The Pose Method® of Running: The Free Falling Concept
The Free Falling Concept
As spectators, when we watch a great runner in action we tend to describe his or her running style as relaxed, free and effortless. In other words, we tend to regard a great runner as someone who moves with complete freedom of movement. While humans are by nature great imitators, it’s funny that we don’t try to imitate great runners in the same way that we might try to replicate the swing of Tiger Woods or Barry Bonds or the shooting technique of Michael Jordan. We may be envious of the great runner, but tend to regard that freedom of movement as a gift from nature and not a style to be copied.
And while we don’t even try to emulate a perfect running style, we give even less thought to the source of that freedom of movement. If we were watching instead a magician, we would certainly ask, “how does he do it” but when we watch a runner float along seemingly impervious to gravity, we fail to ask the same question.
Fig. 12.1. “The work of gravity.” Gravity force moves all bodies toward the Earth with constant acceleration of 9.8 m/sec2 (Watch full video)
Interestingly enough, the answer is right there – gravity (Fig. 12.1). The great runner is not impervious to gravity; instead he taps it as a readily available source of free energy. In the same way that the tremendous force of gravity inevitably draws a free-falling skydiver toward Earth, we can appropriate the force of gravity to run farther, faster and with less effort.
Gravity is with us 24 hours a day. It impacts every movement we make and indeed our relationship to gravity has impacted our physical development ever since we emerged from the womb. Yet despite the fact that we are constantly in the grasp of gravity, we devote almost no time to learning about it. For us, gravity simply exists, but we rarely think about our relationship with it. In fact, the role that gravity plays in human movement is so critical that you could say trying to run without understanding gravity is like trying to sail without understanding the wind.
To carry the analogy further, in the same way that a sailor catches the wind to move the boat forward (Fig. 12.2), we can “catch” the power of gravity to move our bodies forward (Fig. 12.3). It is the ultimate freedom of movement, taking a free and abundant energy source – gravity – and harnessing it to run like the wind. Remember, the boat doesn’t use the force of the sailor to move forward; it is the skill of the sailor in capturing the force of the wind that moves the boat forward. In running, it will be your skill in transferring the force of gravity into horizontal movement that determines just how far and fast you can run.
Ironically, for all our obliviousness to the potential value of gravity in movement, the concept is not a new one. In the 15th century, none other than the original Renaissance man himself, Leonardo da Vinci, detailed the role of terrestrial attraction (gravity) in initiating movement. “Motion,” Leonardo explained, “is created by the destruction of balance, that is, of equality of weight, for nothing can move by itself which does not leave its state of balance and that thing moves most rapidly which is furthest from its balance.” Further, he added, ”of the motion and course of animals, that figure will appear swiftest in its course which is about to fall forwards” (1). In other words, a free falling animal moves fastest.
Gravity being a constant force, nothing much has changed in our understanding of it since Leonardo’s time. What can be changed, however, is the way we put that knowledge to use in a scientifically structured program to develop a superior running technique. To wit, in order to run better, we must teach our bodies to be free to fall. The degree to which we successfully assimilate this skill will be immediately apparent in both our speed and endurance. Simply put, superior running technique is the art of releasing the body to fall freely.
The challenge now lies in developing the logical process, the exact sequence of movements that will result in the greatest ability of the body to freely fall forward. As Leonardo demonstrated, the body preparing to fall should be in the greatest state of readiness to fall, meaning that it should be in a state of balance, but a very shaky state of balance. In this shaky state of balance it will take the least possible amount of energy to initiate the fall.
For us as runners, this precarious state of balance is achieved in what we call the Running Pose. The weight of the body is on the balls of the feet, the knees are slightly bent and the signal from the brain permitting the body to start falling is very easily accomplished, with minimal physical effort. As you can easily see for yourself, in order to initiate the fall from the Running Pose, all you have to do is relax your muscles and let your body fall forward while maintaining perfect lateral balance.
But you cannot fall while both feet are on the ground, so the second element of the fall is to create the situation by which the lead foot is also falling, which is done by removing it from support and lifting it into the air. This, in turn, can only be accomplished by yet a third, and most subtle, movement, that of lifting the body to a minimal height and then drawing the foot to follow the body.
This last movement, the lifting of the body, is not a bounce. It is merely the use of muscular elasticity to draw the body in an almost imperceptible way away from the ground. As you might imagine, all three of these actions occur simultaneously and are directed to transfer of support from one foot to the other. To an observer, the only motion that would be noticed in this precise sequence is the lifting of the foot directly under the pelvis, but what is really occurring is that the foot is following the much more subtle movements of the body to fall forward. This lifting of the foot from support is accomplished entirely by the hamstring.
In essence, the brain is giving the body three simultaneous commands to start the free falling process: 1) allow the fall; 2) move the body from support and 3) remove the foot from support. Of these, the first two are accomplished primarily on a subconscious level while the third, the lifting of the foot, is a much more conscious act and initiates and integrates the entire cycle of movements in the running stride.
Put simply, starting to run is as basic as falling forward.
References & recommended reading:
- Keele, K.D., 1983, Leonardo da Vinci’s Elements of the Science of Man, New York, Academic Press, pp. 173-175.
BUY THIS BOOK
(The Free Falling Concept, Chapter 12, Section 3, The Pose Method of Running, Pose Press, 2002)