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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pose Running reduces running economy...the missing study

About 4 weeks ago, we ran a six-part series on running technique, evaluating the Pose and Chi methods for running. In that series, we looked at:

  • Whether there is a basis for teaching running as an activity, as opposed to letting "natural" technique evolve?
  • The philosophy of how we run
  • The biomechanics of Pose running
  • The Scientific evidence for changing a running technique
  • Some practical tips for improving your running without trying to make "wholesale" changes
  • Whether running techniques like Pose are marketed as medical products?
The conclusion from the series

That was an epic series (to write and to read, no doubt!), but basically our conclusions were:
  • Trying to make radical, wholesale changes to running technique is probably not the optimal way to go, for it simply transfers the point of loading on the skeleton to another area. Specifically, the research study discussed in Part III of the series (a study we were both involved in at UCT) found that 2 weeks of training caused the loading on the knee to be reduced, but the loading on the ankle increased.
  • This change in loading is linked to the numerous anecdotal reports of athletes developing Achilles tendon and calf muscle problems after learning Pose, anecdotes which were borne out by the follow up to that study (the part of the study that was never published, incidentally)
  • Our recommendation is to look for incremental changes in technique, rather than falling prey to common sense and sound biomechanics packaged as a miracle cure for injuries through marketing strategies

Of course, there are people for whom Pose or Chi will definitely work, and we say good luck to you! Because we all respond differently to training, some will of course thrive and be able to learn the technique and benefit from it. Whether these people would run just as well with normal running in a SUPERVISED manner has yet to be evaluated...

A new study comes to light...

Well, that heading is a little misleading, the study was there all along, but it was only thanks to Doug, one of our readers, that we actually discovered it. And today's post is a brief summary of this study, the abstract of which can be accessed here.

The only other study we were aware of was the one done at UCT in 2002 and published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2004. This study is discussed in detail in Part III of our series, but basically, it found that two weeks of Pose Training could alter biomechanics, the main changes being that the eccentric work on the knee was reduced, but the eccentric work on the ankle was increased. This study is referenced on the Pose website as support for the benefits of the technique.

The problem is that the eccentric work on the ankle does, in theory, increase risk of Achilles tendon injuries and calf muscle problems. And until now, that was the only study of which we were aware.

The new study - evaluating running performance after 12 weeks of Pose Training

So this study was done sometime before 2005 (the publication was in 2005 in Journal of Sports Sciences).

It took 8 triathletes, and had them do 12 weeks of Pose Training (a substantial increase on the training time from the UCT study), while another 8 triathletes kept up their normal running technique.

Before and after the 12 week training period, the triathletes were tested for kinematics (things like stride rate, length etc.) and for running economy (oxygen cost at a given running speed). The speeds they evaluated were 4:40/km and 4:00/km.

The findings - alterned kinematics and reduced running economy

The figure below shows the three key findings of the study. It looks at (from left to right):
  • Stride length
  • Vertical oscillation (up and down movement during the stride)
  • The oxygen cost of running at the tested speeds, which is a measure of running economy

So the first two panels, showing that Pose training decreased stride length and vertical oscillation, are no surprise - the same was found in the UCT study. The reasons for the shorter stride in the Pose technique were explained in Part II of our series, and basically has to do with the fact that the runner is not taught to drive the knee forward, but rather the pull the foot up with the hamstring. The natural consequence of this is a shorter stride, but a higher stride rate (since the speed has to be the same).

But the far right panel is most interesting. It shows that the oxygen cost of running was HIGHER after Pose Training - the running economy was thus reduced. What is the big deal with running economy? Well, it's one of the variables that often gets cited as being critical for running success. Generally, the best runners have the highest running economy (that is, lowest Oxygen cost of running at a given speed) - that's a gross oversimplification, but basically, the running economy is a measure of how effectively the athlete is able to use oxygen during running. Training improves running economy quite substantially, and all other things being equal (which of course, they never are!), running economy is one of the keys to success.

Therefore an increase in running economy is bad - any athlete aspires to go the other way, and reduce their oxygen cost of running at a certain speed. So this is not good news for Pose running. Not surprisingly, this particular study was never quoted on their website, and instead, only the UCT one is referenced (though even that is a dubious study because of the implications of the ankle work increasing!).

The problem with the study - did people learn the technique properly?

So now you have a debate - is this study (and the UCT one) to be believed as evidence against Pose? Of course, opinion will be split around that one, but one thing that one has to recognize is that many will say that the training period is insufficient to produce the necessary adaptations. In otherwords, one might argue that in the research studies, the time period over which the technique was taught is insufficient. This was something that many people wrote in and said in the earlier series. They suggested that if there were problems, it was because people had not learned the technique yet.

That certainly might be an issue in the UCT study, where athletes learned the technique over a two week period. The problem is, the second study did it over 12 weeks.

