You Run Like Shit: Pose Arguments

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This is Part Two of a Pose Method series. Here’s Part One if you missed it. 

For a while after I discovered the Pose Method, I lived in a happy little bubble.  I was so excited about how fast I was beginning to run and how all my little aches and pains were dissipating as I was simultaneously increasing volume.  The amount of effort it took me to run at high speeds was coming down and my heart rate was staying much more consistent— especially on big climbs.  It all seemed perfect and everything made sense.  It was beautiful. All was right in my world.

Then I made the mistake of going on a comment thread on some stupid website and making a small, inconsequential comment about physics and running, without any specifics and certainly no mention of Pose. From there, a reader found my website, discovered I run Pose Method and then him and his angry cohorts proceed to spend about 15,000 words telling what a stupid fucking moron I was, complete with the phrases “google it” and “ask any physicist”. 

First, I was a little shocked.  I didn’t realize this kind of ire was out there.  I couldn’t possible fathom why people would be so upset about the Pose method. It didn’t make sense to me.  It’s not like it effects other people if I’m running Pose. At the very WORST, Pose gives us some tools to think about what were doing.  Someone isn’t going to misinterpret the Pose principles and go blow up and building or shoot somebody.  Why was it so polarizing?  I had to get to the bottom of it. 

So, I descended deep into the Pose-hater rabbit hole.  Like, to page 125 on the google search results deep.  And it was interesting.  It was great to read some of the well-crafted attempts at refutal.  A little bit unnerving that people waste THAT much time dissecting things that they don’t believe in or want to try, but hey, you gotta do you. 

One big problem that quickly became glaringly obvious: most Pose coaches don’t fully understand what they are teaching or they are unable to articulate it properly.  Sure, they can look at stride and point out inefficiencies and they probably have a solid grasp on what Pose running entails, but they can’t effectively argue the physics or biomechanics involved.  More often than not, they get pushed a little about the physics on a message board and they get angry and start spouting Romanov quotes and the discussion starts to turn away from physics into something much more dogmatic.  I for one, wish these people would stop. No one wants to hear about how you know the Pose Method is perfect because of how you feel. You’re making us all look stupid.

After my research, I believe that Pose skeptics/haters can be broken into one of three categories:

  1. The runner/running coach with a background in biomechanics and/or physics.  This person never actually finds anything wrong with Pose per se, but they don’t fully endorse it.  They will usually make a claim that Pose has “some good tenets” or say something about how the cues can be helpful, or that “most elite runners” show “pose principles at a high speed”.  But these guys are scientists and as such, can’t really be certain about anything.  They would all probably agree that running form is something we should be talking about and, from what I read, probably agree that Pose is the best technique being taught.  But it’s not perfect. 
  2. The entitled millennial who believes that they are super special and super unique and nobody— I mean nobody— has any idea what is best for them except for them.  They are beautiful snowflakes of individuality and if anybody has the fucking audacity to tell them how to run, they’ll be sorry.  They don’t have an argument beyond “google it, moron” but if they know anything for certain, it’s that you’re wrong. 
  3. The skeptic sniffing out any dogma, ready to pounce regardless of the topic.  Quick to call Pose runners “cult members”, etc. 

Let’s start with the people who are actually trying to have a discussion, understand that running technique is something that we should be talking about and attempting to use science to refute Pose principles.

The Physics:

Go on any running form message board where people are talking about Pose and you will see inevitably see a handful of comments that say something like this:

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A “giant joke”? What do you think the chances are this guy could actually articulate an argument against the Pose Method?  But someone else reads this crap and regurgitates it somewhere else and… well, you know. And why is the word physics in quotes like it’s some made up thing that doesn’t exist?

This is my big problem with comment threads— no one makes an argument.  “Google it” or “ask a physicist” is not an argument, but for some reason, people not only think it’s an argument, they actually waste their time posting it. 

