Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why Chi Running is Less Efficient than Pose Running

As I write this, I'm wondering how much hate mail this post might generate. So let me start by saying I'm not anti-Chi Running. My feeling is that Pose and Chi running are more similar than different, and there is no question in my mind that Chi Running, as a technique, is a vast improvement to way most people run who do not have any training in technique.

I've read a number of articles written by Chi Runners comparing Chi to Pose. Unfortunately the information they present about Pose is almost always inaccurate and misleading. If I've made the same mistake here with Chi Running, please let me know.

In my last post, The Physics of the Pull, I briefly described the reasons why Pose Technique requires that the runner pull his foot directly into the Pose very quickly. The short answer is because it minimizes counter balance which impedes falling. In Pose Running, the Pull is a one-step process, in which the foot goes directly from the ground to underneath the hips.

From everything I've read and seen of Chi Running, the Chi Running equivalent of the pull is a two-step process. First the runner lifts his foot from the ground directly up, and second he pulls his knee forward into the equivalent of the Pose. This leaves the weight of the trailing leg behind the runner longer, thus creating counter balance and impeding falling forward.

For further reading:
  1. Your Pose Running Coach's Blog: The Physics of the "Pull" 
  3. In this post the author did not correctly describe Pose Running -


  1. I am the author of the "incorrect" post under the for further reading section:

    Let me state first that I am not anti-anything, including pose. You can see from my posts ( that I repeatedly invite a personal choice on the approach that works the best for each person and for each running scenario/objective.

    My referenced blog post states four published Pose concepts: lean, forefoot, "pull" and cadence for speed change. This post has received multiple comments from pose runners both on and off blog; with no issue on the accuracy of these points. If there is something inaccurate with these points, then please share your published resource.

    Regarding the "my form is better than your form" blog post above: Are we really saying here that we can take an opinion about a single part of the running form and reach some general conclusion that a whole running form is more or less efficient? For all people? For all scenarios/objectives?

  2. I was afraid that the above post was going get this kind of reaction. I'm sorry that I offended you as much as I apparently have. I hope this can become a platform for discussion based on facts and reason. Anything I say here is my honest opinion, but I can always be persuaded by a better analysis of the facts.

    1. This is not a "mine is better than yours" post. First you have to define "better". "Better" in regard to running form means different things to different people. I was talking only about one aspect of running specifically efficiency in falling.

    2. The laws of physics are not negotiable. I made my case based on those laws. If you can show me how I am incorrect, please do. I will be very excited about learning something new.

    3. If I am incorrect about Chi Running technique please point out my errors. I based my what I said on various article and videos, but I fully admit that I am not an expert on Chi Running technique.

    4. In your post your stated, "Pose Method suggests increasing your cadence (“stride frequency”) to increase your speed. A quicker turnover requires more muscular effort to ‘pull’ your heels and legs in the vertical direction faster."

    This is incorrect. Pose is about increasing the angle of the fall to go faster. Stride frequency, when using Pose, only increases significantly for distances under 400 meters. I get my information directly from Dr. Romanov, as his student, as well as all of his publications on the subject. Although, I will admit that some of his publications have been widely misinterpreted.

    6. You state "My referenced blog post states four published Pose concepts: lean, forefoot, "pull" and cadence for speed change." This is not Pose Running. Pose is conceptualized as Pose, Fall, Pull and Cadence. Again this is in every Pose publication by Dr. Romanov.

    Finally, I'm sorry but you did get Pose Running wrong. If I did the same with Chi Running, I want to be corrected.

    If you have opinions on how Chi Running might be more efficient than Pose, or why this might vary from person to person, I'm very eager to hear them.

  3. Hardly a reaction here. No offense taken. Suggestion: If you are going to say something is incorrect you might also state upfront why you think so.

    Responses to your points:

    1. Did you read the title of your post? If your post was about "efficiency in falling" … you tried to make that specific case and then universally applied it to complete technique approaches in the title. I don't follow that logic.

    2. Agree the laws of physics are not negotiable. But I also don't believe you can take an isolated law and suggest that automatically correlates to a measure of overall efficiency. Obviously if you want to fall faster, then get your COM higher and farther in front of your feet; but in my opinion there is way more to overall running efficiency than that.

    3. In ChiRunning, there is no "pull" and the knee stays much lower as the knee is allowed to bend. The circular motion of the ankle happens more and more by itself with greater levels of relaxation. The leg easily comes forward for the next step - and is enhanced by hip extension and recoil.

    4. From the Pose Method Book:
    - pg. 76 "Stride frequency, not length, is the key to faster running."
    - pg. 85 "What makes increased stride frequency critical, though, is that is the only parameter of running speed we can consciously control."
    - pg. 85 "The faster you change support, the more permission you give your body to freefall. And the faster you fall, the faster you run. Your running speed is directly related to your stride frequency or cadence."

    Clearly states changing cadence (and fall) to change speed. I don't think these statements are open to misinterpretation.

    6. The four concepts I stated were just the four I referenced and compared in my post, not THE four that Pose is generally summarized by. So, again I don't believe there is anything wrong in my comment.

  4. 1. I agree with you that the title could have been better chosen. My apologies.

    2. I would very much like to hear you opinions on what else contributes to efficiency.

    3. I know there is no pull in Chi Running, but ultimately there is an equivalent. The leg must come up and forward.

    4. These quotes do not contradict anything that I said. Some of them are the unfortunate result of the fact the book was not directly written by Dr. Romanov. So some of the ideas are not well stated, and are open to easily being misinterpreted. Many of his publication since then have stated his ideas more accurately.

    Pg 76. This statement is very misleading, and has been widely misinterpreted. As a result, it has been a major source of confusion about Pose Running.

