THE BLOG

Running Form: Distilled (Part 2)

Oct 14, 2013 | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Awareness

As promised in the previous post, you're going to find out precisely how the perspective of aviator and author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery --

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

-- is so beautifully expressed in Pose Method running. Better still, this blog will help you begin experiencing it yourself, starting with the running stride. Remember, less is more.

Variables & Invariables

What Romanov found was that invariably, all runners Pose, Fall and Pull. Not every runner, though, heel strikes nor tries to paw at or push off the ground. These other pieces of the running puzzle, then, are affectations, embellishments, superfluities. All variables. Romanov's Method includes particular drills that train runners to eliminate the variables and reinforce the invariables. At the same time, his conceptual model of running dismantles the prevailing paradigm that running is generated by muscular effort.

Running Pose as seen in stride to stride sequence.

Running Pose as seen in stride to stride sequence.

Conventional Wisdom

A common belief is that because we're all seemingly so different, running form and running success are individual affairs. Runners should celebrate the freedom of their own unique style, however convoluted it may be. Therefore, for better or worse, running fast and far boils down to genetic gifts and dutifully training muscles' strength / stamina. Injury -- incredibly, pervasive among runners -- is normally attributed to biomechanical deficiencies, over training and inappropriate footwear. It's expected, inevitable and immutable. And, the role of gravity, despite its universal presence and overwhelming power, is roundly ignored or dismissed.

On the Flip Side

Pose Method operates under irrefutable facts. Because we human beings are more alike than we are different, and because Nature's laws work the same for us all, the prospect that there could be a naturally right way of running ought to be self-evident. What's more, one correct running form is liberating even as it might sound limiting.

Yes, some runners perform better than others, but human hearts and lungs all work the same way. It's true for eyes and ears, too. Isn't it nonsensical to think that our functionally identical musculo-skeletal systems would behave differently from runner to runner under the same laws of physics and in response to the same mechanical demands? You see, in shaping our bodies and prescribing our movements Nature has already done the math and engineering so that with nary a thought we precisely express her most complex equations of locomotion just by running. Running right, anyway. But we've also grown big brains which let us think we might outsmart, defy and deny the forces that have created us. Nature, it seems, is not without a sense of humor.

Myth Bustin'

There could hardly be a more definitively human activity than running. Yet, it's rarely questioned how something so natural could prove so inherently injurious as to require radical external intervention, such as those orthotic devices known as running shoes? And, we do need support, cushioning and motion control to run, don't we?

Researcher Adam Daoud investigates:

There is evidence that evolutionary pressure selected for endurance running ability around 2 million years before the development of the modern running shoe in the 1970s (Bramble & Lieberman, 2004). It is therefore reasonable to hypothesize that natural, habitually barefoot (BF) running is adaptive in ways that habitually shod running is not. If natural selection acted on running, then one would predict BF running to be both efficient and safe.

Then how might running become unsafe?

Daoud goes on:

... modern distance runners use a maladaptive [landing] pattern, specifically heel strike running, which is promoted by running in modern, viscoelastic cushioned running shoes.

You see, because insulating shoes so dampen our sensory acuity it's nearly impossible to interact with reasonable certainty, or sure-footedness within our physical world. Not until, anyway, we can dispense with the arbitrary, shoe-sales-based notion of some 7 billion unique stride signatures, and instead reorient our mindset and movements within the absolute, unifying framework of gravity.

It Starts With Perception

In running, once we break the balance of the Pose position we begin translating the vertical pull of gravity into horizontal motion by utilizing ground reaction, musculo-skeletal interaction and intent. An accurate perception of ourselves within and as part of our three-dimensional world allows us to best refine our movements, consciously or otherwise. But popular training, treatment and tangible goods touted to improve our running experience usually interfere. The modern zeitgeist of "more" continues to distance our senses from our activities. Far too many runners notice little more than their injuries. Some can't even tell whether or not they heel strike! Happily though, as Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls would say, "awareness is curative."

And, as Romanov says:

Our progress will only be as good as our ability to differentiate one movement from another, one effort from another ... taking in and processing all the signals, all the information about our body position in space, the timing of our movements and the level of efforts exerted...

He continues:

Gregory Bateson, a great American scientist, wrote that learning and "science [are] way[s] of perceiving ... But perception operates only upon difference ... and all perception of difference is limited by threshold. Differences that are too slight or too slowly presented are not perceivable."

For instance, with one or two centimeters of foam underfoot diluting or fully depriving us of instructive stimulation, how could we possibly feel what's naturally correct or incorrect? Here, returning to our "less is more" proposition, less distraction affords more awareness.

Cushioned Running Shoe

Cushioned Running Shoe

Starting From Scratch?

But awareness sans context might ask us to reinvent the wheel. You see, despite our human heritage of running-derived neural hardwiring and structural function, since civilization has separated us from our more primal, physical fluencies the trail of trial and error could become a long and rocky travail. We can smooth the road by adopting a conceptual model of running -- a standard -- that allows us to consciously frame, evaluate and adjust our actions and run farther, faster and with less chance of injury right from the start.

Next, in "Running Form: Distilled (Part 3)" you'll look closely at the anatomy of a running stride and do some exercises that will let you feel how you can now run in harmony with Nature and the physics that shaped your body and defined your movements.