Beyond the message boards, however, you can find some very intelligent people with an actual background in Physics or Biomechanics and they’re usually making one of three claims:

  1. Gravitational torque cannot provide horizontal linear momentum by itself.
  2. You MUST push off: ground reaction force is being ignored/seriously underestimated.
  3.  Your general center of mass travels upwards vertically after you leave support, which is contrary to falling.

Let’s run them down quickly….

1. Gravitational torque cannot provide horizontal linear momentum by itself.   

According to Newton’s Second Law of Motion:

“The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.” 

Dr. Romanov claims gravity is moving you forward, so how can that be?  As soon as your general center of mass (GCM) is in front of your support (leg on the ground), you’re producing angular rotational torque in a forward direction.  In other words, you’re falling forward, toward the floor in front of you, a fall that is cut short by your trail leg swinging through to the front, where you can recapture the Pose and fall again.  Many people erroneously believe that running is a continuous fall forward— you’re falling to regain your pose and fall again, linking these falls together is what we call “running”.

A lot of people making this argument believe that gravitational torque does provide horizontal momentum, just not enough to be the primary source of locomotion.  Which leads us to…

2. The push off argument: ground reaction force is being ignored/seriously underestimated.

The failure to account for the forward momentum created by rotational torque is usually combated with a some sort of force plate data (from some study that has less than 10 participants) showing that the force upon foot strike is equal to two or three times your body weight and so, according to the third law of motion, the ground reaction force (GRF) is equal to this and is the main cause of forward momentum, which essentially becomes the “push off argument.” 

This could be true.  It’s hard to believe that GRF is more responsible for forward movement than fucking gravity (smh) but there isn’t any definitive data on this (that I could find) in the form of a scientific study.  Even if it is true, it changes nothing about the Pose method.  Pose teaches a “pull” of your foot from the ground as opposed to actively attempting to propel yourself forward with a push.

My big problem with the GRF argument is that I still don’t see any evidence of an active push off.  Your body is impacting the ground with force, and this force is being redirected (by the springs that are your legs) and applied to horizontal (and possibly vertical) momentum.  The energy is there, there is no need to add extra muscular effort to this equation. That extra effort is simply wasting energy and increasing time on support.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Romanov’s 2006 book, Training Essays:

“Does [the push off] exist or doesn’t it exist?  Neither is right and neither is wrong, too… Basically, very simple things that push and pull exist in the same system of movement, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes separated by a fraction of a second. All our movements contain push and pul and it is very difficult to see whether we are pushing or pulling and for what purpose. In running, push-pull relations are hidden, camouflaged by a seemingly obvious presence of a push-off, so obvious that there is almost no reason to question it.

But the questions are there: do we have a push off and do we need a push off?  The answer to the first question is positive.  We have a push off, and the sport science received a tremendous number of force platform data confirming there are vertical and horizontal components of ground reaction force. But does that mean that we got the answer?  The movement is not as simple as it seems. There are two types of movements here and only one of them needs to be produced by our voluntary muscle contractions, our muscular efforts.”

Even Dr. Romanov freely admits that there is some sort of vertical reaction force propelling you from the ground, he just realizes that “we don’t need to do it with voluntary muscular efforts, all we need to do is release the elastic property to do the work.”

I admit that some of the calculations and claims being made might about the amount of momentum gained from GRF might not be 100% accurate.  There is a possibility that, under the Pose Method of running, GRF might be underestimated.  But even if this is the case, why does it matter?  You’re moving forward from some combination of gravitational torque and GRF. An active push off doesn’t make you run faster or more efficiently.

The bottom line is still the same: you’re not thinking about pushing into the floor for forward momentum.  There is an apparent disconnect here between what is ACTUALLY happening and what you are actively MAKING happen.  No matter how much GRF you’re getting, you’re still simply thinking about pulling your foot from the ground.  This doesn’t change anything about the Pose Method or how you should run.  In fact, it reinforces the Pose principles. 

