website statistics

Natural Running is Natural Running Regardless of the Flavor

Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 | 42 Comments

Rocky road and superman are both flavors of ice cream, just as ChiRunning, Pose, Evolution Running, barefoot running, etc. are flavors of “natural running.”

In my previous post, I talked about the problems with the idea that gravity can propel us forward with a “controlled fall.” The post led to a great discussion. many runners shared great comments about various aspects of the discussion.

One comment stood out, though.

David Stretanski made various comments and included a link to his blog. The link provided a diagram of a runner using ChiRunning. The diagram caused an “ah-ha” moment:

All natural running advocates are describing the exact same thing.

Here’s a composite of the pictures from both posts:

If you ignore the specific location of the limbs and notice body position, you’ll see two patterns: one pattern where the body leaves the ground and another where the body returns to the ground.

If we assume we’re talking about the same basic movement pattern, the discussion can then progress to the details- how to we leave the ground and how do we return to the ground. We can then talk about the role of gravity [in my opinion it DOES affect gait… but not to propel us forward :-) ], muscle activation patterns, the role of elastic recoil, etc.

The take-away: the apparent dissent among natural running advocates isn’t nearly as great as it would appear. This is good news for those of us that teach the ideas… it means there’s a great deal of interchangeability among theories. Have a client that doesn’t respond well to one particular method? No problem, use another!

This idea is no surprise. Many of us have been picking and choosing among various methods for years.

As an aside- many of you may remember my anti-certification rants and my proposed solution. The crux of the argument had to do with locking yourself into one mode of thinking. If you’re a certified Bob’s Magical Running coach, what happens if it turns out Bob’s Magical Running is wrong? Since you’ve invested heavily in the idea, you’re not likely going to have the flexibility to abandon the idea even when presented with overwhelming evidence. You stay on the sinking ship because you have no alternative.

Instead of being a one-trick pony and buying into one singular idea or theory, strive to diversify thought. This not only gives you the tools to address the needs of a wider variety of clients, it gives you the tools to critically examine your own methods and competing ideas. The groupthink associated with large numbers of people all buying into the same idea is the biggest obstacle to progress.

Thoughts?

###

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Related Posts:

42 Comments

  1. Intro to Minimalist Running
    October 28, 2012

    […] in the Park – WiredAlmost like running barefoot – Philippine Star5 Steps to Barefoot Running /Barefoot Running University » Natural Running is Natural Running …A Minimalist Running Shoe You'll Want to Wear All the Time …Cranky Fitness: Barefoot /Minimalist […]

  2. Alex
    October 26, 2012

    I can’t help but wonder, really, how much of this is unnecessary minutia. When running in no/minimal shoes, people are going to figure out quickly what “good form” is, and yeah, they’re going to hurt the next day. Great. I did, and so did everyone else who has made the proverbial switch from 12mm trainers.

    This isn’t a “kids these days” rant (I’m 24), nor am I implying that running form coaching is without worth. But really, we’re still debating foot placement? Christ, people, land where you f’ing land, and just run until you get better at it.

    • Jason
      October 26, 2012

      Actually, we’re debating the merits of the “gravity” theory. We settled the foot placement argument in late 2011. ;-)

      • Alex
        October 27, 2012

        Ah yes, of course. A theory so preposterous that I, an English graduate, find it laughable. Good to see we’ve moved forward.

        • Bare Lee
          October 28, 2012

          It’s laughability is what makes it so fascinating. Along with the idea of running slow to run fast. Or trying to maintain the same cadence no matter what the pace. Jason, is there a term in psychology to explain this?

  3. Dave K
    October 25, 2012

    Restating the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true. So far only ONE person has provided an actual physics diagram and explanation.

    I have to hand it to you Jason, you are the greatest troll the running world has ever seen.

    You constantly criticize other methods and use name calling. Then when folks are suffiently riled up you step in as the moderator saying lets keep it civil. Well played.