Now, if you cannot learn a technique when you have one-on-one guidance and teaching for 12 weeks, then HOW is it feasible to promote the technique to individuals to learn using nothing more than a DVD, a weekend seminar and a series of books? People will argue that IF the athletes learned the technique properly, they'd have no injuries, and better economy. But as discussed in detail in the original series, the marketing (and selling) of a product that relies on the "user" to learn it does not seem feasible to me....

And further, I would argue that even the UCT study benefitted from guidance and expert supervision that is far beyond what most members of the public will ever receive through trying to learn Pose. This is even more the case in the second study, where for 12 weeks, athletes were given the very best advice and supervision. Yet still, Pose failed to show improvements. Now, any guesses for what might happen over a 2 day period, where you're one of perhaps 50 athletes, getting maybe 5 minutes of individual attention.

The conclusion

This study is an interesting one because it evaluates Pose from the other direction - having previously looked at injuries and kinetics, this looks at running economy, a basic but important variable. And Pose running does not, unfortunately, move it in the right direction.

This adds then to the argument that a wholesale change in running technique is unlikely to be the solution for most people, and we can only repeat the assertion from our series that says look at smaller changes, practical things and allow running technique to develop consciously, but not controlled.

Ross

26 Comments:

Anonymous said...

We know from before that, when starting POSE for the first time, runners should start slowly, as if they were beginners, and then build up, to avoid the calf and achilles soreness and injuries.

Having a single data point for oxygen consumption after 12 weeks, doesn't indicate or predict what the trend was, at 12 weeks, and what it could be after 6 months.

Anonymous said...

Sorry my questions/comments are coming quite late. I appreciate your "opinion blog" even if it's just a blog, although sometimes, in spite that the posts are lengthy, I get the feeling that they aren't long enough, if you see what I mean. Some of the subjects aren't done justice by just scratching the surface.

I have some questions about your opinions on POSE.

In your POSE series, you compare POSE with "heel-strikers". In the POSE study (at their website), they indicate a third technique was also evaluated, by converting "heel" strikers to "mid-foot" strikers.

What was the point of their evaluating the 3 different running techniques? Could their be an advantage to stop "heel-striking" from an injury or performance point of view?

You mentioned that calf soreness and achilles problems are immediate side-effects of switching to POSE. I'm battling a mild case of plantar fasciitis, and streching my calves seems to help. In your opinion, would switching to POSE aggravate or help cure plantar fasciitis.

-Ray

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

hey Ray and Anonymous

Thank you for your comments and question. I'll try to address them in turn.

Firstly, to Comment number 1. I hear you on the duration and the fact that 12 weeks may not reflect the changes in 6 months. but here's the problem - the technique, as it is promoted through the website, sold in the DVD's, the books and the seminars that are held all over the world, makes the claim that it will change running technique for the better.

Now, to the user, the runner who is captured by this "promise", the concept of having to devote more than 3 months of training (because you are saying that 12 weeks is not long enough) to change technique that MIGHT result in positive effects is absolutely ridiculous.

So the problem is not necessarily with the science or the data, but rather with the promise that's been sold. And your comment is nothing new - more than a few people wrote in previously saying exactly what you are saying. Someone even quoted from the book. But to me, to sell a "product" that works only 6 months in laughable - it's fraud. You'd have to have a VERY GOOD REASON for promoting something that long term, and I just don't see the evidence.

Quite frankly, if a team of coaches can't get it in 12 weeks working one on one with athletes in the most contrived situation possible, then it's not a worthwhile product.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Ray

Let me attempt to address your comments.

That original study was designed to compare the Pose method primarily with the Heel-strike method. But I was involved in that research study, and it was clear from the outset that there would be conflict regarding the differences between Pose and Midfoot running. That is to say, a lot of people were saying that Pose was nothing more than modified mid-foot running.

This was a perception that Romanov (Pose creator) wanted to change, and so the study was designed to look at mid-foot running as well - call it a 'control' of sorts.

The method that was actually involved was to make the volunteers run over a force plate in our biomechanical lab and land on the forefoot or midfoot. THe idea was to see whether simply landing differently produced the same result as two weeks of Pose Coaching. So it wasn't so much converting heel-strikers to mid-foot strikers, all that happened was that the runners were asked to run landing mid- or fore-foot.

As it turned out, they were slightly different, though midfoot and Pose both reduced vertical loading force and had other similarities. So in the end, it seemed that conscious mid-foot striking was somewhere in between heel striking and Pose, as it were.

I don't believe the change from heel to either mid or Pose reduces injury. Unless some can show that conclusively, but up to now, there's no evidence of that. The only evidence that exists shows the exact opposite, and then the Pose Advocates dispute the study. But they gladly say that 2 days of Pose training and a book will work...doesn't make sense to me.

To answer your question on the plantar fasciitis, my gut feel is bad idea to change the technique. Again, advocates will say that IF you get the technique right 100%, it will help. But the process of learning it will cost you perhaps 6 months of running and if you make an error and don't get it right, then you'll aggravate it, because you'll be loading the calf so much more. And that's definitely undesirable, because the calf and plantar fascia affect one another. So I'd steer clear of it - rather strengthen the fascia, work on flexibility and address training as the first port of call.

