Progressive Running

Best Ever Techniques to Run Efficiently

Category: Technique (Page 1 of 8)

Does Pose running help trail running?

I always heard from those who tried trail running that they fell in love with it at the first sight. This time I gave it a go at Bare Creek Trail Run on Sunday 10 Nov 2019 and it was a great experience that I like to do again. I had run around Manly damn or other bushlands in Sydney Northern Beaches, but this time had more pleasure being accompanied by an enthusiastic crowd.

Me at Bare Creek Trail Run, Nov 2019

 

To name a few differences of trail running from road running, at trail running:

  • Negative:
    • The track surface has to be constantly observed (tread carefully)
    • There are steps made of rocks to almost climb up or down
    • Can be muddy at some parts
    • Might have to cross water (creek or river)
    • Ground can be harsh and rocky; in fairness it is softer than road at many parts
    • Higher chance of injury from falling over, rolling an ankle, getting trapped by bushfire, getting scratched by sharp edges of rocks or branches, etc.
  • Positive:
    • Shadier than roads at some bushland tracks
    • More challenging, if you love to challenge yourself
    • Better supply of oxygen for being in the bushland
    • Away from road air-pollution

Pose and Trail Running

The question is, is Pose running also applicable to trail running? The answer is yes, but not at all parts. In fact, the goal is to get back to Pose as soon as you can. What interrupts you is the type of surface every now and then that would require you to jump or leap around something on the track. Once it is over and you are onto a less bumpy surface you should get back to your Pose rythme.

Other principle of Pose running you  can apply is to shorten strides at uphills and downhills, no matter how the surface is. If there is no need to jump over rocks or bumps, do no push off the ground and stick to your foot-lifting by hamstrings.

Side Notes on Minimalism

First of all, ProgressiveRunning is mainly about running techniques, prior to advocating minimalism. The way we run has a higher degree of importance than what we wear.

I ran this race, Bare Creek Trail Run, in a pair of a type of Vibram Five Fingers which is not for trail running. I still wore them because I knew the track would leave a mark on my better shoes so I decided to wear something to throw away after the race, a pair of old and shabby VFF. They perfectly did the job anyway, so adios fellows! thanks a lot for the journey!

Adios fellas!

My notion of wearing minimalist shoes is I believe in “developing strength” as opposed to “buying it off the shelf“.

One interesting observation I had at the race was that my ankles rolled a few times as I slipped on some rocks but I had ZERO problem from that. In fact, my ankles just turned to an excessive angle but the ability in them – from running with no support by shoes – managed to tolerate the pressure and get back to their normal form.

Open Trampoline Analogy

Going minimalist is totally a personal choice, but I choose it for one reason that I am giong to explain now. My neighbour at where I live have an open trampoline and during this time we have been neighbours they have not had any incidents. Another friend of mine encourages parents to have open trampoline because it makes children adopt skills to be more agile and careful too. I am sure there are children somewhere in the world who have suffered from falling off open trampoline – and we can argue forever whether those children were experienced open-trampoliner or rookies who unsuccessfully experimented it – but the argument is that such children have the chance to develop extra skills on open trampolines from knowing there is no fence to guard them, whereas children playing in a guarded trampoline do not develop such abilities and from my own experience they actually bump to each other very often of which the statistical data may not appear anywhere. By this analogy similar concept applies to wearing minimalist shoes. I believe:

  • As I age, my arch will stay higher than they would be if I wore non-minimalist shoes
  • I have stronger muscles in my lower legs (The study)
  • I have better agility and balance skills (due to being more responsive to change of surface)

Conclusion

Running according to Pose Method of Running can still apply to trail running. The runner goes in and out of Pose as they have to jump over uneven surfaces. Once the track is steady runners can switch back to Pose.

Benefits of minimalism come better once you know how to run efficiently and the best way to run efficiently that I know of is Pose Method of Running.

To vibram or not to vibram?

