Running THrough The Pain

The sun peeks over the mountains to the East and you lace up the shoes; a consistent start to your morning routine for the past year. Heading down a familiar route on your morning run, you notice a pain beneath your knee cap. As any self respecting runner would do, you figure that you’ll warm-up and it will disappear as it’s done for the past several training sessions; this time it doesn’t. Trying to tough it out for the next kilometer or two you hobble along the pavement until it hurts so bad you have to walk home. Welcome to the world of your average runner.

With a sport and pastime seemingly so harmless, why are you unable to perform as usual? This isn’t fun anymore. It is at this juncture that many runners have tried a few more training sessions, hit a physio appointment or two, then called it quits to take up the road bike. Proclaiming: “I’m not meant to be a runner,” or “there’s way too much impact,” is their slogan moving forward. A sad statistic in modern sports is between 40-65% (the former being an extremely modest estimation although stats vary wildly) of runners become injured in one way or another every year. This is an epidemic. Another statistic states that 82% of runners heel strike, which is not a coincidence. With modern footwear, sedentary lifestyles, and poor running form, these numbers won’t change, unless we make a concerted effort to change the way we run.

We have a few options as athletes to improve the way we perform. Most people go to physio, get a massage, or buy new shoes with the latest and greatest arch support and motion control but still come up with the same problems. While regular massage, physio and various other treatments are pivotal in keeping your overall health and activity level high, it’s not the ideal way to prevent injuries in the first place. Why not stop the injury before it happens? This can be achieved only one way: by improving your form to the way we were designed to run.

Enter POSE Method running. This system of running was designed by Dr. Nicholas Romanov using our body mechanics and the laws of physics to make our stride as efficient as possible. This efficiency means less injuries and quicker race times. Dr. Romanov created POSE Method in the 70’s and has been working with high level athletes at varsity and Olympic levels ever since. Casting aside traditional ways of coaching runners or the idea that everyone has their own “natural style,” a new system was developed to create a standard for running form.

The basic breakdown of this system is: falling, POSE position, and the pull. This sounds simple, but inevitably takes detailed drills, video analysis and hours of practice to perfect and improve. Running with near perfect form (everyone can improve on their form, even Usain Bolt) also includes concepts such as proper proprioception, landing on the ground – not striking, unweighting the body, higher cadence, proper mobility and ground reaction force, amongst others.

A common falsehood in running is that a light jog to a sprint requires a fundamentally different style. The truth is your form should be basically the same no matter how fast or slow you’re running. This idea leads to the fact that in order to learn a new skill there must be a standard in which to strive for, and anything else is a deviation from that standard. This deviation leads to less efficiency and therefore slower speed with more muscular effort. This is the wheelhouse of the running injury, most common being – but not limited to – runner’s knee (most common), shin splints, iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome, achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. The vast majority of runners have an unmistakable heel strike with no idea it’s happening. The impact jolts through the entire body, causing three times a person’s body weight to ripple through their joints. Impact like this is a ticking time bomb and only a matter of time before the injuries start piling up.

If you think about any other skilled sports, we are taught and trained to perform the skill repeatedly to learn proper execution. Examples of this include swimming, cycling or swinging a baseball bat, so why not running? Most adolescents get outside and run without much instruction and develop some bad habits from a very young age. Poor form is then compounded with a sedentary lifestyle, which is a recipe for disaster.

This is where POSE running comes into play; improving your running form is the first step that should be taken to avoid injuries instead of treating them after the fact. By no means is there a panic to hang up the running shoes right now for fear of an injury, but instead starting to work on form will keep you injury free for years to come. The drills that will be worked on to improve form can be practiced and practiced again until a new, more flowing stride becomes your normal running style. While working on new drills and form correction, moderation is key to keeping your body pain free. Learning a new skill must be done slowly to unlearn years of poor running habits. You cannot change your form instantly and not expect an injury just as you can’t switch from heavy soled shoes to minimalist without an injury.

Hopefully, this can be read with an objective mindset that can lead into honest self reflection about how you feel about your favourite past time. Once you realize there is something that can be improved upon, action can be taken to work towards a better running form.

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