    You try so hard to fit in with the ivory tower science geek crowd, but the minute someone posts an actual scientific analysis with a diagram you retreat back into your quirky, self deprecating humor.

    • Jason
      October 25, 2012

      Let me be clear- there is a distinct difference between claiming to use science and actually using science. I am not a physicist or a biomechanics expert. I am just a random dude that reads a lot and has a skeptical disposition. I’ve been fortunate to be able to discuss natural running gait with some truly brilliant individuals.

      I’m not an expert, but even my rudimentary knowledge of physics tells me the “falling column” is a dumb analogy. It completely discounts the actual arc of the fall, the need to continually reset the location of the base, and the energy needed to recover the height lost in the fall. Just because an analogy is said to be a “physics explanation” doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s sort of like the ‘Earthing” crowd. Using scientific terms to describe anything does not make it scientifically valid.

      I offer three challenges: First, point me toward any published study that supports the premise that gravity can provide the energy needed to run. ven an abstract would suffice.

      Second, if running is a controlled fall that is fueled by gravity, it should be able to be described as an equation. Please provide said equation.

      Third- point me toward an actual physicist that can make an argument supporting the theory that gravity can provide the energy needed to run. I’m not looking for a coach that is claiming to use physics to explain the theory… I’m looking for trained physicists that actually understand the effects of gravity.

      Here’s a good discussion on the math associated with the “controlled falling” claim: https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/huaraches/19f8Pe45Z1Q

      Here’s another good criticism of the theory: http://canute1.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/problems-with-pose/

      Finally, here’s a good explanation of running gait that puts gravity in the proper context: http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2010/08/how-to-run-running-with-proper.html

      • alvinj88/bisaya muleng
        October 26, 2012

        “the need to continually reset the location of the base, and the energy needed to recover the height lost in the fall” should we put wheels then? hehe.. anyways kidding aside, how much energy is wasted from leaning style compared to the other style. we all know the heel strike uses considerably amount of braking, now that we know forefoot/midfoot or whatever it is has better physics how can we run efficiently and minimize energy being wasted when running

        • Jason
          October 26, 2012

          The lean DOES serve a purpose. Mark C. explains it as changing the vector to direct the downward thrust from the legs… which is why sprinters lean more than ultrarunners. There’s a lot of individual variability, however.

          • alvinj88/bisaya muleng
            October 26, 2012

            so my question to you master sensei Jason..”to lean or not to lean?” that is the question..so personally..yes or no? should we or should be we not :) because you did say you don’t mention on leaning on the Merrell Bareform

  4. alvinj88
    October 25, 2012

    Chi running advocates spinal alignment and core engaged, similarly the RunBare Team advocates the same principles, but uses a forefoot landing compared to Chi’s midfoot landing. Pose and Evolution running advocates forefoot landing only, Evolution running dvd does a good job explaining why it should be forefoot. Merrell Bareform has a posture reset and Lee Saxby advocates a tall posture ( both don’t mention anything about core engagment though as far as I can remember) I don’t know if pose has a core engaged posture..anyways my question is should the core be engaged and aligned? or should it be relaxed ..which one is it?

    • Jason
      October 25, 2012

      Pose no longer advocates a forefoot landing due to Achilles injury concerns, and I would agree that a forefoot landing is bad unless sprinting.

      The Merrell posture reset is a means to prevent people from slouching. I helped develop that methodology… which evolved from Good Form which evolved from Chi. Note the absence of the lean in Bareform. ;-)

      Regarding the core- don’t think about it. It’s engaged enough to remain upright but there’s no need to consciously tighten the core.

      • Ken S.
        October 25, 2012

        Where did you hear that Pose no longer advocates a forefoot landing? As far as I know they do. Perhaps this is another instance of being separated by a common language? How do you define forefoot landing? I’m betting it might be different from the Pose definition.