3. Your general center of mass travels upwards vertically after you leave support, which is contrary to falling.

This argument seems anecdotal but according to one website:

“Objective measurement from video recordings demonstrates that [Usain] Bolt’s COG rises after mid-stance rather than falling as Pose theory predicts”

Naturally, the author links no actual study and fails to elaborate at all about how these “measurements” are being taken or how they are determining where Bolt’s GCM is.  Taking measurements of moving person’s COG from a video sounds pretty unscientific in general, but without the information, who knows?

I think this argument goes hand in hand with argument number two and it’s pretty easy to see why this argument is made: in order to keep falling, your GCM has to rise. But because Pose Method is claiming gravity is the main source of forward momentum, it’s very hard to see what is causing your GCM to rise, when intuitively, we see gravity as pushing us DOWN. 

People running using Pose technique do, in fact, have vertical oscillation.  Your GCM has to rise, but pushing into the floor is not what causes this to happen.  This is happening by a combination of unweighting and the muscle/tendon elasticity that is happening thanks to Newton’s Third Law of Motion. 

From Training Essays once again:

“Vertical displacement in running happens by utilizing muscle/tendon elastic property, which lifts the body 4-6 centimeters above the ground, just enough to shift the body weight from one support to the other.”   

How much of your GRF is being converted into horizontal momentum vs. vertical oscillation?  Obviously a little bit of both is happening and the vertical oscillation gained from your muscle-tendon elasticity is enough to allow your GCM to rise enough for you to recover Pose and fall again. Repeatedly.

These arguments are all great.  They force you to think about what you’re doing and they push everyone’s understanding of running further.  Diversity of intelligent opinion makes us all better and I welcome it.  From where I’m sitting, however, these arguments are pretty knit-picky about certain claims being made, when these claims have nothing to do with the actual function of running.  Sure, the propulsive forces might be skewed a bit but I think it’s pretty clear that a) nobody really knows what is going on for sure and b) it isn’t changing a thing about how you’re running anyway. 

It seems like we’re arguing about semantics when the practical application of the running remains unchanged. If you disagree, please comment below, I would love to get a discussion going and I know I need to learn a lot more. 

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Beyond the scientific arguments, there are numerous anecdotal arguments out there being thrown around.  Let’s take a quick look at the most compelling:

Pose Method moves the load from the knee to the ankle, causing subsequent achilles tendon injuries.

So you’re telling me that switching the loading from the knee (an unstable hinge joint operating in a single plane of motion) to the proprioceptive monster consisting of your foot-ankle complex is a bad thing?  In Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run he details running— and winning— the Western States 100 with all the tendons and ligaments in his ankle “completely shredded” from a bad ankle sprain he suffered playing soccer a day before the race.  You think if Scott Jurek sprained his knee, even a little bit, that he would have ran WS?  An NBA player will roll his ankle so bad he can barely walk and be playing again five minutes later.  That same player tweaks his knee the smallest amount and he’s out for the rest of the game until they can get him in the nearest MRI machine. 

The problem isn’t switching loading from the knee to the ankle.  The problem is failing to take into account the fact that most of us are running around with shortened, weakened achilles tendons from our shoes that have padded heels.  It’s going to take a lot longer than six weeks for this to be fixed.  But you can’t tell someone who has been running their whole life to stop and slowly build back up so you develop the necessary strength. No, that would be absurd. Just keep fucking up your knees. That seems like a better idea. 

We are not “taught” to walk as babies, and we don’t need to be “taught” to ride a bike, we just figure it out.

So if you just happened to come across a bike, you would just pick it up and “figure out” what to do with it?  This is sorely underestimating or misinterpretation the meaning of the word “taught”.  Just because you lack the vocabulary to be taught in words how to walk as a baby, you’re certainly being “taught” by observing.  And you’re not wearing SHOES!! How is this overlooked? 