Hope that helps!
Ross

Anonymous said...

Hi Ross,

In this case, I'm both Ray and Anonymous. I understand your point about the DVD, and the weekend training, and I wasn't challenging that. Sorry I finished the first post without really asking my question. My unasked question was more along the lines of, can we rule out that, in the 12 week study, the oxygen consumption got worse for, say 8 weeks, while we learned the new technique, and strengthened under-used muscles and joints, and then the last 4 weeks, it was getting better again? After all, I guess the control group kept building on their existing form, while the new group may have temporarily been set back because of the change in training technique.

I didn't read the study (sorry), but were there more oxygen measurements than just at the end of 12 weeks?

Thanks,
Ray

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Ray

Good question, the study didn't evaluate running economy progressively over the 12 weeks of intervention. So therefore you may well be correct that it was on the way up.

In the full text article, there are numerous references to a "complete adaptation" so my impression is that the authors themselves felt that 12 weeks was sufficient for full adaptation and it would not thus improve any more. But that is speculative. I think it is telling that they didn't argue the point you've raised.

The main reason, incidentally, for the increased running economy, according to the paper is that the subjects were already running with what is described as an optimal stride rate.

They discuss extensively that optimal stride rate is between 2.8 and 3.0 steps per minute, and put forward the hypothesis that the reason Pose worsened economy is because the atheltes already had this optimal rate and so no further improvements were possible.

Their assertion is that if the athlete has a stride rate less than optimal, then they'd benefit.

I must say I'm sceptical, it comes across quite heavily as an attempt to paper over a crack, much as the first study tried hard to gloss over the increased loading on the ankle by saying the onus was on the runner to learn the technique properly. If they are correct, then all that a runner needs to do is chop the stride length in order to make it faster...

But it's an excellent point you bought up, I actually think that the paper would have been stronger if they'd argued this instead of what they tried to do, which is, in my opinion, a pretty weak argument.

Thanks!
Ross

Anonymous said...

Did they claim the optimal stride rate 2.8-3.0 steps per minute? That seems kind of slow. That's 1 step every 20 seconds.

-Ray

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hello Ray

You're onto me!!! That was a mistake - it was meant to say 2.8 to 3.0 steps per SECOND, not per minute. Sorry about that, just a mis-type on my part. The stride rate is then 90 strides per minute, or 180 steps, depending on how you count it.
Thanks for pointing that out, my mistake!

Ross

simon said...

Guys, the 'missing study' showing that Pose reduced running economy...well I hunted that down last YEAR -- as a simple search of the Pose forums would have revealed.
Here's a link to the thread in which I was mugged and mauled for daring to ask the question, "Why is there no mention of the study -- in which Dr Romanov himself participated -- on the Pose site?"
As you'll see from the comments this question was never answered, but instead eventually elicited the "official" response that running economy was a poor measure of the effectiveness or efficiency of the Pose Method.
I did than pose the obvious question, "Then why did Dr R run a study to measure it?" but finally had to just stop posting before aggravated Posers started coming round to my house. :)

simon said...

Forgot the link:
http://forums.posetech.com
/showthread.php?t=15768&hig
hlight=running+economy

or go to
forums.posetech.com
and run a
search on 'running economy'

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Simon

Thanks for that Simon, very interesting. That study got lost in the scientific circles, or at least we were unable to find it through the usual database searches. Probably should have looked through the Pose forums though...

Anyway, I share your experience with the Pose advocates. The argument becomes circular with the perception changed to suit the belief. IN the case of that first study, which is so prominently displayed as "PROOF", they have conveniently omitted to acknowledge the ankle problems that result. Even in response to this article and the previous series, I was told the ankle issue was trivial - all it required was a little bit of careful training.

Well, the reality is that for any runner, and any running technique, if you train right you will avoid injury. The biggest cause of injury is incorrect training, and it seems Pose is the same. So then why the need for Pose? It doesn't add up at all. The only reason you would consider Pose, given that it doesn't necessarily reduce injury risk, is for improved performance. Yet the only study on that shows impaired running economy, conveniently swept under the carpet.

It's flagrant marketing, and people will not listen, they've been sold into the 'cult' of the technique. So well done for standing up and putting your argument forward, more people need to do what you tried to do!

Thanks for reading and join us again!
Ross

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your "bubble popping" approach, especially when it calls attention to commercial conflicts of interest. My caution to you is, however, stick with the science and don't fall into the trap of making ungrounded assertions.

As someone who has adopted the Pose/Chi method, I was interested to read the cited study, and to see that the method was being studied. But, I was most turned off by the dismissiveness of your comments that Pose is to be thrown out due to the results of one study. Your words read as if you have been looking for a way to bash Pose and finally found it in the cited study. (The mere use of words like "absolutely ridiculous" makes my hair stand on end.)

