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Saturday, March 20, 2010

POSE versus ChiRunning... A Showdown For The Ages

POSE and ChiRunning are two programs that aim to teach runners to run with greater efficiency and reduced injuries.  Both programs are widely supported among barefoot runners.  Both programs have fiercely loyal followers.  I have no financial stake in either.

I've read extensively on both techniques.  As is my custom, I take what I can use from any available source and experiment with it.  Some things make me better.  I keep those.  Some make me worse.  Those I abandon.  I don't believe either is entirely correct for every possible individual.  To claim otherwise would be stupid.  Still, people often ask for a recommendation of one over the other.  My response is simple- try both.

 Both methods are extraordinarily similar.  POSE will wrap itself in a shroud of "science", most of which was conducted by Nick Romanov, the man that profits from POSE sales.  ChiRunning shrouds itself in Eastern mysticsm.  I consider both to be marketing B.S., though proponents of both will claim otherwise.  The real value of both can be found in the fundamentals.

Followers of both will often preach about the infallibility of their particular program, though Chi proponents tend to be a little less dogmatic.  I have encountered several hard-core POSE followers that refuse to accept the idea that POSE may not be the best possible solution for every single runner.  Their fanaticism reminds me of religious zealots... that annoys me.  POSE claims to be rooted in science.  A fundamental tenent of the scientific method states any theory must be able to be refuted.  That idea seems incomprehensible to some POSE followers, even when presented with contradictory evidence.

Personally, I use elements of both in my own running.  Anyone that has watched me run can see both ChiRunning and POSE-influenced techniques.  The Chi element of ChiRunning leaves a distaste in my mouth, as does the pseudo-scientific fanaticsm of POSE followers.  Still, I recommend any new barefoot or minimalist shoe runner explore both methods.  Both can provide an excellent knowledge base of techniques and drills to help you find your best running form.

What are your experiences with each method? 


  1. Jason,
    I like the use of quotations for "Science" and "Tai Chi" under background - appropriate!

    It is a common misconception that the "heels do not touch the ground" in Pose running. If you learn more about Pose, you will find this is not an axiom, but depends on the speed at which one runs.

    It is also wrong that Pose says you go faster by increasing cadence.

    I agree that a small number of fanatics can really suck the oxygen out of a room, or discussion forum!

  2. "Nick Romanov, the man that profits from POSE sales"

    Romanov coaches and writes books. He gets paid for his work. So do most other authors and coaches. Why do you have a problem with that?

  3. I guess I use a bit of both, although my heels pretty much always touch the ground. And I do increase my cadence to go faster; not exclusively, though.

    Personally, I'm a zealot for the Groucho Marx school of running:

  4. Richh is right, I guess.

    He's no better or worse than, say, Phil Maffetone.

    I know Chris McDougall has worked with Romanov a little & another POSE coach in England whose name I forget but who he heaps praise on.

    --Christopher Robbins

  5. Richh- I should have re-worded my description of foot strike... you are right. As far as increasing cadence- I could swear that's where I got that idea back in the day. That's how I increase speed now... increase cadence.

    I don't fault Romanov for profiting... I think he is a very wise businessman. However, any time a profit motive is introduced in any research, there should be added skepticism. I'd like to see Romanov's research replicated before touting it too much.

    Keep in mind- I really like POSE. My beef isn't the theory or teaching methods- I think both are excellent. I just don't like the "this is gospel" mindset. Skepticism, even in our own beliefs, is a good thing.

  6. Jason,
    I, too find the "this is gospel" mindset of some Poseurs very off-putting. I am a scientist and favor the skeptical outlook.

    Have you tried increasing speed by letting your hips or solar plexus go forward more? I think Chi talks about this part of the body as your "accelerator pedal". Then let the cadence and range of motion do what they must to keep up. Especially on a slight downhill- whee! no brakes!

  7. Pose theory is based on scientific research; there is nothing pseudo-scientific about it. Just because some of the followers of Pose Running, may not be well versed on the skepticism of the scientific method, that does not mean that the science behind Pose Running is "marketing BS". I find your mischaracterizations and complete lack of context off-putting. There are always going to be people who will take ideas to a fanatical extreme. You can't fault Dr. Romanov for the over-zealousness of these people. Nor should you fault him for making money on his life's work. Everyone has the right to make a living, and he could be making a lot more money if he chose to be more like the originator of Chi-Running.

