Tell us a little about yourself- how did you come about Pose Running?
This is actually a long story, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I started running in 1975 when I was 12 years old. It’s important to understand that the culture of fitness we take for granted now, did not exist back then. Many people were very skeptical that running was good for your health, and many others were openly hostile to running as a fitness activity. So, to justify running for fitness, some people were using arguments vaguely based on evolution. The concept of evolutionary fitness has become mainstream in the past few years, but in 1975 this was pretty radical thinking. Even though it was not fully accepted at that time (or even now for that matter), the idea of evolutionary fitness made sense to me, and I continued to believe that it was the best argument for using running as a fitness activity.
Unfortunately, there were some things going on in the running community that did not make any sense based on evolutionary thinking. The biggest one was the use of running shoes. It did not make sense to me that all of a sudden we needed something that had only been invented a few years before in order to do something people had been doing well for millions of years.
Fast forward to 2008, and I was a 45-year-old man trying to get back into shape after several years of slacking off. As a result, I started doing CrossFit. Researching the principles behind CrossFit led me directly to a lot of the new ideas about evolutionary fitness, and it also introduced me to Pose running and the idea that running is a skill, just like any other athletic skill. Finding all this information was an amazing experience because I realized that I now had the answers to all of the questions that had been bothering me for the last 33 years running. Naturally, I was compelled to explore these ideas about the running techniques more fully. So in January of 2009, I went to Florida to train directly with Dr. Romanov, and I’ve been working with him regularly since then. I only wish I had found Dr. Romanov and Pose running much earlier.
How has the Pose method improved your running (endurance, injuries, etc.)?
Pose Running has improved my running in the following ways. I do not need to wear running shoes to run now. For that matter, I don’t even need to wear shoes at all. However, I do still prefer to run in shoes.
I do not get injuries now. Although I never was prone to injury, while trying to get back in shape, I did have a series of injuries related to running. Pose running allowed me to get past those injuries, and I have been injury-free ever since.
I am faster now compared to when I started learning Pose, even though I’m running much less. However, even with Pose, I don’t expect that I’ll ever be as fast as I was a competitive runner in high school. No matter how good my technique is, I don’t think I can compensate for 30 years and 20 pounds. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not particularly motivated to try. I recover from my runs much faster, and I just feel like my body is taking less of a beating with Pose. I’m lighter on my feet, and my ankles and knees no longer get sore.
How can a beginner learn more about the Pose method? What are the most important points?
If at all possible, find a certified Pose running coach to get you started. It is very difficult to self-teach Pose running skills. I’ve seen very few people who were able to do a reasonably good job of learning Pose on their own. If you can’t find a Pose coach in your area, then find a Pose coach willing to do distance coaching using videos, email, or over the phone. I’ve been contacted by several people over the internet, and I’m always happy to do what I can to help them out. If you must learn Pose on your own, I recommend starting with the book Pose Method of Triathlon Techniques, The Pose Method of Running video, and also go to the Pose Method YouTube channel and watch as many videos as possible. For learning Pose, the single most important piece of equipment one should buy is a small electronic metronome, to help with learning proper cadence.
What are some common mistakes you see in beginning runners, and how can one prevent them?
As a Pose coach, I’ll address the mistakes I see people make as beginning Pose runners because I rarely interact with people who are completely new to running. The biggest mistake I see with people new to Pose is that they completely focused on the forefoot landing. The key to Pose running technique is the Pull. I always tell the people I train, “The forefoot landing is not proper technique. It’s the result of proper technique.” I also tell them, “If you are forcing a forefoot strike, then your technique is crap, and you are risking injury. Get the technique right, and the forefoot landing will happen naturally.”
The next biggest mistake people make is underestimating how much effort it is to change the running technique. A lot of people show up thinking that they are going to spend an hour with me, and then they will be running with the perfect Pose technique. For most people fully transitioning one’s technique will take weeks or months, not days or hours.
Another problem is that there are a lot of people who are in the middle of training for a race, who then decide that they might as well try to pick up good running technique as part of their training. Heavy training is not compatible with learning Pose. To learn Pose, it is important for the runner to allow his or her body time to adapt to running differently. Not doing this will probably result in injury, failing to learn to Pose properly, or both.
What about footwear? How do you feel about traditional athletic vs. zero-drop/minimalist shoes?
Traditional running shoes impede the learning of good running techniques. Unfortunately, most runners are apathetic, skeptical or even hostile to the idea of “good running technique”; this is not going to change any time soon. These runners should stick with traditional running shoes. For runners with good technique, or for those who are learning good technique, then zero-drop and minimalist shoes are the way to go. Going barefoot is another good option. For Pose running, I recommend shoes that have zero-drop, little or no cushion, good flexibility, and are as light as possible. The only other criteria are that they are comfortable, and preferably worn without socks. I personally like Vibrams shoes.
I must put out a word of caution here. It is very important for runners to understand that just changing one’s shoes, or taking them off is rarely going to be enough to correct one’s technique. Most runners will not alter their technique significantly by changing their footwear. Every day I see a lot of people running barefoot or in Vibrams, and 99.9% of these people are landing on their heels, or are forcing a forefoot landing! These people are probably destined to be future injury statistics. All runners must get their technique in order before doing any significant mileage barefoot or in minimalist shoes.
Any other tips or advice you’d like to give to new Pose runners?
Do your homework first, and start your training with realistic expectations. Accept the fact that fully transitioning to Pose may take a while (probably weeks or months). Understand that at times your training will be very frustrating. Also, accept the fact that you will probably have to significantly reduce your mileage while making the transition to Pose. If you accept these things before you start training, then you will be much more likely to succeed.
Understand Pose’s emphasis on perfection. The developer of Pose, Dr. Romanov, was a world-class high jumper in the former Soviet Union. As a coach, he trained Olympic-level track and field athletes. Dr. Romanov comes from a world where performance is everything, and technique is expected to be perfect. There were no points for trying, only for doing. Because of this, unlike other running techniques I’ve studied, Pose has a very precise and specific standard. For recreational runners, this level of precision and emphasis on perfection can be overwhelming. The standard is not watered down based on one’s level of competitiveness or goals.
Ken Schafer is an experienced runner and holds certification in Level III Pose Coaching, RRCA Coaching, CrossFit Nutrition & Endurance, Army Master Fitness, and ACSM Exercise Testing. He also holds a B.S. degree in Exercise Science from UMass Amherst. For more information about Pose Running or coaching, check out Ken’s blog or his Pose Running Site.