        • Jason
          October 25, 2012

          Not forefoot = allowing the heel to touch the ground to unload the Achilles/calf. I’m not sure where I read it. Years ago, I recall Pose teaching to keep the heel off the ground.

          I think it may have been a recation to the knee load research which I think Romanov co-authored… I can get the citation soon.

      • alvinj88
        October 25, 2012

        I bought the Runbare DVD a couple weeks ago, and forefoot was their way to go saying the Achilles tendon can handle a thousand pounds of stress or something like that, also Vibram also states landing on their forefoot and the heel brushes on the ground a micro second. I know Pose doesn’t let the heel “brush” the ground at all, but Evolution Running says it is more springy and less resistance compared to flat foot / mid foot landing which has less resistance than heel striking ofcourse.

        • Jason
          October 25, 2012

          The single biggest problem I see in new barefoot/minimalist shoe runners is problems associated with the calf muscles, Achilles, heel, and plantar fascia… all are a direct result of people “running on their toes.”

          The amount of “heel touch” is a function of pace… the faster you’re running, the less heel touch there will be. Prescribing “running on your toes” all the time regardless of pace is terrible advice. Sadly, some of us have to clean up the mess from the people that DO prescribe it as “proper” technique.

          • Jason
            October 25, 2012

            Worth noting- I don’t know of any research that points to one method being superior to the other (heel touch or no heel touch)… all of my observations are anecdotal in nature, and I tend to only encounter people that have been inured ‘running on their toes.”

          • Jason
            October 25, 2012

            Worth noting part 2: Pete Larson over at Runblogger confirms my contention about “running on your toes” adding unecessary stress to the calf muscles: http://www.runblogger.com/2012/10/switching-to-forefoot-strike-how-does.html

          • alvinj88
            October 25, 2012

            ah. so real forefoot doesn’t do a heel touch..or heel kiss..or heel micro sec landing lol..

          • alvinj88
            October 25, 2012

            Peter Larson is not a barefoot runner though. I follow his blog too.

          • Jason
            October 25, 2012

            Neither am I. :-)

          • alvinj88
            October 26, 2012

            nooooo! not you too. lol yeah minimalist celebrity runner Jason R

  5. Y
    October 25, 2012

    Great post Jason!
    I’m not a natural running expert, let alone a coach of any one method. I just got into this form (:-)) of running about a year ago.

    Since I started reading info and learning how to run better – I felt and said to my self exactly what you are saying – All the methods talk about the same basic principals!

    Understanding this is a must for the “industry” and an important phase in the “evolution” of natural running globally, I think…

    • Yanai Barnea
      October 25, 2012

      Missed out in entering my name there…
      Yanai Barnea – Israel

  6. Mark Lawrence
    October 24, 2012

    I teach Chi Running. I came to it after years of running focusing primarily on conditioning with little regard for form or technique. When I came to Chi Running, I already had advanced arthritis in both knees and was being told by the medical community that I needed to stop running. After losing an inch of meniscus in my right knee, Chi Running was no longer optional. It was mandatory. Since I began teaching it to others in the past couple of years, I have absolutely no doubt in the value of the technique. I have seen the results consistently in runner after runner. I admittedly don’t spend time talking to people about complex theories of physics. The question for the average runner is, “Do you want to rely totally on your legs to pull you forward, or do you want to be assisted by gravity?” When we run in place and then lean forward our leg muscles can become tense to create a resistance to the forward momentum that begins to build, or we can relax and just let ourselves go. Momentum then combines with that initial pull of gravity and the flow increases. If we run from our core and get our hips, arms and legs working together in the proper sequence and cadence, the dip and bounce that you see in many runners is minimized and enegy is channeled straight ahead in a smooth efficient stride. No doubt, muscle energy can be applied as well, but to the average fitness runner, the thought of keeping the legs as relaxed as possible is very appealing. I know this sounds very passive to competitive runners, but my objective is to have people enjoy running and maintain their ability for a lifetime. Despite this passive approach, somehow they always seem to get faster as well. Maybe it’s all psychological, but it makes sense to people and it works.

