Pose Running and “The Science”
In a previous article I describes how traditional reductionist science doesn’t seem to be moving our understanding of running technique much further . The reason for this is that a purely reductionist approach leads many researchers to view running technique as collection of separate variables, rather than looking at how these variables relate to each other. Thus they produce study after study on one element of running technique without accounting for or controlling the other variables. Generally they are thrashing around with seemingly no direction, because they have no underlying theory of running technique nor any standard to measure their results against.
With a little digging on the internet, it shouldn’t be very difficult to find critics of Pose theory and Pose running. The vast majority of these criticisms are easily dismissed because the individual has a fundamental misunderstanding about Pose theory and technique. It also common for Pose critics to make arguments using physics incorrectly. It seems that many people do not understand that a force (like gravity) applied over a lever (like the body) changes the direction of that force. They will argue endlessly that gravity cannot be manipulated to move an object horizontally. Hmm… So how is it that monkeys can swing through the trees?
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Pose running technique has a very specific standard derived from an underlying theory of movement. To the best of my knowledge, Pose is the only running technique that has a standard or for that matter is based on a specific theory of movement. All other running techniques I’m familiar with are based on disjointed rules-of-thumb, with no unifying concept. Pose running is not, as so many people seem to believe, all about “landing on the forefoot”, or “taking shorter strides”. It is much more than that, and in fact Pose running technique has very little to do with either of those things. They are at best side effects of good technique, having a forefoot landing doesn’t directly translate into good technique, nor does a heel strike necessarily signify terrible technique. Although one cannot have ideal technique without a forefoot landing.
I’m not going to give a detailed description of the theory and standard here, there are many other resources for that. What is important to understand is that Pose running technique requires an alignment of many different variables to be executed properly. Some of those variables are purely physical, some are neurological, and others are mental. The Pose running standard is a description of a runner as system working at optimum efficiency.
So, how do many studies fall short on the subject of running technique? Say for example there is a study that shows no improvement in efficiency when using a forefoot landing, and there have been many studies that show exactly this. Often those studies will then be quoted as evidence that Pose running is less efficient, usually based on the mistaken belief that Pose running is primarily about landing on the forefoot. Again the problem here is that this is just one variable with no context. For example, where is the foot landing in relationship to the rest of the body? Is foot landing even a significant factor for efficiency? In other words, there is no attempt to explain the interaction of the variable studied against other variables, or to even understand if the question is relevant. Is foot landing even a relevant factor for efficiency? According to Pose theory, the forefoot landing has very little to do with running efficiency. This variable has more to do with preventing injury, but only when the runner lands in alignment. A forefoot landing in front of the runner’s center-of-gravity may very well actually cause more injury and be less efficient. This data is not very useful without context, and according to Pose theory, there is an even larger context. All movement is governed by interactions with gravity. If you take that concept and work backward, all of a sudden many of the central questions many studies attempt to address appear to be fundamentally flawed.
In order for a study to add much to our knowledge about Pose running, the runners in the study representing Pose running technique would ideally have to meet or exceed the Pose running standard. Alternatively the study would have to account for variations from the standard in each of the runners. Another possibility would be that the runners would be measured against another standard (if one existed), but ultimately there would have to be some way to account for how well all the variables align, and not just the variations in one specific element of running technique.
In future articles I hope to discuss specific studies and how they relate to Pose. I will also discuss some of the fundamental mistakes people make when they attempt to apply studies to understanding Pose.
I would like to credit Ivan Rivera Bours whose blog runninginsystems.com introduced me to the idea of applying systems science to running. I would also like to thank Ivan for his invaluable assistance and feedback in the writing of this article.