We are all too different for one way of running to be applied to all of us. Essentially the millennial “I’m special” argument where people cannot, under any circumstances, come to grips with the fact that, despite minor difference, were all walking around with the exact same equipment and using it in the most efficient way involves the same patterns. 

Actually, you’re not fucking special at all.  You’re just like everyone else. You’re the same collection of levers and fulcrums.  Look at any other animal in the world.  They don’t move around differently.  You don’t see two different horses running with different gaits.  They might have a little bit of their own style— as we do as humans— but their fundamental moment patterns do not differ. Even dogs, who have been tinkered with beyond belief in terms of artificial selection— they all still run the same.  You’re telling me the lever length matters THAT much? 

It’s too difficult to teach.  After a couple weeks, the participants were reverting back to their old gaits.  If it’s so hard to teach, what’s the point? 

Considering how ridiculous this argument is, it’s amazing how often it’s cited.  People making this argument are lacking a certain understanding of how our brains work. Simply put, every time you move, the corresponding motor neurons in your brain are communicating.  Doing the same movement repeatedly causes these motor neurons to get better at this communication process. After a while, you essentially hardwire a pattern into your brain.  For movements you do all the time, the ones you don’t need to think about (like picking up a cup of water and taking a sip) have become automatic because those motor neurons talked so much they’ve become super efficient at it.

Developing neuromuscular patterns is what “bro science” would call “muscle memory”. Obviously, you’re muscles can’t remember shit. You’re brain certainly can.  This awesome component of our elastic brains allows us to become proficient at movements that are important or necessary to us.  The problem arises when we’ve been doing a movement wrong for a long time.  It is very hard to undo that hardwiring.  You can start making new patterns, but your brain wants to fall back into the old habits— they’re more efficient. 

There are studies being done now that show people born with a disease like cerebral palsy, may have recovered the ability to walk normally as they have gotten older, but they cannot overcome the patterns for walking that have been hardwired into the brain over time.

(There is a great Ted talk about this by Karen Pape entitled, “Baby Brains Do Recover but Habit Hides It“, if you’re interested.) 

For runners that have been running incorrectly for years and years, it’s gonna take a little bit of time.  You can’t do it in two weeks.  You probably can’t do it in six weeks.  Have some fucking patience, it’ll be worth it in the long run. 

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I don’t think the Pose method is perfect.  I do think that it helped me a ton.  I admit, I was not a runner before.  I never had a high school track or cross country coach telling me what to do when I was running.  Pose was my first foray into the world of “running technique”.  So, this probably gives me a huge advantage over the runners out there who grew up hearing someone telling them the wrong things all the time. 

I was starting out from first principles, with zero bias or investment either way.  I just wanted to run faster and farther and not get hurt.  Pose did that for me.  I don’t have some biblical desire to see everyone running Pose.  In fact, it’s better for me if you don’t run Pose (I’m a pretty selfish person for the most part).  But if someone comes to me and asks for my help, I have to go with my experience, an experience paints a pretty compelling picture for the Pose Method. 

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You Run Like Shit: My Pose Journey

This is Part One of a Pose series.  Part Two digs into the (mostly) scientific arguments made against the Pose Method 

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“You run like shit.”

Not exactly something anyone wants to hear. If you’re currently in the process of running 80+ miles a week, this kind of news can be devastating.  I stared blankly at the 50-inch flat screen placed precariously in front of our small group— maybe 16 people—and wondered why I looked so bad. 

The full breadth of my stride was on display here; one foot trailing behind my body and the other reaching in front, driving forward.  This was how I was supposed to look.  This is how “good” runners look.  All those Nike ads and pro-runner’s Instagram feeds had burned the images into my mind.  I didn’t understand.  All these people I emulate run like shit too?

