorry for the long reply …. :-> ). In Pose Method theory, stride length is really described as the distance travelled of the COM between landings, given that we (hopefully) agree that a landing close to the COM is desirable. So if your forward velocity increases, so your COM will travel further through the air and hence the stride length will increase. If your velocity is lower, the opposite will happen. As you rightly describe in your article, your legs will travel more distance as stride length increases, and of course this is the case because the horizontal distance travelled by the COM is larger, so the legs have a larger distance to catch up. So, basically put, increased velocity is the cause of increased stride length, and a result is that the range of motion that the legs have to travel will increase because of this (side note: this is the second reason for the “pull” described above – to direct the foot toward the COM).

    It’s worth noting that at larger velocity (faster running), the energy requirements will be greater for the runner because the distance to recover the leg will be greater.

    Hope that clarified a few things from a Pose Method perspective. I’ll try and pop back and answer any constructive questions you may have when I get time.

    • MarkC says:

      thanks Jon, really good explanations and I think at the end of the day we all agree on what is really happening ideally in movement. how one learns it and gets to this point can go through different methods and cues. again thank you for the thoughtful reply Mark

    • Hans Holter Solhjell says:

      Great reply Jon. Actually the first time I have seen someone explain this very well, and with an emphasis on the difference between the perceptual cues and the physical reality. Especially the physical reality of the vertical push, and that there is no fall of COM in the real sense of the word, even if it works quite well as an perceptual cue. And that this vertical push happens at the same time as the forward rotation over support happens.

      And also that only about 50% of this vertical push can be elastic recoil, not a 100%, which one might get an impression of in some of the writing. I think that the lack of good explanations of these points have created some confusion and misunderstanding of POSE, so it is good to see that you can put this into writing so clearly.

      Even though you say that the vertical push should be unconscious, it is still possible to train to improve the quality and precision of the push movement. Agree?

      • Jon P says:

        Hi Hans, and thank you for your kind comments.

        In answer to your question. Yes! Absolutely! It is actually what is being trained when we do drills such as Forward Lunge or Forward Change of Support. We are developing a timing of loading and un-loading, and as is recognised some of that is recoil some is muscular contraction work. The Pose a method term for this is unweighting.

  11. TG says:

    Dear Mark. No amount of words from myself or others will help you understand what the Pose running technique is because the responses and your interpretations and perceptions are already incorrect. That already presents a big mind obstacle.

    Running is a physical movement and as you have implied is best learned kinesthetically. Thus trying to understand Dr Romanov’s techniques from a book is hard to understand if you do not have the tacit knowledge nor perception. What I thought was correct (I thought I dabbled in Chi and Pose as I read a book and read some forums), was corrected when I bit the bullet and went on a course.

    Incidentally a month ago I saw someone running barefoot with a definite heel strike thud. I did not think that was possible but it is obvious he thought barefoot running would lead him to natural running. I could only think “ouch” with every step.

    I hate nit picking but please qualify who are these “most end users” you are referring to in your response, i.e. are these the users who have ended up looking at your site or are these the “users” in the US who have tried to learn a new running technique. What is the percentage from a book/video/course?

    For your own integrity, it is worth you spending some cash on a 1 day course with Dr Romanov and then please write something that is factual rather than an interpretation of what has been written in a book/tried to pick up. Blagging is never good.

    Incidentally you should know that Dr Romanov also trained the British Tri-athletes…..they’re the ones who came 1st and 3rd in the 2012 Olympics.

    p.s. I am not against natural running. I indulge in barefoot running as well as pose running. I am just irritated about the lack of understanding in your writing which might be my interpretation of your interpretation!

    Have a happy rest of week as I no longer want to be a troll on this site :-)

    • MarkC says:

      Thanks again TG for the time. I refer to “end users” as customers of the product. Most do not have the benefit of a coach or even a full day seminar so rely on the tools they have. we do not really have a product or specific method, just some basic principles that I think at the end of the day are very much aligned with pose as I replied to Jon above. without the coaches folks take methods to be very rigid and specific at times, sometimes for good and sometimes it inhibits relearning a natural pattern. Mark

  12. max says:

    good discussion Mark and everyone. perhaps there is merit in both styles of running. Working with athletes gives me insight into the person’s specific history/ athletic ability and other facets of one’s individual body.

    Knowing Mark, I respect his journey and understanding of the body as a runner. His journey into a more natural paradigm has inspired me to think about my body and how different muscles and tendons and the whole kinetic chain work and or, in many cases, do not. The shoes, the running form programs, the products and more have all been put on the market to help us regain our running or improve. My understanding of Mark’s approach is, as family doc, he takes his stance from his understanding of anatomy and biophysics and applies it to running mechanics and how things work if the body is completely free to act naturally.

