In the past, I've posted on why I do not like to quote scientific studies in the context of a blog. Here is a link to that post The Use of Scientific Studies in Blog Posts. Basically, I explained that most people, outside of a very specific subset of the scientific community, simply are not prepared to interpret these studies and what they really mean.
Before I dive in, I want to be honest about my credentials and background. In this field of study, I only have a B.S. degree in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which I received January of 1993. I'm not a Ph.D. and I'm fully aware that some of what I'm going to write is going to be open to criticism. If the reader finds flaws in my arguments, please point them out to me.
There is one study, Effect of global alteration of running technique on kinematics and economy from the Journal of Sports Sciences, July 2005; 23(7): 7575-764, that has been endlessly quoted all over the internet as "proof" that learning Pose Running Technique reduces running efficiency. Because one the conclusions of this study was that after 12 weeks of Pose instruction, a group of 8 triathletes had reduced running efficiency when running with Pose technique. It also appears that most of the people quoting this study have never read it, and have just been cutting and pasting their comments from other posts on the internet.
My critique falls into two main areas. Firstly, how this study has been misinterpreted, or more precisely how it has been taken out of context. Secondly, there are elements in the design of the study that are highly questionable. In the popular media, scientific studies are quoted all of the time. Unfortunately what a study means to those working in that particular field of study and how the general public interprets the meaning of the study are usually very different. This is especially true when you consider that most of the time; the general public is getting information about these studies through the "sound bite" lens of the popular media.
First it is important to understand the following:
- Not all science is good science, because not all studies are well designed or for that matter well executed.
- Very few studies definitively prove anything. Usually studies are not significant by themselves; they are only significant if the results are reproducible.
- A study must be explained in the context of the full body of research in that particular field. If it stands alone in its results, it is probably because of poor design and execution
- Scientist in the same field will often disagree on the quality of the study and its conclusions
- Studies may be based on mistaken assumptions, and these assumptions may be so fundamental that no one even thinks of them as assumptions
Questionable Elements of the Study
It Was Only 12 Weeks Long
The study was only 12 weeks long. Unfortunately in the academic community, research projects are often designed to be started and completed within an academic semester. While there are very practical reasons for this, not everything can be studied adequately in this time frame. Also, in this case, there was probably and underlying assumption that the population being studied could fully change their running technique in 12 weeks. My experience leads me to believe that 12 weeks is not adequate time frame for learning and adapting to a new running technique.
No Reduction in Training
In the study, the subjects were told not to change their training. In other words, they were told to maintain the volume and intensity of their training while attempting to learn a new running technique. In my experience, this is a perfect recipe for failure. When learning a new technique, most people will have to reduce their mileage and intensity, to focus on skill development, and to allow for physiological adaptation to new physical stresses. In all probability, the subjects ended up compromising on technique development to maintain their training levels. If they didn't do this, they would probably have had to stop the study due to injuries.
Training not Strictly Controlled
The subjects were only trained for few hours by Dr. Romanov. After that, they were turned over to two "experienced" coaches for 1 hour a week of group Pose training. First of all, this description of coaches is somewhat fuzzy. I hope they meant two experienced Pose coaches. Secondly, I would like specific information about the training they received, and how much effort the subjects put into learning Pose between sessions. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but the training the subjects received is not described in detail nor is the motivation of the subjects. In my experience, these are two very important elements of success in learning Pose.
Small Number of Subjects
The study had a very small number of subjects. The authors of the study openly admitted that this was a problem. Recruiting motivated and cooperative subjects who are available for several weeks or months of study is very difficult. I've had firsthand experience with this problem when I was helping to run human performance studies in the Army. Regardless, with a small number of subjects the data is not as meaningful.
Tested on a Treadmill
The runners were trained to run under normal conditions (not on a treadmill), but they were tested on a treadmill. The training environment and the testing environment should have been the same. The difference between running on a treadmill and normal running is significant, and that alone is enough to make me question the results. For more on the differences between "normal" running and treadmill running please look at my post Treadmill Running.
Most people who take up Pose Running will fail to fully change their running technique, because changing one's running technique is difficult, and most people are just not motivated enough to put in the required effort. Among those who are motivated, many of them will fail, because they are unwilling to reduce their training to focus on skill development and to allow their bodies’ time to adapt to running differently. I think this study really only succeeded confirming that changing one's running technique is difficult, and that it will probably take more than 12 weeks.
More information on the study:
Dr. Yessis did a cut and paste criticism using this study:
- His Post: http://www.dryessis.com/wp/?p=651
- My Comment: http://www.posecoachblog.com/2010/09/cheap-shot-by-dr-yessis-against-pose.html