There was clearly a disconnect here.  The smartest man in the world of running, Dr. Nicholas Romanov, was tracing a laser pointer across the TV screen, advancing my lumbering body frame by frame to show everyone in attendance why I couldn’t run.  In increasingly specific terms, he shredded my gait from top to bottom, eventually concluding that if I was going to run like THAT, I should probably just save my energy and not run at all.

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Don’t do this. You’re gonna have a bad time.

As I sat there, disillusioned, disheartened and incredibly embarrassed, I realized this was, in fact, exactly what I wanted.  Did I really spend a shitload of my money and time to fly to Miami (in August!) so I could hear Dr. Romanov tell me that I run perfectly?  That’s an expensive ego boost, even if it is coming from The Most Interesting Man in the World. No, this was a good thing. It was time to figure out what I had been doing wrong.  It was time for my education to begin.

  1. Historical Context

It has become widely accepted that running played a huge part in our development as human beings.  Despite anecdotal romanticisms like Born to Run, the real information (i.e. backed by data) is out there and has become an accepted addition to our larger evolutionary picture.  In his incredible book, The Story of the Human Body, Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Daniel Lieberman describes all the ways evolution designed us to become running machines, from the stabilization and balance systems in our heads/ears/spines specifically designed to let us balance and see clearly while running to the entire anatomy of our lower leg being setup like an energy-returning spring.    

According to Lieberman’s research, running made us who we are today.  It allowed us to track and run large mammals to death, largely thanks to our bipedalism and superior cooling systems, which allowed for larger, more nutrient-dense meals to be consumed, eventually resulting in an explosion in brain size.  So without running, there is no us.  We are inextricably linked to this simple act of locomotion, for better or for worse, and whether we want to believe it or not, we are all “runners”.  We might not be “born to run” but we were certainly “born runners”. 

Most people view running as a very simple movement.  People are constantly uttering cliches like “just put one foot in front of the other” or some similarly reductive phrase to remind you how simple it is.  Sure, at one time it might have been the pinnacle of complex movement, but now we have bikes and baseball bats and basketballs and pole vaults and 110m hurdles.  We go to the gym and sit on massive machines designed to let you barely move a single joint in your body so you can “isolate” it. 

Clearly, we’ve got it all figured out.  All this overcomplexity and information has made us the healthiest we’ve ever been in human history (ha!).  Also, we never get injured anymore (ha!).  All kidding aside, the real irony here is that if you look at all the athletic movements we make as humans, only the ridiculous invented motions (i.e. swinging a golf club, shooting a three-pointer, the backstroke, etc) all come with a universally accepted prescription. In a lot of cases, it’s based in physics (measuring the amount of torque produced at the end of a bat based on various swings) or simply based on years and years of data (the tennis coach who has seen thousands of hours of backhand swings and understand exactly— even if he cannot fully articulate it— why certain players are more effective than others). 

For running, this doesn’t exist.  If you go out and hire a running coach, 90% of them will “coach” you by essentially writing a program that tells you when, where and how hard to run.  They toss around words and phrases like tempo, intervals, aerobic threshold, hill repeats and “recovery run” to make it seem like they’re doing something more complicated to justify the money you’re spending, but the bottom line amounts to ZERO time spent focusing on actual running technique.  People don’t teach it. If you compare that to someone who hires a tennis coach or swimming coach (or any other coach), the vast majority of the time spent coaching, usually around 90%, will be spent on technique. 

What this fact tells us (beyond illuminating running coaches as assholes who steal your money) is that the prevailing sentiment— not just in the running community but in the athletic community at large— is that we all run differently.  People believe that they DO NOT need to be taught how to run.  People will say things like, “Nobody taught me how to walk, when I was eight months old I couldn’t even talk, I don’t need anyone to teach me how to run.”  Most intelligent people quickly see how foolish a statement like this is.  It shows a total lack of understanding for how we “learn” as humans while completely missing the point at the same time (more on this in Part Two).