    In an ideal and pure world, the natural paradigm might be most useful for functional running and health. However, we live in this manmade ever evolving world where the natural and un-natural are always bumping heads. Competitive racing, ultra running, running hard on the pavement, etc are really not so natural or at least, things that our great great great ultra natural ancestors did for the sake of it. and so, these behaviors must be applied to the equation when trying to understand the whole universe we are playing in.

    May the journey and discussion continue

    max

    • MarkC says:

      thanks Max,

      if one decides to go into the rabbit hole they will find their own path to returning to more natural movement. read Frank’s story published yesterday for the USAF
      http://www.amc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123356355

      Mark

      • max says:

        true. leading a horse to water and so on. Also, it takes courage and discipline to change habits/altering one’s way of thinking, etc. Many people have a hard time losing weight or quitting drinking or smoking or whatever ” bad habit” they have that they wish to break.

        obviously running form/shoes is a new discussion and the term “bad” might be a bit harsh when examining types of running form/products, etc. Simply not enough research that is valid and defensible, is out there for public consumption.

        Obviously, your students from the Air Force have been converted so to speak and are willing to embark on the journey of “more natural running”

        Perhaps a different form of marketing needs to be created? running to elongate and activate the kinetic chain? When I run with less shoe and think about my body, this is what zips through my mind. I am thinking muscle activation so that the juices and energy are working in harmony and my body moves with less effort. When the muscles are compromised and only a small percentage are firing, my run suffers and the power and energy that I love so much, is only half way there.

        the fully activated runner

  13. John says:

    Great article. Funny that we are breaking down running into such seemingly complex descriptions! I am a student of proper running form, but one thing for sure is that I could never remember all those pose points while trying to run!
    So question Dr Mark, what is your simple in-store intervention for a new runner? Ie, you can’t overload him or her with discussions of gluteal extension or elastic recoil frequencies…so what are the few points you get across to get them running better? That would be my definition of natural running!
    -John

  14. Tyson park says:

    Knowing your character for some time, I feel so sorry for you to face those replies. Do you really need to deal with those criticisms and unpleasant obvious motives? Hopefully to see you next year Boston marathon. As I did this year, I’m planning to run barefoot again. Even human quality of runners are so different from other marathons. It’s a true marathon Mecca!
    According to science of running authors(Ross&Jonathan), the former PHD students of Dr. Noakes, University of Cape Town invited Dr. Romanoff, and actually experimented Pose methods with runners. The scientific analysis was clearly issued the unfavorable result.

    • MarkC says:

      Wow, thanks Tyson for the kind words. I ran the first half of Boston this year with Julian Romero who was barefoot. the crowd and runner response was wild. they could not believe a human could be running 6 min/mile pace barefoot on pavement. then he dropped me and finished a couple minutes ahead. he was have FUN. this is what is about at the end of the day….and staying injury free. Dr Noakes is the true Yoda of Sports Science and teaching the world now about better nutrition. we taught a course together. He is always willing to challenge beliefs (which is the title of his memoir which all should read). I did not query him on Pose and not sure he wants in the discussion….but I’ll send him a short note off line. Mark

    • Jon P says:

      Hi Tyson, did you read all the replies? There is really nothing nasty or motives involved just discussion. Also, you have to understand and realise that there are replies here by people who have practiced Pose Method for a very long time with outstanding results, those people have a right to make sure that Pose Method is explained in a correct way. Unfortunately, in this case, as much as Mark seems a nice guy, there are a lot of folk who really do know more about Pose Method than he does. To be brutally fair, and I hope this is taken in the right way, Mark probably shouldn’t be passing notes out about differences with Pose Method to his students without at least having had tuition from an instructor first. I teach Pose Method, and if a student was to ask me about whether it is better/worse than e.g. Chi Running, I would explain that I’m going to teach using Pose Method, then that person should go and see a Chi Instructor and then they will have knowledge to make an informed decision for themselves.

      From this article, there is mis-understanding of the method from Mark, and I know he probably has best intentions, but Dr Romanov at least should have his method explained properly and in a healthy manner (as I believe they have been) in the replies.

  15. Tyson park says:

    Dear Jon P,
    I read all with slow motion. Some of posters here I have argued with them as to Pose in other forum. I’m an amateur runner with some marathon experiences. Pose methods, I indeed have experience and researched. I could not think any elite Pose marathoners in the world. Maybe I’m missing some! Maybe I’m missing Russian runners. To naked eye with no endurance running, Pose is too good to resist. It’s like a magic feeling where I have been not knowing this magic. I probably wrong but have you ever tried to qualify BG with Pose methods?
    I may not be qualified to argue with your expertise regarding Pose. But where is the beef, the actual result with respect to marathon distance endurance? with short distance, irrelevant.
    Nowadays, without controversy nobody pay attention to the given subject. New York Times, good model! I only guess but I feel sad why Dr. Mark wrote this even though his writing generous, knowing the nature of beast. This is only amateur opinion. I didn’t mean to offend you.

