How to put the ‘run’ back into your free-running
By Dan Edwardes
Source article: Parkour Generations.com
Sometimes it is easy to forget that parkour is a discipline predicated upon the act of running. So caught up are we in the perfection of vaults and landings, of wall-scaling and precision jumps, that the actual running begins to fall by the wayside; unpractised, neglected – even lost entirely to some. And yet, drilling aside, running actually makes up the majority of the action, being that it occupies all the time and space between the other movements! But how much time do you spend practising how to run? Have you ever, in fact, learned how to run? Most likely not, as it is something we all do quite naturally. Or do we…?
The fact is that running, just like any other coordinated activity we undertake, is something that can be refined and improved. Running is practiced by millions, but rarely ever taught as a skill: yet there are just as many subtleties to the art of running as there are within the practise of Yoga, or Taiji. Or walking, even…
Good running is silent and you can hear only your breathing. General signs of good technique are lightness and effortlessness of running, with almost no perception of pressure on your feet (weightlessness), with no muscle tension, short support time and good cadence.
– Dr. Nicholas Romanov
Now, everybody can walk – this is taken for granted. Yet it is undeniable that some walk better than others: Posture, balance, weight distribution, economy of motion… all of these things vary hugely from one person’s manner of walking to another’s. Sit and watch a street-load go by for five minutes and you will soon get the point. And many in the crowd – the majority, in fact – will probably soon begin to strike you as ‘bad’ walkers: off-balance, leaning forward, shuffling, curved spine, flat-footed. Amongst these types, the ‘good’ walkers will also begin to stand out like streetlamps: a dancer may go by, back straight, head up, relaxed gait, moving off the balls of the feet… seemingly gliding along as opposed to trudging with the rest. Running is just the same: it can be done well, it can be done poorly – and we can all improve our technique.
Economy of Motion
The simple fact is that for the amount of energy most of us put into the action of running we get remarkably poor returns. Our effort leaks out through bad technique, poor posture, and wasted input: Too much up and down motion, for example, when you really want all your momentum going forwards; Or too long a stride, resulting in every step crashing down upon the back of the heel thereby breaking what should be a fluid action into lots of separate stops and restarts. Combine a lot of these small inefficiencies, and what you have is a runner who tires very quickly, expends huge amounts of energy, and – worst of all – incurs a host of little injuries that, over time, develop into major problems.
Fortunately, this can be avoided. What we are looking for is economy of motion. While this can, and should, come as a result of years and years of regular running training (almost purely through the body’s trial and error process), it can also be achieved through a concerted effort to train the body to run with better technique.
One man who has made a science out of the art of running is Dr. Nicholas Romanov. Romanov developed the Pose Method of Running as an integral part of his philosophy of movement in Russia during the 1970s, and his method has proven so successful it is now employed by both the British and the American Triathlon Olympic Teams – quite an endorsement! Anyone looking to improve their understanding of the biomechanics and physics of efficient running stands to gain a great deal from an in-depth look at Romanov’s Pose Method.
Here’s the crash course.
The Pose Method of Running
The Pose Method is a system derived from the key ideal poses the human body goes through during efficient running, and provides a model of working with the laws of nature instead of against them. In running, this is achieved by using gravity as the primary force for movement instead of muscular energy. Dr. Romanov views running as a skill to be mastered, and one based upon pulling and falling, not pushing.
The basic running pose, which the runner moves through during each step, is a whole body pose, which vertically aligns shoulders, hips and ankles with the support leg, while standing on the ball of the foot. This creates an S-like shape for the body, making it compact and loaded with elastic energy. It also improves balance, which is a prerequisite for good running technique. The runner then changes the pose from one leg to the other by falling forward and allowing gravity to do the work. The support foot is pulled from the ground to allow the body to fall forward, while the other foot drops down freely, in a change of support. The aim is to be always falling forward, ever on the cusp of overbalancing, and letting your legs regain that balance with each step. This creates continuous forward movement, with the least energy use, and the least effort.
The Pose Method relies on the maximal use of the natural forces of gravity, muscle elasticity and inertia. The overall aim is to keep the general centre of mass above the support point (the mid-foot) and to pull the other foot from the ground in a vertical line directly beneath the hips. Avoid too long a stride length, as this requires too much muscular effort and also leads to landing on the back of the heels, which interrupts the flow of the action. Do not push off from the ground, but rather lift each foot and allow gravity to pull it down again.
Romanov’s method works, and his exercises for developing one’s skill at running are both innovative and effective. He regularly takes groups of untrained runners and with a few hours instruction in his method all will show enormous gains in speed, fluidity and ease of running. Much like with good parkour practice, Dr. Romanov has realised that a proper understanding of the minutiae of movement lead to improved performance all round. The end results of the Pose Method of Running are increased speed, more relaxed and ‘free’ running, and far fewer injuries – something every one of us will find instantly attractive.
Whether or not you choose to apply the findings of Dr. Romanov’s years of research, do take some time to look at your own running technique and see if it is as efficient and natural as it could be. Most likely there will be things that can be improved, at the very least. It’s all well and good to flow like water over a wall or across some railings, but if you are moving like a pregnant yak over the flat ground then maybe it’s time to learn how to run all over again!
Original Article used with permission from Parkour Generations Ltd.