In the same vein, I have stopped reading the Pose website because of 1) the marketing elements, 2) the 'true believer' hero worship among the writers and forum participants, 3) the lack of scientific explanations (Romanov often confuses perception with physics), and 4) the suggestion present there that I should either follow the method exactly or be damned for eternity. (In short, I agree with your questioning the idea that the method must be exactly followed for it to work at all.)

Nevertheless, I think that the method is right. It took me 6 to 9 months to feel like I really had it down. I have no measurements of my oxygen consumption, but I do have significantly faster times, despite a past year of disrupted training. Best of all, I am injury free. Orthopedically, I feel no more strain than during my days when I was bicycle racing (exclusively). The end result of this, is that I can train more (now that the disruptions are gone). I am up to about 80km a week and feeling great). Similarly , a running friend has finally rid himself of knee and hip trouble that plagued him for years. He is, indeed, having some minor ankle issues during the conversion, but they seem now to be lessing. But, hey, this is all anecdotal, and no science (full disclosure).

So, just a wee bit of science: 1) The difference in the oxygen consumption rates is only marginally statistically significant, in light of all other variables that need to be controlled for. 2) It is just one study involving only 16 subjects, that needs to be independently verified. 3) It lasted just 12 weeks and, as has been pointed out, there were no intermediate measurements of the oxygen consumption. 4) The measured oxygen consumption as reported is an aggregated value, which obscures gains and losses by individual athletes. 5) The athletes in the study come to the study with a variety of running styles and experiences, which further relativizes gains or losses.

You may wish to dismiss the idea that one needs more than 12 weeks (or 6 months or whatever), but you will surely admit that a longer term study in intermittent measurements of oxygen consumption would be a better study. What do you say to the common wisdom among marathoners that it takes about 3 years of marathon-level running to develop a true "roll", i.e. the rolling from heel to ball that is said to be needed for heel strikers so that they can run efficient and injury free?

In my book, the science is still out. I am in no way saying that this study is bogus, but I do insist on seeing it verified. And I certainly refrain from seeing some major confirmation or major discrediting of the Pose/Chi method.

Whatever the result, I sure as hell know I will never go back to heel-striking. Pose/Chi has saved me from a lot of pain.

I really like your website, and I most encourage you to keep up the good work. Please don't spoil it by making essentially the same error you accuse others of making: e.g. biased assertions (whether driven by commercial interests or not) that are not backed up by science. It may be a blog, but your credibility is just as much at stake all the same.

Cheers!

P.S. Please don't write off my comments as just a Pose-freak trying to defend him. My criticisms of Romanov and Pose are found above. I just want to see serious, considered argument, which is what I thought your site was about.

P.S. I think that the biggest problem that Romanov might have is that Pose isn't all that different from a good Ball-Striking style. He points out how he found a group of high-level African runners, who he believed were running Pose (without having learned it). He showed them videos of Pose runners and analysed them against videos of the Africans. The Africans saw little or no similarity in their running styles. Second, many coaches advocate a high stride rate (at or above 180), and many champions (short, mid, & long distance incl. marathon) have stride rates that are above 200. Third, many coaches advocate ball-striking for faster, more efficient running. Fourth, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Physics can see that landing significantly in front of the center of gravity is going to introduce braking action (i.e. inefficiency). Heel landing indisputably has more of this--that's just basic physics. The interesting question here is whether Pose is better than other ball-strike methods. The only thing that Romanov has going is a relatively simple (3 elements) method to get you to do these things.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Dear Anonymous

Thank you very much for your thoughtful, considered and detailed comments. Far from being offended, I am delighted to hear from you - you are exactly the type of reader who we'd like to think we attract - discerning, thoughtful and up for a debate. So it's wonderful to hear your feedback and thoughts.

If I might begin by responding that I actually agree with much of what you have said. However, our objective here is to stimulate the debate, and so we don't wish to straddle both sides of an argument too much for fear of losing out on the ability to bring the science to life - I trust that makes sense a little? My experience in marketing and business has shown that you have to commit to a message, whereas my experience in science teaches that you often end up saying "Under the current study conditions/given the small sample size/with the acknowledged limitations etc"!!!

So to address the scientific points you raise as "a wee bit of science", agreed on all counts. But this is not a scientific review of the literature.

In fact, and this is perhaps the most important thing I'd like to raise in response, this post was THE SEVENTH of a series of posts looking at Pose Running. In my opinion (if I may say so), I believe it is one of the most objective analyses done on the Pose technique anywhere. I'm not sure if you read the previous 6 posts. Perhaps I can give a little bit of background to the series.

I began wishing to do a single post on the topic of running technique. About a paragraph in, I realised that it was too vast a topic to cover in one post and it grew into a FOUR PART series. We then received some good feedback and questions, and so we added Posts FIVE AND SIX. I then received another email from a reader and we did Post SEVEN.