So just to recap:  All the invented-by-humans human movements we’ve been talking about, swinging a golf club, the breast stroke, karate chopping a cinder block— whatever it may be— has a very specific technique that must be taught and mastered.  Deviation from this technique is worthless and unacceptable.  But running, the movement that was “invented” by natural selection over the course of millions of years with a very specific set of levers and fulcrums acting against a very specific force (gravity), can be done any fucking way you feel like it.  It doesn’t matter at all.  Just do what feels “natural”.  Nature doesn’t know shit.  You know everything. 

II. Looking for Answers in All the Wrong Places 

Ever since reading ’Born to Run” I had been wearing minimal shoes.  For my first race ever, a 50k in Idaho, I “laced up” a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. I ran a mountain 50k wearing these kicks, based on Chistopher McDougall’s generalized view that minimal footwear makes you run properly.  I had dreams of running 100 miles across the mountains like Tony Krupicka and Scott Jurek but I could barely run 50 miles a week without totally breaking down.  I was bruising my feet constantly on rocks, my ankles were always a mess, my knees ached, my IT Bands felt like someone was ratcheting them up like a slackline.  I would read articles about the weekly volume elite ultra runners were putting in, sometimes upwards of 200 miles a week, and wonder how their bodies could possibly withstand all the punishment.  It seemed unfathomable. 

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Back in 2012 before the Foothill Frenzy 50k. Give me a break- it was my first race ever.  I didn’t know what I was doing. A volunteer working the aid station at mile 27 introduced me to my first electrolyte supplement that day.

Nevertheless, I tried and I tried.  I started to get my weekly volume up a bit.  I finished 7th place at the Zion 100k.  I snuck onto the podium at the Malibu Creek 50k. I started really pushing to get more miles on my legs.  I was looking at all these successful runners and the formula seemed obvious: more volume. 

The problem for me was all in the health of my lower extremities.  My energy systems were never an issue.  My feet or legs would always breakdown long before I could get to that point. I needed more volume and my legs hurt… so I began running through a lot of pain.  I ignored my body completely and routinely went out on long runs in the mountains despite experiencing agonizing pain with every footfall. Then one day, about nine miles from the trailhead, the pain got too bad to continue.  After a two-hour hobble and a couple of days of denial, I was at the doctor’s office with a diagnosis: severe stress fracture of the Lateral Malleolus. 

The Lateral Malleolus is the distal end of your Fibula, basically what most people refer to as their “ankle bone”.  According to my physician, during bipedal locomotion, this bone is non-weight bearing.  To me, this immediately meant that my gait was FUCKED UP.  I did enough damage to a non-weight bearing bone to break it?  My stride is so bad that I’ve got muscles wrenching on the end of my fibula to the tune of enough torque to crack it?  This was obviously something I needed to figure out. 

Naturally, I asked the doctor what I was doing wrong.  What could I do to fix this? I will never forget what happened next.  This prestigious orthopedic surgeon, operating out of one of the most respected clinics in Los Angeles (SMOG), sat down in the chair across from the table I was sitting on, took a deep breath, exhaled, looked up at me and said, “Unfortunately, you’re just too tall to run. Especially long distances.  I wouldn’t recommend running more than two miles at a time.  You need to get some shoes with some more padding and on your next visit, we’ll fit you for orthotics.” 

I am tall.  I’m 6’7”.  But I have the same equipment as everyone else.  I have the same set of levers.  Just a little longer. I couldn’t believe what he had just said. I stared blankly through his face as he kept rambling on about the history of tall NBA players and stress fractures of the feet. He was saying something about Yao Ming when I stopped listening. 

This couldn’t be true. I wouldn’t accept it. I’d long held a deep distrust for every doctor I’d ever met so it wasn’t hard to convince myself that he was a myopic idiot.  No, that was easy.  The hard part was going to be figuring out what to do next. 

The answers had to be out there, I just needed to find them.  Freshly clad in a size 15 walking boot, I was out the door and on the search for my running salvation… but a revolution would have to do.   