    • Jason
      October 24, 2012

      Keep in mind I’m not criticising the tecniques or the outcomes of Chi… I believe it is exceedingly useful to a lot of runners. I use many elements of Chi in my own coaching. I don’t think the positive effects of Chi are psychological… they’re fairly easily explained by biomechanical principles.

      My criticism has to do with the explanation of *how* it works. Gravity pulling you forward can be a great teaching tool (which I use on occasion, too), but it’s not an accurate explanation of what’s REALLY happening.

  7. David Stretanski
    October 24, 2012

    Jason,
    Since you neglected to post the source of my image, I am adding it here:
    http://echifitness.com/blog/2012/05/10/the-physics-of-chirunning-lean-analysis/

    I am having a hard time believing you think your diagram and my diagram are even close to the exact same thing. Your diagram suggests sinking into mid-stance and my diagram suggests falling passed mid-stance. Your diagram suggests pushing forward and up on each step and my diagram suggests regaining COM height on each step. These differences completely change the physics and points of effort.

    You state: “in my opinion [gravity] DOES affect gait… but not to propel us forward.” I also find it hard to believe that a self-proclaimed “science dork” would state his opinion as fact without providing the physics analysis to back up your position. Deferring to others who have also not presented their analysis still makes it opinion as fact … and is probably how most “folk knowledge (vs.science) starts”. Not knowing the physics yourself would seem to go against your statement on the other post: “knowing all the underlying theories is a HUGE benefit to diagnosing problems or mastering a variety of teaching methods”. If you don’t understand the physics yourself, how can this be true. And just resting on “gravity is a vertical force” is just stating the obvious when it is the *net* force on an object that determines acceleration/motion moment by moment.

    As I commented on the other post, I challenge you to provide your complete free body diagram analysis supporting your position that it is not possible to subtly fall forward with each step. As you know, I have provided my analysis in the link above.

    Of course no runner or technique needs to be the same. I don’t believe any approach is correct just like I don’t believe any approach is incorrect. I believe the goal here is to provide information so people can experiment and decide for themselves. There are many possible approaches for each person which can support their health and enjoyment.

    • Jason
      October 24, 2012

      You seem a little defensive, David. And you haven’t read enough of my stuff to get my humor. ;-)

      • Dave
        October 25, 2012

        Wow, you’ve struck a nerve with these recent posts! I applaud you for not resorting to the “Jane, you ignorant slut…” method of retort, though I’m sure it’s tempting. Some of these threads belong on http://theflatearthsociety.org

  8. John
    October 24, 2012

    Perhaps Dr. Lieberman can perform a study in zero gravity…

  9. alvinj88
    October 24, 2012

    finally an indirect response to “ask jason” lol good post sir!

  10. Peter Larson
    October 24, 2012

    Great post Jason! This is exactly why I avoided discussing specific form schools in my book – I believe different methods will work best for different people, and my interest was describing the “reality” of how we run, not the teaching tools used to get us there. Both are valuable, but it’s important to recognize the distinction. It’s fine to say “land under your” hips – it’s a great cue, but it’s also important to recognize that it doesn’t really happen. Same goes with the gravity business.

  11. Damian Stoy
    October 24, 2012

    Jason, I appreciate your comments and agree. Here are my thoughts.

    I believe in a technique and it works (for myself and many others), why would I change it. My experience has shown that ‘mastering’ it in practice as well as teaching it has really benefited myself and others.

    I don’t buy into something that works for everyone or cures everything. But, we can pretty much all agree that working on technique will benefit everyone no matter what style. One of the things I most appreciate about the Chi Running community, is its acceptance, willingness to adapt,evolve and grow. For the most part, it is a very progressive community. Just like the barefoot community. It’s all about doing what we love and sharing it.