So the post you read is the final one in a series. And the comment you referred to, where I said it was "absolutely ridiculous" should not be taken out of context - it was a follow on from a debate that had begun after my second post of the series.

It became instantly clear to me from the feedback and from the research I was doing, that the issue here was not so much with the technique, but with the marketing.

In fact, I am a qualified Pose Coach - did the course in 2002 when Romanov came to Cape Town to do the first Pose Study. I was the 7th person in the world to get accreditation to teach the technique. However, after trying to implement the method, it soon became clear that in the athletic population I was working with (high level performance driven athletes) the technique was not feasible. So I abandoned the idea of trying to teach a new running technique in a structured manner. Instead, the drills are now integrated into the training programmes, which I've found to work far better.

The reasons for all this? They are covered in the previous posts - in particular, Post 3 and Post 4 deal with my experiences, the first study on Pose done in South AFrica where both Jonathan and I were involved.

If you read those posts, you'll see that I actually acknowledge that the principles on which Pose are based are sound. The theory is there, and I have said numerous times in my posts that I believe that if one can learn the technique, then you would be fine. However, there is still no evidence that it works to prevent injury or to improve performance.

But the key, take home message of the series was that the 'packaging' of the technique is the issue, not the technique itself. So my comments about "ridiculous claims" have been somewhat taken out of context. I can only encourage you to read through the series and you'll see that i have attempted to address both sides of the argument as thoroughly as possible, both as a scientist and as a marketer, which I am trained to do in both instances.

I'm not sure if that addresses your concerns? As I said early on, our objective was always to stimulate debate and we like things to work both ways. So in this, we have a great example of how our readers have given us feedback which has then steered our future posts in a certain direction. Here, we received feedback after the first 4 posts that led us into picking apart the marketing angle - you'll see one post where I've analysed Pose as though it is a medical product...that is entirely based on our reader feedback.

And I suspect that having read Post 6, you've picked up on that sentiment, admittedly at the expense of a little bit of the science, which we do regret. But it may be a little out of context unless you consider all the posts - there are TWO studies on Pose, neither of which is very supportive of the technique, for example.

But again, this is the type of debate we thrive on, and as I read your comments a second and third time, I'm delighted we can count you as a 'fan' because we want this sort of intellectual discussion.

So thank you, and please do keep reading!

Ross

christopher said...

i'm a level II pose method coach and while diving into this debate could easily devour an incredible amount of time, all to no avail, i'd just like to add this: try jumping rope, normally, on the balls of the foot, with bent knees and ankles; then try it on your heels, with straightened legs. the body functions nicely as a spring when it's aligned properly. this springy position is the support point in pose running. this is a very natural position in sport, in general -- golf, tennis, skiing, etc.

secondly, chi running is not pose running. at best is a poor knock off. pose is a complete system of running, with scientific references. some do not agree with romanov's stance, but people thought einstein (and others) were out of their minds when they proposed radical ideas.

third, wholesale change isn't for everyone, but, for instance, it was important for tiger woods, some years back. most aren't interested in subscribing to and practicing a system of anything. americans, and probably others, exist in atheltic medicority, by and large. ours is a culture of recreation and not proficiency. no one learns guitar in 12 weeks, no one learns to ride a motorcycle in 12 weeks, no one learns to swim in 12 weeks and no one should expect to learn to run in 12 weeks. running, as any similar pursuit is a lifelong devotion. it can become a zen meditation, worthy of years of effort to master. what is life without mastery of self and chosen disciplines? running mindlessly -- the easy way out -- does not lead to mastery, rather it leads to injury, more often than not.

i am no longer associated with romanov or pose, per se, but the method is sound, and teachable. teachers can be good and bad, but so can students. blaming a method for someone's misunderstanding or inablility to teach / master it would destroy many of the sports and arts we enjoy. i teach the method because it is the only system that is complete, published, understandable -- but difficult, at times -- and elegantly simple. i use it because it works. i run in what amounts to slippers, on any terrain and have had no injures from running since i've employed the method. prior, i had all of the typical runners' ailments. am i faster? maybe, maybe not. doesn't matter, really -- speed is about one's willingness to simply run fast. that said, we compete against our physiological peers. on a good day i'm faster, on a bad one, slower. the mothod is still worth mastering, because while others are thinking about how much they're suffering, i'm chanting to myself, "pose, fall, pull," trusting that this will reinforce my skills, so tomorrow i'm better than today.

the argument can last a lifetime. as a coach i'd say to anyone, learn pose, learn chi, learn evolution running. get jack daniels' book, hire a pose detractor to train you. just explore running and see for yourself what works best. when evaluating a system consider occam's razor and einstein's pronoucnement to make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. pose, fall, pull -- that's simple, but not so easy.

Anonymous said...

I just came across this discussion of Pose running and reference to the study I did on that topic and published in 2005. Let me make a few points in that regard.