When I meet running enthusiasts for the first time I am usually asked variety of questions about Vibram Five Fingers (VFF), my favourite running shoes. I have been wearing them since 2011 and have never looked back. There are benefits in minimalism that do not exist in the opposite direction towards maximalism. Comfort level increases towards maximalism and efficiency drops. It is your call where about on this spectrum you like to settle.

Here you go, an FAQ about wearing VFF. Please do write me comments here or message me directly if any questions or different points of view.

Do VFF shoes help with your running form?

Shoes do not matter as much as the way you run matters. Wearing these shoes might force you to correct some movements but until the time you stop what you doing to start running in Pose you are just hanging around in the darkness repeating same mistakes hoping for the best. You gain some strength by wearing these and you mind your landing a bit more because you have less cushioning in your footwear which might help with some aspects of running techniques but these things are some dots that one day you have to connect to see the full picture, to understand why the rule of each dot has to be followed. The connection between these dots is explained well in Pose Method of Running, and only by that. Period.

Do you run faster in VFF?

My time improved at all the races from the time I switched to VFF but it was my own experience and may not apply to everyone. What I ignorantly did not do back in time was to run in Pose. When I had an injury I looked into running techniques, then I found about Pose Method of Running and found out it is not shoes causing injuries, it is the way we run.

My mate ran in these and got injured

Does he run in Pose? If no, I do not care. If yes, what was his training plan like? Was his goal realistic? Did he over train by any chance? What injury was it actually? For instance, I do not think you can get away with ITBS by running in VFF. Some injuries have nothing to do with techniques or footwears.

As you see there are plenty of plausible reasons before pointing fingers at VFF as culprit.

Does running in VFF mean having to run in Pose?

No but when you learn Pose method of running, you will see how less important the cushioning in your shoes are, or actually how that cushioning might work against you. So the answer is no, and it is your personal choice if you like to work out more muscles in my legs to have stronger feet (who said having big biceps and pecs are sexy only? lol).

One thing about cushioning in shoes, do a research about elasticity of tendons and its usage in running. That would help understand why this comfort in your shoes work against efficiency. Building a bit of strength in your feet would bring out the benefits of this elasticity.

Are you a barefoot runner?

No, I have tried it and my feet bled and I did not – still do not – have the passion/patience to build up strength for that. One would have to grow calluses on the soles of their feet to be able to run comfortably. I appreciate what barefoot runners do but I am not one. I take this thin protection for my feet from VFF and experience nearly the same.

Why do you bother running in VFF? Is there any benefits?

That is a valid question. It is a harder workout to run in VFF. Having said that, sensing the ground is a great feeling that might offset a bit of the pain from that hard core workout. You would go through some transitioning that might be painful. In fact, after years of shod running you start using some soft tissues (like tendons or muscles) that you had not used as much in the past, and they can get badly sore. Once you pass this transition (or if  you do a research first on how to gradually build up to avoid pain), I would strongly say running in them is a better workout for your feet. Like Leo in Matrix, transitioning to the other side!

Let’s take look at this example: In the usual two-handed pull up if your dominant hand is way stronger than the other one you always cover that weakness by using  the dominant one more. No one really cares how you perform pull-ups and as long as you do many you are considered fit (result orientation attitude); but behind the scenes one of your arms is weak and the other one is two times stronger. If you care, you will start working on one arm workouts for pulling yourself up to the bar which means a better workout for your arms. Similar example applies to planks: do it one handed, lift one leg off the ground, do it in variety of positions to cover all core and stablising muscles.

Wearing VFF works out many small muscles in your lower legs that would surely come handy somewhere sometimes in your life (strength is an asset). Wearing cushioned shoes might prevent some muscles to act properly, for instance the arch support can meddle with the action of Tibialis posterior; or standing on big toe which involves pulling plantar fascia is limited when being shod.

How about sharp objects on the ground?

I have never happened to step on something sharp since 2011 when I switched to them though I ran a few times for a couple of strides on gravels which was not pleasant; however, looking at the bright side, it was like those spotty massages for plantar fascia. Sydney and most Australian cities are clean and well-maintained, so I take the opportunity for doing a better workout for my legs/feet.

