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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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:
- Gravitational torque cannot provide horizontal linear momentum by itself.
- You MUST push off: ground reaction force is being ignored/seriously underestimated.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.