III. (My) Running Revolution

When you’ve been running a couple hours everyday for the past year or so and then you’re forced to halt this activity abruptly, it really fucks with your psyche.  There have been countless studies done showing the hormonal effects of cardiovascular activity— it changes your brain.  It alters your decision making.  You’re not really the same person, in terms of brain chemistry, when you’re not exercising that you are when you’re regularly getting a good dose of cardio. 

I suffered through this (much of it probably placebo) for about three weeks and fell into a desperate pit of despair.  Then my ankle finally got to the point where I could put some weight on it without any pain, and I started biking, doing a lot of hang cleans and front squats (I still couldn’t do a full power clean) and generally started to feel less worthless and ready to uncover some answers (that I hoped were there). 

So I started doing research.  And this is when I started to realize that most people don’t talk about running form.  If someone was , it was usually a current or former elite runner who has made a transition to coach, but doesn’t understand why they were faster than their peers or happened to stay injury free.  The result of this is a lot of ambiguous, relative terms being thrown around like, “make your stride feel smooth” or “be light on your feet” or “imagine yourself gliding down the trail” or “drive your legs”.  None of this helps anybody and it certainly wasn’t what I was looking for. 

No, I wanted definitive information about the differences between a heel/forefoot strike.  I wanted to know what cues I should be focusing on during the different phases of my stride.  I wanted to know if Nike really ruined the world like Born to Run claimed.  And more than anything, I wanted to be able to run with a certainty that I wasn’t damaging my body.  A quick google search of “running+physics” and I stumbled across the Pose Method site.

I started reading a bit and it sounded promising.  It was offering me a way a singular, correct way to run. At fast speeds and jogging alike.  It has always seemed naive to me that, as creatures of the same species, we run so dramatically different.  I grew up watching NBA games on TV wondering why some of the players (the more athletic ones) ran on their forefeet, while the big centers usually plodded down (very un-athletically) with an obvious heel strike.  It was apparent that these things were not equal, but no one else was talking about it and I was ill-equipped to discover the answer to which of these methods was better. 

Dr. Romanov was laying it all out there for me: here’s how you run and here’s why.  Not only did he have the balls to say something audacious, but his claims were making sense.  I was never a competitive runner before I started entering ultra marathons in my 30s.  I never worked with a track or cross country coach and I never had anyone tell me how to run (my college basketball coaches wouldn’t have dared to correct someone’s running form).  So, I was picking all of this up starting at first principles, with an empty cup waiting to be filled with information.  (I honestly think this was a huge advantage for me because I didn’t have to unlearn a bunch or erroneous information or running dogma.  A lot of runners are already full of that shit, so it’s hard.) 

Upon my initial reading of The Running Revolution, I missed a lot. Even with the videos that accompanied the iPad version of the book, it’s hard to learn how to run by reading a book.  It’s hard when you can’t watch yourself and see what you’re actually doing. So I kind of heard what I wanted to hear and picked up about half of the Pose tenants and adopted them in my running. 

It helped a lot, but it wasn’t perfect.  My big mistake after reading the book was inaccurately synonymizing  the words “fall” and “lean”.  I took falling to mean leaning, and I ran with poor posture.  I was trying to do a continuous-leaning-type-thing instead of the pendulum falling effect.  Then, when your posture is shit and you’re bent at the waist, you’re forced to counter-balance (around your GCM) by leaving your feet trailing behind you when they should be directly underneath your hips.  I had more time on support because I was waiting for my trailing leg to catch up with the rest of my body that was essentially running away from it. 

I need someone to look at me and point out my specific deficiencies, and Dr. Romanov certainly obliged.  After I left the clinic in Miami, I couldn’t wait to get out and try my new technique.  I had finally seen myself in action and I knew what was going wrong.  At first it wasn’t easy.  I had been so conditioned to “use my long stride” that the short, choppy steps felt incredibly foreign to me.  I didn’t feel like it was conducive to running fast.  Then, one day about two weeks of running, I had a breakthrough. 