Does it limit the distance you run?

Initially yes but as you build strength and tolerance in your feet the distance you can do in one go will expand. In fact you face the reality of your strength instead of borrowing a bit of strength off the shelf for a quick result. Quick result is luring, I understand and I fall for it in some other aspects of my life. At running I have chosen not to go for quick results. I want sustainable outcome, and I would rather develop strength in my feet rather than buying something not as good off the shelf.

What is the main caveat  at running in VFF?

Your feet are more exposed to the ground and if your technique is not right/efficient you may wear your legs out faster by just running the way you run. Almost all conventional shoes are built based on the assumption that runners push off the ground. I doubt there are many people out there advising against it. Most people are result-oriented, and not as much into how to get the result. This pushing off the ground is the main culprit to common injuries like Achilles tendinitis or shinsplints. If you push off the ground at running (aka paw-back) your chance of getting injured is higher in VFF. That is my opinion.

What I advocate here is the path to your goal matters and the first step to get it right is to fix your technique. You should not suffer from the way you run. You might make mistakes in picking realistic goals but you should avoid inefficient running techniques that by nature, no matter what your goals are, make you incur extra costs.

So is it just a personal choice or what?

Everything is a personal choice. You can choose to be inefficient at running and it is totally respected. Back to what I said earlier on this page, your footwear does not matter as much as the way you run does. Once you sort out your running technique you may see my point that the best way of getting result out of it is to go minimalist unless you are unable for physiological reasons.

In a nutshell, it is a personal choice that comes with extra benefits, mainly efficiency. It is a harder workout, and you know, no pain no gain, but please fix your techniques first before jumping into these.

You sounds badly opinionated!

No, prove me wrong to see how I turn my back to everything I said here; till then I will go with these:

Is front foot landing good or not?

“Should I land on my front foot at running?”

I can strongly say that this is the most frequently question I have been asked about running. Maybe I should build an FAQ page actually…

Unlike some people’s expectation, the answer to the above question is not a straight Yes to front foot landing. This is because the way we land is determined with what we do before landing, so focusing on landing would not direct you to the right conclusion and understanding of best running technique.

I can say for sure that if you are landing on the back of your foot, you are not running right. You are wasting energy and you are somewhere on the spectrum of self-harm purely from the way you run (could be benign, could be severe); however the opposite of that landing style, front foot landing, is not necessary a good sign.

Let’s get you familiar with this jargon: Active landing. It is when you deliberately impose or exert a specific way of landing. For instance, because a running mate of yours said front-foot landing is good, you enforce your front feet to touch the ground first. THAT IS BAD.

Fore-foot / Front-foot Active Landing

The right landing happens when you do not interfere with it and take your focus to where it must be only: fall and pull. If you know these two and you are working your way up to master Pose running, keep going. If not, let me tell you these: do not drive your knees, do not try to reach forward and do not push off the ground, and … . Yes, at learning Pose there are a lot of DO-NOTs to be aware of.

Running is known as “natural” – honestly this term is vague – but it usually comes with a lot of extra things that no-one knows how they adopted them into their running form (it is kind of the definition of natural, right?!) and then these extra things are exactly the culprit of all the headaches: the injuries, over-tiredness, too much soreness, and so on.

If you get your propulsion purely from falling forward, if you switch off the propellers (muscles) in your legs to avoid interfering with this gravitational torque that drives you forward (and is [more than] enough for moving forward), you will landing under your hips and most likely on front or whole foot. At landing under hips, the centre of your body mass is right above your landing leg (no landing ahead of the body), which is good (generates no ground reaction force against your direction of running). In this case it does not even matter how the landing happens. You become agnostic to it; however, in slow-motion running form analysis of such runners, they all land fore-foot or whole foot.

Conclusion, do not copy the final output of good looking things thinking you will be fine. Riding an expensive car or going on an expensive holiday destination or living in a penthouse does not make you rich but looking from the other end of the line, you will have the option of doing any of these if you are rich. If you see the point, good luck with your running :)

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