Updated: October 20th, 2011

Here is the second part of the introduction to Pose Running series, kindly presented by our friend Ken Schafer of posecoachblog.com – Ken is a certified level III Pose coach, a very nice fellow and we are very glad to host him on these pages.

There is a lot of confusion out there on the specifics about Pose Running Technique. I’ll do my best not add to that confusion with this brief overview, but unfortunately Pose Running Technique is “deceptively simple”, and there is a lot of subtlety that is difficult to convey within a few paragraphs. However, always keep in mind that it is designed to maximize the use of gravity via falling, and to minimize the drag of gravity via counterbalance.

The Pose Running Technique mantra is “Pose, Fall, Pull”, which describes the movement, and each of these actions are interdependent on the others. All three are necessary in order to execute the technique correctly, remove one and the others have no context. There is also one additional element which describes the frequency of the movement, and that is Cadence. So the four basic elements of Pose Running are Pose, Fall, Pull and Cadence.

The Pose is relatively straight forward. The running pose is designed to be the optimum position for falling forward when running. The non-supporting foot is tucked under the hip, raising the body’s center-of-mass. This position also moves the weight of the non-supporting leg to the front making falling forward easier. It also allows for positioning the foot under the body’s center-of-mass when the foot is placed down during the Pull.

An illustration of the runner's Pose

An illustration of the runner's Pose

Fine points:

  • The Pose is stable against gravity (the runner can stand in the Pose indefinitely)
  • The shoulders, hips and ankles are aligned
  • The supporting knee is always bent, never straight
  • The weight is supported on the ball of the foot not on the heel
  • There is a sight lean to the body to facilitate falling

By leaning forward from the ankles through the hips, the runner loses balance and falls forward. The greater the angle of the lean the faster there runner moves forward via the use of rotational torque. The angle of the lean will usually be the primary factor determining running speed. A world class 10k runner will have a lean of approximately 10 degrees. A world class sprinter will probably have a lean of 18 to 20 degrees. The maximum angle a human can sustain while running is 22.5 degrees. Dr. Romanov has measured Usain Bolt’s lean to be 19.5 degrees.

The most important point about the Fall is for the runner to maintain the Pose, until he or she begins the Pull. What I mean by “maintaining the Pose” is that the runner should keep his or her foot underneath the hips until he or she enters the Pull phase of the technique (described below). Most runners drop out of the Pose too quickly, and this results in landing in front of the body’s center-of-mass and usually on the heel.

The Fall

The Fall

Fine points:

  • Fall in the Pose (keep the non-supporting foot underneath the hips until the Pull is initiated)
  • The lean is primarily from the ankle through the hips
  • There is some lean from the hips to the shoulders, but it is much less

An illustration of the Fall – Note that the angle is measured from vertical line to line formed by the ankles and the hips.

The Pull is probably the most difficult part of the technique to convey concisely, and there is a lot of subtly that will not get discussed here. So what is the pull? The Pull is literally pulling the foot from the ground directly to the hips. However, at the same time, this is when the runner drops his or her non-supporting foot to the ground. In other words, there is simultaneous exchange when the supporting foot is pulled up and the non-supporting foot is dropped down, and this is often referred as a “change of support”.

The simultaneous exchange is critical. If the timing is off, one way or the other, the runner is either landing in front of his or her center of gravity, thus breaking with each step, or the runner is executing a late pull, creating counterbalance with step. And as I mentioned earlier, counterbalance impedes falling, and this results in slower running. Most runners do both. They drop their non-supporting foot too quickly landing on their heels, and they execute a late pull, preventing efficient falling.

The Pull

The Pull

Illustrations of the Pull – From the Fall, the runner pulls his or her supporting leg up and drops the non-supporting leg down simultaneously. When done correctly, the runner ends up back in the Pose.

Fine Points:

  • The Pull is executed very quickly
  • The runner does not drop his or her non-supporting foot until the Pull has started
  • When the timing is correct, the runner will land underneath his or her center of gravity on the ball of the foot
  • Landing on the forefoot is the result of doing everything else correctly. Forcing a forefoot landing without proper technique can result in injury
  • The runner finishes by returning to the Pose and entering the into the next Fall

Cadence is simply how quickly the runner executes the Pose, Fall and Pull. Ideally the cadence is 180 steps per minute or faster. With the exception of sprinting, a skilled runner will usually fall into a cadence of between 180 to 200 steps per minute. Sprinters will usually run at between 250 and 300 steps per minute.

The reason cadence should be 180 steps per minute or greater has to do with the physiology of the body’s tendons. Tendons are like elastic bands, when stretched they will store the energy, and that energy can be used to assist the muscle’s contractions. Unfortunately, unlike elastic bands the energy in tendons will dissipate quickly. In order to fully take advantage of this stored energy, a cadence of 180 steps per minute or faster is necessary.

The basics of Pose running seem to be straight forward and simple, and on a purely conceptual level, they are, but most people have a lot of trouble implementing the technique. The reasons range from trouble breaking old habits, and not being perceptive to what their bodies are doing to having unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately I will have to leave this discussion for another posting. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with questions.

Ken Schafer

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