  8. Jason,

    Agree there are some similarities between the methods. I am a family physician who has studied Chi and use much of the methods to keep running sub 2:35 range marathons beyond my 40th birthday.

    An importnat distinction is that Chi is designed to teach the early adapter, esp with Chi Walking. I would never throw POSE at a 60 yo patient with knee osteoarthritis...I believe the drills are more of a running 201 level.

    To add to the box: increase stride by EXTENDING the hips and PELVIC a kid running opening stride behind. Lift from the ILIACUS AND PSOAS. These are the deeper core lifter and the large rubber bands allowing elastic recoil from hip extension. Lean more forward from ANKLES....relax let it go!

    We have done 2 Chi studies and look to do more. Here is a large survey study we did

    Why am I trying to improve running form for here for background

    Also a complete reference is found on and the 2 studies by clicking "download presentation" on the training box on the homepage

    Also see Q5 from the large blog by Science of Sport. read Barefoot post.

    Happy running

    Mark Cucuzzella MD

  9. ChiRunning also has the increase cadence, and at the increase stride bit it's about kicking out behind not placing the leg forward. I've only listened to the ChiRunning CD and enjoyed what I heard. I've read up on POSE and it didn't catch my attention.

    However, my bias may be the fact I've always enjoy the fluidity of Tai Chi and now I can incorporate it even more into my own life.

  10. @oboros: For efficiency, ChiRunning suggests a cadence between 85-90 steps per minute. Once you develop a comfortable cadence value within this range, keeping it constant will limit the feeling of additional effort as you increase your speed.

    The increase in stride length is accomplished by extending each stride to the rear.

    @Jason: Thank you for noting that CR is based on T'ai Chi; which means it is based on 1000s of years of study on the principles that govern the way things 'work' and thrive in nature. Also, in CR the foot/heel floats up *behind* the body by allowing the knee to bend ... keeping the knee/thigh relatively low. At first this is done with the hamstring, but with more and more relaxation will occur mostly by itself with little muscular effort.


    David Stretanski
    ChiRunning® Certified Instructor

  11. With the greatest respect Jason, you haven't read both of these methods extensively, or rather you haven't understood them properly. Your box with the quick fire points is not correct and shows the lack of understanding.

    The best way of human movement is to interact with the external forces of nature. This is a very key point because when you discuss with people whether a way of running is right or wrong for them, you are generally approaching movement from a point of view of internal muscles creating movement as in "what I have to do with my legs to move my body"

    When you view movement from a point of view of external forces and priorities in that manner (muscles react to bodyweight which is created by gravity) then the conclusion will always end up being that the best way of human movement is the same for every single person. Of course the way of learning that (the method) can be different, but there can only be one most efficient way of human locomotion if external forces are prioritised and that is demanded by nature (more specifically gravity that is working on us 24/7).

    I don't believe anyone can give a true fair comparison of Pose v Chi since both take a number of years (at least 2 I would suggest) to have a level of proficiency that gives you a deeper meaning of what they are teaching. Simply reading both books is not good enough - you have to be doing it and feeling it to understand. From those conditions I doubt anyone can give a fair comparison. Perhaps the closest one can get is to understand that we need to repeat a body posture that accepts natures forces and re-uses them.

  12. Everyone- thank you for the many comments. As several of you have noted, I am NOT an expert on either ChiRunning or POSE. I am a barefoot runner that finds great utilitarian value in both methods for a variety of reasons.

    First- the basic ideas of both are similar- reduce injury and increase efficiency using a technique that is superior to the overstriding heel strike that is prevalent with so many runners today. This is also one of the reasons people run barefoot.

    Second- both methods offer very good drills to help develop skills that are useful to barefoot runners.

    Third- Both techniques tax different muscle groups. As an ultramarathon and trail runner, using a variety of techniques on long runs greatly reduces fatigue, which significantly increases endurance.

    I recommend both methods (along with Evolution Running) because both are quality programs that teach VERY useful skills.

  13. The Chinese call it 'Chi', the Japanese call it 'Ki', I believe the Indians call it something else. What it is is basic physics, not mysticism although it is phrased mystically by practitioners of Kung Fu and Aikido because they didn't have the science to understand it when the concept was developed 1,000 years ago (yes, I know Aikido was 'invented' in 1927, but its roots are in Japanese Bushido.

    I am thankful I found both. I'm a 60 year old that was a heel strike runner all of my life. After three surgeries for torn meniscus in the last year I was about to give up running, now, with these techniques I may not have to. For this I am very thankful.