10/07/2013 01:23 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Running Form: Distilled (Part 1)

Confusion: First Step to Clarity

Well, we've got to start somewhere, right? So, just sit, settle, and sip on something enjoyable as you learn a little more about correct running form in this multi-part post.

Today, clever quips, sound byte solutions and silver bullet expectations dominate the fitness discourse. So do confusing, often self-contradictory running form tips, techniques and testimonials. An alphabet soup of running advice is served up daily by coaches and athletes, health professionals and hucksters. Most, like the commercial varieties, offer little clarity and less sustenance. But that running form has become at all food for thought is a good thing.

Now, when people ask, "What's Pose Method running?" I know they anticipate some snap, crackle, pop answer. Nothing substantial, helpful nor healthful, really, just something that's easy to ingest, digest and pass.

While any 25-words-or-less explanation risks reducing potent grains of insight into pablum or processing them into poison I think, within context, this sums it up:

Pose Method distills running into its essential elements (Pose, Fall, Pull) which best coordinate natural forces, so we can run -- farther, faster, and free from injury.

What It's Not

Pose Method isn't the latest thing, the shiniest thing, nor any pop-culture physical patois. It isn't esoteric advice from some grizzled guru, and it isn't another pet endorsement of a Hollywood celebrity. Most of all, Pose Method isn't a new-and-improved running style.

What It Is

Pose Method is a system of movement that identifies gravity as the prime motive force human beings use to run, cycle, swim, etc., and recognizes muscles' efforts a subordinate force. That is, instead of creating movement themselves, muscles only redirect the motion that already exists, which is the vertical pull of gravity. This may intuitively ring true to you, or not. Either way, conventional wisdom sure appears blind to its implications.

As Pose Method founder Dr. Nicholas Romanov puts it...

Gravity is still very much the elephant in the room, and it is treated as something that "applies to this, but not to that," "it is here, but not over there." Fact is, gravity is a silent dictator that rules this world.

All human movement is gravity-dependent. Whether you're running, swimming, walking to your car or reaching for milk in your refrigerator -- you're moving under the influence of gravity ... But it doesn't just pull us down.

Pose Method Running

Pose Method teaches running as a skill sport, with its own technical particulars, like golf, martial arts and ballet. The running Pose is the key position -- a standard. How a runner gets into and out of it distinguishes deviations from, or adherence to good form. Specific exercises develop the sensory awareness and frame of movement that allow a runner to discern "correct" from "incorrect," and adjust as needed.

Romanov says...

A "standard" is an ... accepted model of something ... used as a basis for judgment...

When there is a clearly identified and put forth model ... any deviation from that ... is easily seen. That [deviation is] the definition of an "error."

[W]hen it comes to human movement in sports, when it comes to running ... [a standard provides a] precise model to learn, to teach, [and an] ability to correct errors.

He specifies...

The laws of operation of all natural forces with gravity at the helm consequently lead to a particular set of rules in movement of a human body ... Unless we figure out how to defy gravity or it suddenly changes the way it works, we will abide by its current standard of operation...

Novel, But Not New

Others of note have described precisely how the vertical force of gravity is translated into horizontal movement.

From antiquity, Romanov references...

Leonardo da Vinci [as] the first to recognize gravity as a propulsive force, [quoting him:] "Motion 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."

Then, from 100 years ago...

[Neuro-scientist] Thomas Graham-Brown [who] expanded on da Vinci's thoughts, [wrote], "It seems to me that the act of progression itself -- whether it be flight through the air or by such movements as running over the surface of the ground -- consists essentially in a movement in which the centre of gravity of the body is allowed to fall forwards and downwards under the action of gravity, and in which the momentum thus gained is used in driving the centre of gravity again upwards and forwards; so that, from one point in the cycle to the corresponding point in the next, no work is done (theoretically), but the mass of the individual is, in effect, moved horizontally through the environment."

I might add that in 1952 physician Dudley Morton reiterated specifically:

Under the effects of an unbalanced body center, the combined action of these constant factors, gravity and structure, produces a mechanically determined rate of forward motion which is almost independent of muscular exertion.

Even so, the birth of a universally applicable running form, along with a unified theory of general movement would have to wait for Nicholas Romanov to connect the dots of scientific research and practical action.

Necessity Is a Mutha

Dr. Nicholas Romanov founded Pose Method in the late 1970s. As a university professor of physical culture and sports he was immersed in teaching track and field events to his students. But, unlike other sports, when it came to running, technique was more a matter of mojo than method. Incredibly, there seemed to be no commonly accepted platform from which to coach. Over time, by sifting through the strides of thousands of runners and distilling their common elements, the clouds confusing the issue would clear and he'd see the one, single, correct running form.

In going forward, bear in mind 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.

Find out how you can use all this for yourself in part two of "Running Form: Distilled." Coming up next week!

For more by Christopher Drozd, click here.

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