    • MarkC says:

      Tyson, Jon,

      this is a blog and the fun of blogs is open discussion where we all learn something new and ask questions/clarify things.

      My purpose is not to specifically critique a method, but rather to highlight what I think are the key principles in an efficient running gait. I think all methods including Pose do a huge service to draw attention to the risks and inefficiencies of the heel strike/overstride pattern.

      above all having an experienced and intuitive coach as Jon is can help fix movement patterns in the way the athlete needs.

      why did I write this….I get questions constantly and have read the pose materials, watched the videos, been through the site, practiced the techniques, and watched a presentation. This is more than someone purchasing it over the web will likely get. Most will not have a coach and are simply trying to run healthier. So I felt it fair at least to comment on the principles as written and compare it with ours. That is all. In no way claim to be a Pose expert. Just doing what a reader of our site or Pose site would have access to.

      Here is an interesting study on Pose. See The abstract .
      The global change in running mechanics associated with 12 weeks of instruction in the pose method resulted in a decrease in stride length, a reduced vertical oscillation in comparison with the control group and a decrease of running economy in triathletes.
      Found a detailed post from 2007 from Ross Tucker at the Science of Sport if one wants to read deeper into all this. He too was trying to learn the way any of us would but also had the luxury of some personal instruction by Romanov.
      Read here.
      have enjoyable runs today…beautiful morning here in WV. thank you for the time to comment on the site.

      Mark

  16. Tyson park says:

    Dr. Mark,
    I have no excuse but apology my second post. I didn’t mean that way. I’m one of your follower even before your website started. I still value your opinion highly even though now I have some different view of running techniques. Thanks for your initial education for my understanding of endurance running knowledge. Now, I discovered, to me at Lear, new techniques mostly based on my backgrounds of other athletic and actual barefoot living experience between 1945 to 1951 under the North Korean Commies forced life. I had lived, worked, labored and among others under a constant hunger when I was young. Teaching and practicing martial arts in barefoot and living in barefoot all these years. It turned out huge advantages for barefoot for escaping from pains and injuries. I told the group I engaged with barefooters that I actually have more barefoot experiences than barefoot Ted and Ken Bob combined. They called me,”Crackpot” which I accepted. Slowly, they now realizes the truth. I completed last year SF marathon of mynfirst barefoot marathon with only three oaths training. It sounds like a another crackpot! But true. I was able to use my whole body as a spring or suspension instead of leverage. I was built in my body through my years MA practice and teachings. I have researched that aspect in science basis. My concept is roughly, running economy is elastic recoil( I learned from you first time) over mass(center of mass). I try to harness ER energy mainly with core, instead of ankle or leg.
    As to POSE, Colorado State University researched after Dr. Noakes research found that aftet 5 r 12 weeks run that the injury rate increased 8 % higher!

  17. Melanie Pittam says:

    Dr Mark,

    Just to let you know that for nearly two years I struggled with reading all the different explanations of how to run barefoot!

    I didn’t actually ‘get it’ until I watched and read your advice and slowly but surely it all fell into place.

    When it’s right ‘you just know’.

    Thank you
    Melanie

  18. Patrick says:

    Dr. Mark

    Great to finally see some debate on these topics. I agree with many but not all of your critiques of the Pose method. On the other hand this is pretty complicated biomechanics and people are overestimating thier ability to get the physics right :)

    I’d like to add a few points and questions.

    1) On a flat surface, the only two external forces resisting forward motion are air resistance and any backward ground force generated when the foot hits the ground. Wind resistance is minimal compared to the other forces that the body has to deal with so we can forget about that. The backward ground reaction force is minimized if the foot sweeps along the ground at the same rate as the center of mass (COM) is moving forward. This is perhaps most easily achieved with the foot strike roughly under the COM but slight deviations from this can probably be compensated for.

    With these two backward forces eliminated, no large forward force is needed, gravitational or otherwise, unless you are accelerating or going uphill. This is highschool physics and Newton’s first law. I think the Pose guys are right in saying that you don’t have to push yourself forward though not because gravity does it for you but because there is really nothing pushing you backwards. I think the argument about the glutes or any other muscle being needed to push you forward is incorrect. the vast majority of the muscle energy is used to counteract gravity and to simply keep the legs moving at the rate that the ground is moving underneath.

    2) You advocate thrusting the leg down to the ground with the glutes to get more bounce of the leg off the ground. I question the logic of using extra energy in the glutes to gain spring energy elsewhere. Maybe, but you would need to show that the extra energy used in the glutes is balanced by the spring action elsewhere. I think you may be overstating how springy muscles really are. Yes they are springy and it is a wonderful image when running. But they are also very dissapative – we are not running on pogo sticks.