The majority of the subjects were very experienced runners with only a few exceptions. They were pre-screened for an existing heel striking pattern as well. The Pose Method group clearly became less economical during the training period, however 7 of 8 also anecdotally reported improved running performances (races, training splits , etc) during the learning period. This was intriguing to us and so we did a little follow-up likert scale survey after the study which confirmed those observations - not publishable science as we had not planned on doing so in the original investigation design. Those results were distributed to the USA Triathlon certified coaching group in a coaching report at the time. Most treatment subjects also experienced some degree of calf soreness in the first few weeks which resolved in most cases by the 3rd-4th week. One athlete clearly struggled with the technique and had additional physical problems - interestingly enough he was also a marginal attendee at the practice sessions. 7 of 8 treatment subjects showed worse economy, however the least experienced athlete in the group improved. The follow-up surveys with the treatment group also suggested that some injuries had resolved with the technique change (in particular two cases of plantar fasciitis of long duration) and that 7 of 8 would continue using the new method in spite of the conflicting economy data. Finally one should consider that we tested the athletes on treadmills . After long term analysis I feel like the pose method effectiveness overland is negated to some degree in treadmill running because the moving belt makes it more energy efficient to stay on support longer. An early treadmill based economy study from the Cavanaugh group actually showed the most economical runners to be heel strikers on the treadmill. Finally I think we have to remember that large scale motor skill changes in highly "trained" individuals clearly take years versus days, weeks or months to become the dominant motor pattern. This might imply that large scale changes also introduce worsened economy even as they enhance mechanics and external work capacity in the short run. In my own experience it took several years to make this technique "automatic" meaning I did not have to think about it to produce it. In retrospect we should have included a performance trial and used overland economy analysis.

Finally I will point out that Graham Fletcher,a member of our research team, has since produced and replicated a relatively simple study illustrating the beneficial effect of pose method technique change on running peformance. Basically they show that a week of pose method training improves 1.5 mile run time in experienced runners using a two group design. As his dissertation work the data is not yet in publication but will be eventually.

For my own purposes I have found that the change in technique can be created more quickly by using barefoot running in small amounts combined with regular use of the key pose method drills. Barefoot or minimalist shoe running appears to create a condition whereby the technique occurs without much need for conscious regulation - I believe because it actually represents the way we have evolved and become hard wired to run over the span of human evolution.

George Dallam

Chimpunzee said...

I am new to running, and was talked into trying the pose method by a runner friend. Because of my short history with running, I don't have the same issues about retraining my instincts that habitual runners might.

Anyway, it is too soon to say whether pose will make a difference for me. What I will say is that while the core ideas make sense to me (landing with the support under the runner instead of in front, and of keeping a flexed leg to act as a shock absorber), the techniques and training regimen seem overly elaborate mostly as a means of selling more training materials.

The pose method book spends the first 100 pages telling you how great the technique is before it finally gets to the technique itself. The book and the very expensive DVD don't really lay out a training program -- it gives many exercises, but doesn't say how many reps how often, for how many weeks, etc. It just says one must master these 50 exercises.

Finally, the thing that really sets of the BS meter is Romanov's assertion that gravity is "free energy" doing the work of running -- "just lean forward, and gravity will pull you forward, and simply let your foot fall to become your new support."

No, gravity isn't an energy, it is a force, in the same way a stretched rubber band is.

Imagine applying this logic to cycling. Put a small wheel on the front of my bike and a large one on the back, and it propel itself forward without needing to pedal. "Just lean forward".

Thanks for the great discussion.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Pose coach or a very experienced runner but I had a question/comment. I have recently purchased Newtons shoes and have switched to a foreoot strike. I have tried the Pose drills and although they seem to be helpful for strength work on the ankles and calves, I just do not feel natural letting my hamstring do all the work lifting my leg. I was recently watching the Olympic track trials (I was an above average sprinter in high school but nothing of note) and all the athletes from the 100 to the 10,000distances seem to strike on their forefeet, but do not lift their legs as taught in Pose. Am I wrong? I feel the most effective way for me to change from heel striking has been to let my legs lift using my hams, hip flexors and quads, let my foot land under me, lean forward, strike on the balls of my feet and go! Perhaps I will be laughed at for such an amateur, simplistic approach. However, perhaps running is in our genes and overthinking it can also be a problem.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for the question.

I certainly would not be laughing at you for this approach, I think it's pretty much spot on! I don't think one should oversimplify, and I certainly don't wish to dismiss the effect of "skill" and technique on running, but I agree that one can overthink the issue too much.

And as you'll have seen from the rest of this series on running technique, when you start to package common sense in a product, then you run into that problem (literally!). Remember that everyone who comes along with an idea and wants to sell it must create some novelty in order to stand out among the "clutter". Therefore, the temptation and incentive is there to create the most novel, "revolutionary" thing you can, and that's why so much nonsense exists in the world

Every novel idea moves us further and further away from the "Truth", and sometimes we need to go backwards, not forward, to find answers.

