This is not exactly new research (its from 2005), but the response to the research in the blogosphere has been telling and follows a familiar pattern and it still continues to be mentioned, which kindled my interest to revisit this paper and review the reaction to it (which is what I like doing!). This study transitioned 8 runners to the Pose method of running and used 8 as a control group. They measured a number of kinematic and economy variables at baseline and follow-up:
Effect of a global alteration of running technique on kinematics and economy
Journal of Sports Sciences Volume 23, Issue 7, 2005
George M Dallam, Randall L Wilber, Kristen Jadelis, Graham Fletcher & Nicholas Romanov
In this study, we examined the consequences of a global alteration in running technique on running kinematics and running economy in triathletes. Sixteen sub-elite triathletes were pre and post tested for running economy and running kinematics at 215 and 250 m · min−1. The members of the treatment group (n = 8) were exposed to 12 weeks of instruction in the “pose method” of running, while the members of the control group (n = 8) maintained their usual running technique. After the treatment period, the experimental group demonstrated a significant decrease in mean stride length (from 137.25 ± 7.63 cm to 129.19 ± 7.43 cm; P < 0.05), a post-treatment difference in vertical oscillation compared with the control group (6.92 ± 1.00 vs. 8.44 ± 1.00 cm; P < 0.05) and a mean increase in submaximal absolute oxygen cost (from 3.28 ± 0.36 l · min−1 to 3.53 ± 0.43 l · min−1; P < 0.01). The control group exhibited no significant changes in either running kinematics or oxygen cost. The global change in running mechanics associated with 12 weeks of instruction in the pose method resulted in a decrease in stride length, a reduced vertical oscillation in comparison with the control group and a decrease of running economy in triathletes.
This was a well designed and reported study. The authors conclusions were clear and supported by the data:
In the present study, application of the pose method of running instruction was successful in modifying the participants’ running mechanics as illustrated by a significant increase in stride rate and a reduction in vertical oscillation in the experimental group compared with the control group at a given treadmill velocity following the instructional period. However, the modifications in running mechanics elicited by the pose method were also associated with a significantly increased submaximal oxygen cost.
My random comments:
- The experimental design was appropriate to answer the research question. The design is not flawed, as claimed on a few Pose method blogs. Their criticisms were directed at something that was not the research question and just shows a poor understanding of the scientific process and how protocols are developed to answer the question.
- Many have criticized the small sample of 8 in each group (but no one was concerned about the 9 in a study on impact reduction and Chi Running). One thing you notice when you check out how those in the blogosphere comment on research is that the sample size is either adequate or not adequate depending if they like the results of the study or not. They are just showing their ignorance of sample size calculations, power analysis, statistical significance and effect sizes. Even though the numbers were “small”, the difference was statistically significant!
- When it comes to the validity and reliability of the outcome measures, they all look fine to me. The study could have been improved with more rigorous blinding of assessors as to which group subjects were in during the follow-up assessments. The randomization process looked fine, but they did not report the values for the baseline characteristics in each of the two groups which would have been helpful. These are minor issues.
- Yes it was on a treadmill, but the baseline and follow up measures were done under the same conditions. I see no reason to believe that the same results could have occurred if this was done overground (not that you can measure running economy overground!).
- Probably the main criticism you read on this study, is did the subjects actually learn the Pose technique correctly and was the 12 week period sufficient? The athletes in the study had one-on-one coaching which is probably more than the average runner gets if transitioning to the Pose method, so you have to assume that they did learn the technique properly and as Ross Tucker pointed out in his analysis: “Now, if you cannot learn a technique when you have one-on-one guidance and teaching for 12 weeks, then HOW is it feasible to promote the technique to individuals to learn using nothing more than a DVD, a weekend seminar and a series of books?“
- Some have gone as far as dismiss the very basis of the ‘scientific method’ as they did not like the results of the study. Yet, paradoxically, happily accept the results of research that they do like the results of. You can not have it both ways. Many Pose method bloggers also like to dismiss this as ‘just one study‘, but happily accept another ‘just one study‘ if it supports their world view …. oh the irony!
- It is also notable, the extraordinary lengths that a number of those who market promote tout try to impose their views on coach pose running went to debunk or discredit the research by grasping at insignificant straws in the study (eg), yet do not hold other research that they claim supports their views to the same standard of evaluation. Those that do this just open themselves to ridicule and do their cause no good at all. I am all for all research being critically appraised, I just object to those who do it to different standards depending on if it does or does not support their world view.
The take home message from this study for me is that major changes in running form come at a cost. As always: I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise.
POSTSCRIPT: I just had a thought on this when out for a run this morning and not sure why this did not occur to me before, as it is obvious. When you go from heel striking to a midfoot or forefoot strike there are greater ankle dorsiflexion moments and greater rearfoot eversion moments. This means that the calf muscles and posterior tibial muscle are working harder when midfoot or forefoot striking than when heel striking, so it is commonsense and logical that Pose running is less economical, which is exactly what the research showed. Not sure how I missed this point as it is obvious.
POSTSCRIPT 2: Another study has shown that Pose running is not more economical.
Dallam, G., Wilber, R., Jadelis, K., Fletcher, G., & Romanov, N. (2005). Effect of a global alteration of running technique on kinematics and economy Journal of Sports Sciences, 23 (7), 757-764 DOI: 10.1080/02640410400022003