I was running on a trail that I had been on a lot (over 100 times) and I was focusing on pulling my foot from the floor as quickly as possible— even though the high cadence felt weird— and maintaining my posture.  I got to the top of the climb much quicker than I normally would, but I was keeping the effort easy and (incorrectly) assumed that there was some mistake or I had forgotten to un-pause for a bit after I took a leak.

I turned and started back down the mountain, once again with laser-focus on my cues, fighting the urge to over-stride.  What happened next was amazing.  I still remember the sensation vividly. My short, choppy steps started to flow.  My legs started to feel light, like they were popping off the ground as soon as they touched down.  It felt great, but I assumed that I was running very slowly.  I felt way too in control of my body to be running fast downhill— usually when I hit seven minute pace, I felt out of control like I was pounding and the impact felt dangerously high. 

I glanced down at my watch and did a double-take.  It said I was running at 5:30min/mile pace. That can’t be right!  There’s no way I could be running this fast and be in control like this.  I didn’t feel like I was doing anything.  I had this weird feeling where I felt detached from my legs.  I was just this person up in the cockpit driving, and all I had to do was pick my feet up and get them under my GCM as quickly as possible. It was surreal. And I was fucking flying down the hill. I couldn’t help but let a huge smile grow across my face.  

Never in 100 years would I have come to the conclusion that my downhill running problem was from leaving my foot trailing behind me too far.  This type of error wasn’t even on my radar. In a single moment of clarity, running downhill switched from being slow and strenuous to being fast and fun.

I got home and checked the results of my run on Strava.  I set something like 25 personal records on a run that I had done 100+ times.  And I had kept my effort easy the entire time.  I wasn’t pushing, I was concentrating on my cues.  From that day forward, I was sold.  You could now call me a Pose runner.

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Since then, I’ve naturally had some ups and downs with my training, but you can’t even compare the runner I was with the runner I am now.  100 mile weeks aren’t scary anymore.  My legs don’t hurt.  I’m partially convinced that the only thing holding my running back at this point is the amount of food I can eat.  Now, instead of having my legs break down, I’m dealing with energy systems issues (which has led to a few dangerous situations actually where I was way too far away from home and running out of energy— it took me a little while to get a handle on that situation because it hadn’t happened before). 

I do a lot more flat running too.  I still hate it, like I did before Pose, but now I see the real benefit in it and I understand how it translates to the mountains a lot better.  I need to come back to the flat to push the reset button after too much time on variable terrain.  Taking all the other variables out of the equation is still the best way for me to get in touch with my form, but as I said, I’m still very new to this whole thing, so hopefully that’ll improve in the future. 

I’ve fared well in my races since fully adopting the Pose method as well.  I brought my 50k PR well below five hours and somehow (I’m slow) managed to place 2nd in the Santa Barbara Red Rock Marathon with I time I wouldn’t have dreamed of a year before. 

I haven’t raced much though, and it seems to surprise people when they look at the volume I’ve been consistently putting up for the last year.  They want to know what I’m training for.  I’m just having too much fun running as much as I want as hard as I want.  I’m having too much fun pushing the boundaries of my own body right now. When I’m interested, the races will be there.  It’s like someone finally gave me the blueprint to operate this vehicle I call a body and I’m still test driving the shit out of it. 

There are myriad reasons why I’m sold on Pose running.  But to avoid sounding dogmatic, I’m going to save you the rest of the anecdotal evidence of my personal experience and do my best to look at some of the common arguments made against Pose (scientific and otherwise), understand why they are being made and attempt to get to the truth.  Because at the end of it all, after the trolling and debating and commenting is over, truth is all that matters. 

Part Two: The Problems with Pose, Breaking Down the Arguments