So keep up the running and don't worry too much about form, just work at it systematically and let the rest happen naturally.

Regards
Ross

Anonymous said...

Well put and thanks for the unput. Actually, I suppose I do actually work on my form quite a bit. I do think there is something to be said to letting your body do what is natural. I do not mean an unwillingness to correct errors in form however. Would you agree with my amateur observation about the Olympic athletes? The forefoot strike seems natural to me, as does the fowward lean, but trying to perform each leg lift during gait an "isolation exercise" for the hammies seems odd to adapt to for me. Of course it is impossible to avoid any glute, flexor and quad action all together, but I do not understand why would we should limit their use. When I watched the men's and women's races at the O-trials the other day, I saw a lot of dynamic leg drive...they were light on their feet, but the entire lower body was driving their leg turn over, again from what I saw and most of my athletic experience as a part-time strength coach comes from the weightroom, not the track or road. Thanks.

Paul said...

Hi there,

first I'd like to say that this is a great blog, and I especially like that there are many reader comments.

I would like to make a comment, or rather it will probably turn out to be a question, about the time scale over which running economy improves. Unfortunately, at my institute (I'm a physicist) I don't have access to many of the papers referenced above, so I haven't read the article in question.

However, I was under the impression that running economy or efficiency is a parameter that improves quite slowly, on a time scale of years. (I can't offer a peer-reviewed reference, but I lead you to a website of Stephen Seiler, http://home.hia.no/~stephens/timecors.htm). Much slower than other parameters, such as VO2max, or the lactate turnover point.

So I am wondering if the 12 weeks of this study allow enough time for any changes in running economy to be seen. Certainly they see a short time-scale effect, a decrease in running economy. However, lets assume that the subjects were already well adapted to there own running technique before the study took place. Then they learnt a "completely" new running technique. Should we not expect that they are not as well adapted to this new technique (in the 12 weeks), and so we see the decrease in running economy. However, if they continue to use the new technique over a much longer time-scale, that they might see their running economy increase back to its previous level.

So I guess my question is what is the time-scale over which running economy improves, and did this study take that into account?

Great blog, Thanks.
Paul

bookworw said...

Thanks for a thought provoking blog!
I’m not trained in “pose” technique but have been attempting to convert to running on the balls of my feet for some time now so this topic is interesting to me – my reference being “The Triathlete’s Guide To Run Training” by Ken Mierke.
My full time profession for the last 20 years is Alpine ski coaching at the highest level, so my perspective on things might be a little different.
First of all I’d like to point out that after 6 months of erratic (on/off) winter running my calves still get very painful at distances (10 to 20km) that would not have bothered me at all before. I accept this partly as a consequence of poor training and partly due to my own anatomy.
I’d just like to deal with a couple of interesting points I picked up from previous posts: First, the confirmed Pose Level 2 instructor quote:“this springy position is the support point in pose running. this is a very natural position in sport, in general -- golf, tennis, skiing, etc.”
Funny how convincing theories can appear to be! This “springy” position is NOT the best way to stand on skis – although you will find most ski instruction manuals thoughtlessly insisting that it is. To cut a long story short, imagine a Telemark skier turning – his support leg is pushed forward and the pressure goes down through the HEEL. The Alpine skier should not be far off this either. Sure, you can stay up on the ball of the foot – but if you try to flex the ankles (as normally prescribed) then you are deep trouble – though you probably won’t know why. (Imagine a Telemarker again if it helps).
Second quotation to deal with: “I do think there is something to be said to letting your body do what is natural.” Couldn’t disagree with anything more than this. If you don’t teach a baby to walk it simply never will. Let’s just leave that one there for now.
Third quotation “No, gravity isn't an energy, it is a force, in the same way a stretched rubber band is.” Wrong again! Gravity is not a force it is a geometrical effect (Einstein). I haven’t a clue how that can help but it is interesting!
My main reason for writing here is because I run irregularly through the winter often in various depths of snow and on ice and often in the dark with a headlight and at temperatures frequently down to -20°C and with tungsten spiked shoes (toe and heel). With my standard heal striking this meant regularly twisting my ankles when I was tired or inattentive. Since learning to run on the balls of the feet I have never had my ankle twisted again – and this is a big deal for me. I notice that in the discussion so far no-one seems to have considered the issue of off-road running and extreme conditions. The raised heel on standard running shoes – is a nightmare when running fast on stony trails. I can vividly remember the sensation of my tendons ripping when a stone pitched my foot over on its side on a heel strike with shoes like that. The sensation I get with landing on the ball of the foot in low profile shoes is that all my foot muscles are instantly activated and my ankle supported and protected as a result. It is like I can feel my way actively with an intelligence in the feet. Makes it very hard for me to consider returning to heel striking again!
Finally, if we go back to our Telemarker again – well yes the heel might be the strong base for a skiing stance – but if you can raise yourself slightly up on the ball of the foot, and hold the ankle strong (not making it springy and flexy) and keep the feet slightly ahead of the body – then the same feel of having active and intelligent feet is achieved. It became clear to me rather unexpectedly that running barefoot style is a great way to train the feet for skiing - so I’m actually agreeing with the Pose level 2 instructor – but not in a dogmatic way.
I have suffered surgery several times on my lower spine due to severe disc problems. Over time it became apparent to me that my lower back is rather flat and lacking the slight hollow curve needed for good and safe alignment. I now realise that this issue probably developed from my running with a heel strike and walking with a pronounced forward reach of the leg. Those movements literally flatten the lower back. I’m amazed to find that running barefoot style completely changes my posture and automatically brings my pelvis into neutral position correcting the curvature of my lower back and significantly improving the mechanics of my movement.
Each time I go out and run I ask myself if I can be bothered with the calve pain that I will end up with or the restrictions I must tolerate by running this way. The trouble is I have already come across far too many significant benefits that very convincingly outweigh the negatives – so I persist.
After 23 full seasons of professional coaching skiing at every level, I’m progressing personally at a faster rate than ever in my own technical perception and my own skill levels and therefore my coaching ability – despite possessing the highest qualifications available for 20 years. What I’m saying is that 12 weeks in any sport is really dramatically insignificant and the scope of your perspective is way too narrow.