    • Jason
      October 24, 2012

      Damian- keep in mind my criticism isn’t aimed at the effectiveness of the technique. It works really well for a lot of people. I use ChiRunning stuff all the time.

      My criticism is aimed at the explanation of *why* and *how* the method works.

  12. Erik
    October 24, 2012

    I agree with you Jason that the predominant theories are basically saying the same thing with subtle differences. We as coaches should be open to learning from each other and taking the best ideas from each theory, with the advancement of our students always top of mind.

    What works for one does not always work for another and group think is dangerous. We see this in all aspects of our society from politics to healthcare on down.

    It is my belief that as coaches we should always leave our ego’s at home and be willing and open to exploring new ideas.

    The bottom line is that we are trying to help people run more economically and with less injury and we believe “natural running” (whichever flavor you choose) is the way to achieve this goal. Why wouldn’t you want to have multiple tools in your toolbox to choose from?

    • Jason
      October 24, 2012

      Agreed Erik. This is the exact reason I’m uncomfortable with certs… it locks too many people into one methodology.

      While I really like the spring-mass model, I’d ditch it if a better explanation came along. Our current understanding of anything is inherently limited to our ability to observe, measure, and explain.

      I’m also going to pilage what I can from every available model to add as many tools as possible. Hell, I’ve even been known to defend the use of motion-control shoes with 14mm raised heels. :-)

  13. Dave
    October 24, 2012

    I agree that each of the ‘natural running’ teaching methods is pretty much trying to get to the same end result. Certain methods will resonate with some people, but not with others. It doesn’t matter if you think about “leaning from the ankles” or “engaging the core” or “being the ball”; whatever “swing thought” works for you is the correct method to follow. Even if it results in you feeling that gravity is propelling you forward :)

    • Jason
      October 24, 2012

      The last sentence is imporant, Dave. I’ve told some people “think of it as if gravity is pulling you forward’ when teaching if they didn’t quite understand other explanations. It’s used as a tool to elicit a specific movement, though, not as a theoretical explanation of how the movement is actually occuring.

      When teaching, it’s important to understand the goal. Sometimes a thorough understanding of the mechanics of runnign is necessary. Other times… not so much.

      It’s like learning to use a computer. Grandma just needs to know how to turn the computer on and off, how to connect to the Interwebz, and how to check email. She doesn’t have to understand how the hardware works, what the OS kernel is doing, or be able to write in binary. Telling her little elves in the box deliver the messages is enough of an explanation to get the job done.

  14. Dustin
    October 24, 2012

    Hi Jason,
    I’m curious, for someone who is interested in becoming a barefoot/natural running coach, what path would you recommend? I understand your point against certification, but what are the other options out there for gaining competency as a coach?

    • Jason
      October 24, 2012

      I’d recommend reading about Chi, Pose, Evolution Running (DVD), Good Form Running, pick up Ken Bob’s book, and find Gordon Pirie’s book online for free. I’d say pick up my book, too, but I don’t want to seem like a self-promoter. You get the same info by reading BRU. :-) Read barefoot Ted’s huaraches Google group on a regular basis. Read Pete Larson and Bill Katovsky’s “Tread Lightly” and Jay Dicarry’s “Anatomy of a Runner.”

      Getting certified in those that offer certification will give you more in-depth knowledge, but cost more money. If you’re looking for certs, Newton’s is good, too. VivoBarefoot’s cert is good, but they require exclusivity (can’t use other methods in conjunction) and costs a shit-ton of money. Pose is just as good.

      Learn from all, but remain skeptical. Remember that any method will work for some of the people some of the time, but none will work for all. Learn when and where to apply different methods.

  15. Ken S.
    October 24, 2012

    Putting aside theory, and just looking at technique, I would agree that they are basically variations on the same theme. In fact, I have written on this in the past, but admittedly through the lense of my own biases.

    http://www.posecoachblog.com/2011/11/how-are-running-techniques-same.html