Starting Out with Pose Method and Switching to Forefoot Running

A buddy of mine was trying Pose Method running for the first time, and was having problems with calf and shin pain. I sent him these tips on starting out with Pose Method, which is changing to a forefoot runner and improving on form, strength and balance and thought that these tips might be worthy of posting to my blog as well:
1. After watching the Pose video (my buddy also bought and watched the video), I tried some of his drills. Personally I felt that I could get there without many of the drills. The essential take-away from Pose Method is to run more forefoot and to stop heel striking.
2. The static drills I found most useful are those that involve balance and core. These involve standing on one leg for a period of time, standing on one leg and moving the free leg through a running motion, etc. They improve your balance and stability and build up both the large muscles (ie. quads and calves, etc) and the tiny muscles that you never hear about. Often its the tiny muscles that are involved in efficient balance and you want them to be stronger. But if they are not, then they tire out and transfer the stress to the big muscles and once they tire out, your form goes to hell and you eventually can get injured or strained.
3. Form is key. You need to now change the way you’re running to a more forward stance. So Pose’s leaning concepts and the way they say you should move your legs under you work well. You have to burn this into your brain and body until it’s natural. This is what takes time and practice.
4. This unfortunately means some possibly very sore calves, and it sounds like shins, in your case. Pose says this should last about a month. For constant runners and young people, I think this may be true.
But I will tell you that I am an edge case because in the first year it took months for me to adapt, plus weekly physical therapy to work out tightness in my calves. Then each year, after my off season, my calves would become sore again for some months before adapting, with PT working out the tightness. I think after my 3rd year into my 4th my calves FINALLY stopped protesting, although this year I have tightness with my flexor hallicus which is one of those small muscles that runs along the achilles tendon and under the bottom of the big soleus calf muscle. The unfortunate thing is that I can only manage it with PT and never give it time to fully heal; I am training every week and hope it doesn’t get worse, which as long as I go to PT it does not.
Non-tight calves and shins are essential for shock absorbtion and the return of spring energy back into the stride so that you are light on your feet and you are running fast. Otherwise, it will feel like your stomping around in army boots, which basically means you’re not lightly and efficiently running but transferring a lot of force into the ground, which returns that force back up into your legs, knees, hips and body as pounding stress which will lead to injury.
Other form tips:
Run with a head that is always level and not bouncing up and down.
Move your legs under you as if they are just brushing off the ground and you’re not stomping into it. Your stride should feel light and fast. Leg turnover is the name of the game, not lengthening your stride to compensate. Thus your heart rate will rise as more leg turnover raises your heart rate but you will get used to it.
You also want a slight body lean forward to enable gravity to help you in the run, not lean back so that gravity pulls you backward as you’re trying to go forward.
Your arms should be held loosely by your side, swinging only forward and back, not side to side across your body like you’re trying to do the watoosi (sp?). The arms help you maintain your balance as your legs are moving under the body. Don’t hold them stiffly down by your side or tense them.
Your body should be upright with your chest presented proudly, but not overly forward. This helps in the forward lean and also keeps your head up and not hunched over. You should have a slight tension between your shoulder blades to pull your shoulders back slightly; not too tensed but just a little. This also helps in opening up your chest for better breathing and maintaining posture.
5. If you can find an ART practictioner in your area, I would go weekly to work through your calves and shins if you can afford the time and money, until they adapt. Once they adapt you can back off to once every two weeks or once a month plus on demand if things pop up.
6. If regular PT is not for you, then I would get a foam roller (you find one at amazon) or better, the TP Massage Roller. I would get the longer one which is more versatile and gives you more room to roll different parts of your leg. You can then roll your calves and your shins (the meaty muscle part, which are the peroneals and anterior tibalis, not the shin bone). The rolling will help take out the tightness in a big way, and it’s also a great way to warm up which is to roll before you stretch and go out and run.
7. Stretching is always good, but often you’ll find that you can’t stretch out some of the tightness. But keep stretching nevertheless as it’s good for you, even if the protesting muscles won’t stretch out.
8. I would also start out more moderately. For example, in the balance exercises, he says to balance on the ball of the foot immediately. I think this may be too much for beginners. You can start by just standing there with your foot flat on the ground first. When you get used to balancing, then you can lift the heel up. Also, I would start being more conservative on the time you balance, maybe so short that it feels dumb, like 10 seconds. Your body may need more time building up the strength in a way that doesn’t leave you with sore calves and shins. So you can start with 10 seconds for 3X a week for maybe 1-2 weeks and then add 10 seconds to that for another 3X week for 1-2 weeks and so on. Jumping to 30 seconds may be too much.
9. This also goes for running, especially if you’re not used to running. You can go to a flat surface like a track and then practice keeping your Pose method form. Run and walk so that you give your calves a break from holding your body up, like run for 20-30 seconds and then walk for a minute. Later you start adding to your run time and reduce your walk time as your strength and fitness builds.
Also you can start out very low in time, like 10 minutes total for running (or run/walk) straight through not counting some drills time. Then keep the 10 minutes for a 1-2 weeks, and then add 5-10 minutes every 2 weeks. I know it sounds so short, but I found during my early days that my body would just keep getting tighter and tighter until something really got sore if I ran normal workouts so early in my training. You really have to listen to your body and do what it needs, and we also have to remember we’re older now and recover slower, and build up muscle slower too.
10. Doing core exercises are really good also. I am trying to find a good book which shows a lot of good exercises but don’t know of any that are really great. You can try Idiot’s Guide to Core Conditioning which is pretty good. I would stick to bridges and planks and avoid the twisting exercises which can stress the discs in your back. I would also go to the section with the medicine ball which has some really great exercises to build up both your stomach and back muscles. Having strong core muscles allows you to hold your body upright and not slouch during running, which ruins your form.
Or you can find a personal trainer as most of them train core these days, if you watch them work with others in a gym.
11. Don’t forget to take a day off in between working on this stuff to rest. If your calves are overly sore now, then you might want to take enough days off to make sure they are finally not sore, and then start again. Hopefully this will be in 2-3 days of not running. If you find that after a week they are still sore, you might want to find a PT person to help you out.
Hope these tips help all you beginning runners too!

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  1. MichaellaS Avatar

    tks for the effort you put in here I appreciate it!