    3) Perhaps the downward thrust of the glutes applies mainly to faster paces. Following your logic it depends on how high you need to lift the foot. In fast running, the foot needs to pop up high to reduce the lever arm of the leg. In an easy run, I work on letting the foot drop under the body (pose style I guess) mindful that the glutes need to activate on impact to prevent collapse in the pelvis and torso. What do you think?

    4) I am getting frustrated at those lack of discussion about slow runs, which is what most non competetive runners (i.e. most runners!)do (8-10 min. miles). When there is some discussion of slow running, principles that apply to faster paces quickly take over. Your video, which I think is one of the best on the web, shows mostly fast paces. I which I could run 5 minute miles, but I and 99.9% of runners cannot. On the other hand, I love to work on form just as much as you competative runners. As in my previous point, I think the biomechanics is quite speed dependent. What do you think? Can you post something and or send a link devoted exclusively and in depth with slow paces?

    -Patrick

    • MarkC says:

      Patrick,

      thanks for the thoughtful piece. when I have more time will try to comment further. on the slow running the glutes still fire the trigger but gently….at least this is what I sense. this sends the foot to the ground in the right direction but with less force than the faster pace. you have it right that the core needs to be strong and stable no matter what the pace. I do most of my running real mellow and use the same muscles and patters…so on the rare day I need to go fast the strength and pattern is there. just need to trust it and let it go and open the stride more.

      all the best in your running

      Mark

  19. Dev sharma says:

    Dear Dr.Mark,
    I am a new runner and I thank you for a very insightful article.I request you to comment on chi running as well.There are many running techniques which are marketed aggressively and a new running enthusiast like me get confused.If I my understanding is correct a new runner must
    1.Try to understand lean and use it.
    2.Be relaxed and do not push hard.
    3.Do not over stride.
    What I am confused is about pose and form,because of reading too many techniques.I like your 123 video but sound is not working.
    Please explain pose and form in a simple manner so that a new runner can understand and apply it.
    Regards
    Dev

  20. Mark says:

    99.999% of runners are extremely stiff in the Achilles area, hence it’s impossible to take advantage of the elastic recoil from the elastic elements. Do you seriously feel like your achilles are working in the same manner as rubberbands (compliance) when you run. I very much doubt it. The more you run on hard surfaces the greater the stiffness increases.

    • Mark says:

      Only the VERY, VERY TOP track & field athletes, the World record holders, such as in triple/long/high jump, guys like Johnathon Edwards, Carl Lewis, Usain Bolt etc were only some of the very few who took full advantage of the elastic sytem.

      Did you know that consuming energy products/drinks (sugars) that many millions of runners consume DEGRADES collagen (elasticity)?. Your elastic potential. There are around 7-13 teaspoons of sugar in most energy drinks.

  21. Michael says:

    Your discussion of gravity could use a little fine tuning, in my view. Consider this Pose runner’s video at the 1:11 minute.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pv-qCjYgjM&list=UUsi3-boHPXWjyBFGi45avgQ

    He is moving forward without pushing from the ground, just leaning and lifting his heels. If you multiply this by 180 times per minute, he’ll be moving along pretty well.

    Lee Saxby strikes the middle ground between your approach and the Pose method, saying that both gravity and muscle movement contribute to the running stride. I think there’s something to be said for his Golden Mean.

    Mike

  22. Michael Wilson says:

    You argue that gravity cannot propel the body forward. But if you look at around the 1:10 mark of this video, you’ll see this Pose coach moving forward without pushing off the ground and using only gravity.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pv-qCjYgjM

    If you multiply that by 180 fs/min, you’ll be moving along pretty quickly without pushing off the ground.

    You often cite Lee Saxby as a source for natural running. Saxby advocates the 50/50 use of gravity and muscles to propel the runner forward. His approach offers a compromise that is well worth considering.

    • MarkC says:

      Michael I love Lee and his teaching. agree there is a TON of elastic return in running and that gravity pushing us DOWN will propel us if we aim the slingshot correct. this is different than a free fall forward. Did you watch the lead pack today in NYC? perfect balance, posture, rhythm, and hip extension. Mark

  23. Michael Wilson says:

    Mark,

    I would add that Lee Saxby calls Dr. Romanov a “misunderstood genius” and a “brilliant man” who taught Saxby the “biomechanics of good forefoot running.” No small endorsement of the Pose Method.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr9ekM2mrFQ

    Thanks,

    Mike

    • MarkC says:

      Michael I love that Post teaches elasticity and gets folks out of overstriding. Maybe it can reduce injuries if done well….we do not know. No data. But to go faster you must get hip extension and use the glutes to apply more power to the ground to create a greater leap. “Pulling” from the hamstring will not create this effect. This is true IMHO. thanks for the comments. Mark


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