    "Faster running" should be sprinting. Dr. Romanov, takes great pains to explain this concept to his students.

    Pg. 85. Stride length is not consciously controlled. It is the result of the angle of falling, and performing the technique correctly. Stride length is a result of faster running not the cause. The runner should focus on falling and technique, not the length of his or her stride.

    Pg. 85 Change of support is not the same thing as stride frequency. This is a common misunderstanding. Many people have very slow change of support and still have a fast stride frequency. In Pose this is referred to a "late pull".

    Unfortunately you did not interpret these as intended. However, the first book on Pose Running was not well written, and is still a source of a lot of confusion. I fully admit this, and I think I've stated this on my blog previously. As a result, I always point people to his triathlon book.

    6. I'm sorry but your comment was completely inaccurate in regard to the conceptualization of Pose. A complete explanation would be difficult to give here in this forum. If you wish to discuss this more, please feel free to email me, and I'll be happy to go into detail on why.

  5. Thanks for this article. I have developed hip pain since I switched to Chi running. Granted, I have a prior injury but it has never been a problem with running before. It has been good for my feet to switch to the leaning form and to avoid a heel strike, but I feel like my hips are taking more stress than they're used to. Like you, I noticed the obvious difference in the two schools -- Pose looks more like the old "can opener" dive and Chi is more in line with the hips. Not sure how this effects the hips but the difference is definitely something worthy of discussion.

  6. Interesting comment. Off hand, I don't know why Chi running might be harder on your hips, or if switching to Pose would make any difference. With both Pose and Chi running, the runner should land in an aligned position. There should be a straight line from the ball of the foot through the hips, shoulders and head. This position should be less stressful to the hips than a typical running stride. If you want to give me more details, I'll do my best to help you figure out what's going on.

  7. "If you want to give me more details, I'll do my best to help you figure out what's going on."

    First off, thanks so much for your reply! I saw your two stick figure drawings on an image search and thought, "Yes!, that's what I'm looking for. Why is that different? Could that explain the pain I've been having?"

    I'm looking at page 108 in "ChiRunning". In figure 55 the leg following through is at a 90 degree bend. In figure 56 he strikes a posture that looks similar (similar, not the same as) the signature Pose posture. You can see the same 90 degree bend also on page 96 figure 40 -- the foot is well behind. I'm thinking, while trying to emulate this, I'm overstretching the recovering leg backwards and also, as you said, throwing off the counter-balancing action. On page 88, Mr. Dreyer discusses "peeling up the foot" but it's easy to lose that nuance. I already learned the hard way that misunderstanding the instructions can be painful. I was leaning too much at first and my calves were ending up tied in knots. Someone advised (or perhaps it's in the text) not to lean so much and that took care of the problem.

    My particular injury is a combination of an over-extension in wrestling 40 years ago, over stretching in Yoga 8 years ago and again recently, and a strain while sprinting breast stroke kick in swimming. It seems like the pain has increased over the last 6 months even though I've been cutting my running pace and mileage (yet continuing with the CheRunning focuses (or possibly my misinterpretation thereof).

    After three months of just walking, I tried two gentle 50 yard jogs and on the second repeat felt a tendon that runs from the hip to the upper leg extend too far backwards and kept going beyond what's comfortable.

    In a swimming arm recovery, for example, you start to lift your elbow while the hand is still pushing backwards and rounding out. I'm wondering if the Pose method of a quicker lift would be analogous.

    I also found the following article that seemed to propose a similar concern.

    If I'm allowed to quote here Carol Scheible's article, she writes (more succinctly than I), "The pose book also does a better job of describing the proper way to lift up the foot. It should be lifted straight up under the hips. The Chi book talks about your stride kicking out behind you, and shows that picture where the foot is way out behind the body. It's possible that I misunderstood what the chi book was saying about proper foot motion. But, when I do it the way the pose method describes, it feels right to me. "

  8. You have given me a lot to work with here. I'll get my hands on a Chi Running book so I can see specifically what you are referring, and then I'll get back to you.

    Let me ask you one question. Is the problem with your hip in the supporting leg, or the the non-supporting leg? I initially assumed you were talking about the supporting leg, but it seem that you are having problems with non-supporting leg. One more question. Is it just on one side?

  9. I reviewed all the material you mentioned. In my opinion your assessment is probably correct. The excessive counterbalance caused by Chi Running technique is probably exacerbating your old injuries.

    I would be interested to know how well you are able to run with your injuries when using Pose. Do they still bother you, are able to run pain free, or is the comfort level somewhere in between?

  10. Pose & Chi are as similar and dissimalar as Karate and Taekwondo. Not identical, just similar. Personally, I have gone to Chi Running and it has alleviated injuries. Keep in mind the books do not cover all. Also, that coaching oneself is riddled with issues - full knowledge of subject matter including diagnosis and corrective techniques. Why most benefit from a good teacher and, preferably, one with proper training AND certification as a teacher, not just subject matter expertise.

    One item that appears failry unaddressed in each is an aspect of one's gait...are the legs moving linear (front to back) or having some circular/oval/hitch aspects. circular/oval/hitch aspects cause injury no matter what technique one uses. Without proper diagnosis and correction, injuries will likely occur especially over longer distance. Again, I can attest to this and so can others I know. Recommendation, pick one and get a good coach. The investment is in your health and happiness. Good luck.

    1. Yes, they are definitely NOT identical, but they do have similarities.

      The issues you mentioned are addressed in Pose, but relatively few people need help with these problems compared to other aspects of running technique.

      Pose is more aligned with other competitive running techniques. If you want to compete, stick with Pose.