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Thursday, September 27, 2007

A personal experience with Pose

This has been a fantastic series and has generated many comments and much debate. We suspect this is because when you talk about something as close to people as their running, it is bound to strike a nerve! Running is a personal experience, and most of you probably run because of the vast benefits it brings you on a physical, personal, mental, and even spiritual level.

Having presented the scientific basis and principles of Pose and Chi running, and having weighed in on the pros and cons of teaching running technique, this post will approach this issue from only a practical and personal level to try to explain the implications of changing technique.

In the prior post Ross mentioned the mental cost of changing running technique, and also evaluated the injury aspect of running Pose. I volunteered to be a subject in the training study because at that time I was suffering from a soleus injury and was right in the middle of a peak training period for a November marathon. I was desperate to start running again. I learned the Pose style, and the best thing was that I was able to run pain free as the reduced impact eased the strain on my soleus muscle. I carried on, and a month later did a five km race in a time similar to pre-Pose. Therefore I figured I was not running any slower than before, and that with Pose I was at least able to maintain my prior running speeds.

I ramped up my training in my last month and ran the marathon with Pose. While I was aiming for something close to 2:40, I finished with a 2:52 and given that I missed my window of peak training load with the injury, I was happy with the performance result. However I was not happy with the patello-femoral pain syndrome I picked up in my right knee!

Did running Pose cause the injury? It is hard to say conclusively, but I had completed several marathons in similar times without any injuries. In addition, that was the first time I experienced that injury. Our hypothesis was that during normal gait the quadriceps muscles that help stabilize the patella become well trained in doing that, primarily because of the nature of running and how it loads the knee joint (see the previous post about eccentric loading of the knee and how it is reduced in Pose). In my 2.5 months of running with Pose, we think that I suffered some atrophy in those muscles, leading to a lesser ability to stabilize the patella. After 30 odd km and a considerable amount of fatigue during the marathon, I suspect that I fell out of Pose to some extent. . .and the quadriceps could not do their job and the result was the irritation on the patella.

After considerable rehab over a few months, I was back running Pose again, but then suffered from the psychological effects mentioned by another runner quoted in the last post:
  • "Since learning Pose, I can't relax and run anymore. I'm trying to just run naturally, but the training drills we did are still too fresh in my mind (this was 3 months afterwards, by the way). I try to switch off and just run, but it's too difficult. I can't seem to go back to how I used to run, but I'm not sure I'm doing Pose correctly either. It makes my running very difficult, I wish I could just switch off, forget what I was told and run, like I used to, for pleasure"
I tried to maintain Pose, but the mental cost was exhausting. Even when I stopped "trying" and just relaxed, I felt like I was doing Pose, and I quickly found myself in the same situation as the runner above---wishing I could just "switch off" and forget all that I was taught. Eventually I got my old and normal style back, although subsequently I have converted over to cycling as a primary sport.

So is Pose (or Chi) a good thing? As mentioned, applying it wholesale to the running masses likely will create more problems than solutions. Given a runner who has been diagnosed with a "bad gait," and perhaps experiences repeated injuries, I would go so far as to say that only after that runner has exhausted all other options should he or she even begin to think about a different technique. By this I mean that the runner should first get a proper training program that is sufficiently progressive so that he/she has ample time to adapt to the stresses of running. If repeated injuries still ensue, an alternative style of running might be an option. However, at the same time, perhaps an alternative activity should also be considered, as there are many other ways to stay active and keep your mind, body, and soul healthy and happy.