new runner said...

I have been wondering why heel strike is considered the automatic way to run. I know watching someone run barefoot is very different from someone running with cushioned shoes. I know the human body has developed over 1000's and 1000's of years. Considering modern day running shoes have only been around for about 40 years would'nt it seem that how we would run barefoot would be more natural. Even looking at the supporting muscles. On a heel strike the little anterior tib muscle is the main guy decelerating your foot down when you strike. Then the rest of the force goes through the bone and joints. While barefoot style the gastroc, quads, and glutes would act as the shock absorbers. Even looking at the type of muscle fibers in the leg gastroc and vastus lateralis and medialis have turned fibers creating for more crossectional fibers per area available. Allowing the muscle to create and probably take more force. I have been trying more of the midfoot to forefoot running and seem to be adapting well. the calves were very sore at first, but get less and less sore after every run.

Anonymous said...

I've been running for most of my life. Started at 10, won a couple AAU national titles, and competed at a high level in high school. Running form training was basically limited to arm position and keeping a relaxed jaw. Everything else just pretty much came naturally. I have a neutral gait, and stike on my heal firs, unless I'm climbing a steep hill. I recently found all this hype about Pose and Chi running and it peaked my interest. However; reading this blog with the data shown from the studies, I can't help but notice that this seems like a fad diet. If you look carefully at any fad diet, the "study's" all show the amazing results that work for everyone. However, following the program requires a very strict regimine. Then when the dieter eventually fails, they automatically assume it's because they didn't do it right, "I mean after all I did slip that day and have a snickers bar." It's the same thing here. Most people who read the book, or watch the DVD and then end up failing will likely account it to their own failings rather than a problem with the program, and most likely spend more money, buying more material or even coaching clinics. And because no one will every feel like they've trained diligently enough, the program will never be to blame. Con artist have been using this scheme for generations. They used to call it snake oil.

Anonymous said...

I was introduced to POSE thru Crossfit. I hated to run. Whenever the dailey workout had a 5k I would suffer through it. Then I learned POSE (had the sore calves etc). But what a difference it made for me. I actually enjoy running now. I feel athletic when I run. My times were actually slower for about three months. The hardest part for me was keeping a fast Tempo. When I get tired my tempo slows and I start to plod and heal strike. So for me it does mean I need to run more and longer to extend the time and distance that I can hold the "pose" technique.

Also something new for me is that I jog everywhere now. Car to the store, worksite to the store, whatever. It just feels good. BTW I'm 56 5'11" 200lbs, 12% bf.
Lee in NV

sfm said...

This talk about using gravity to run forward is nonsense (unless, of course, you are running downhill).
Pose running is simply running on your toes. That has obvious advantages and drawbacks. An advantage is softer contact which may benefit joints, drawbacks are the increased energy needed by the calves, and the added forces on tibia/talus.

Anonymous said...

I started Pose about a year ago. I soon heard of the benefits of barefoot running and tired to do both at the same time. I am 53 and have ran since 14. I was an overstriding heel striker so I had much to unlearn. After a year I am pleased with my running. I enjoy running and have a renewed passion I thought was forever gone. Pose was difficult for me but it finally came around. Barefoot running has been fun but most of my injuries and set backs have been due to it. Mainly by over doing it (to much to soon).

Anyone wanting to learn pose or barefooting should remember one thing. Take it slow. Retraining one's body to a point that a new technique becomes natural is a major undertaking.

To comment on the study. 12 weeks is long enough for the subjects to decide if they want to continue or not. To think this is enough time to pass judgement on the pose method is doing all concerned an injustice.