HOW TO TEACH KIDS TO RUN?
It was always a very interesting topic for me since I began developing the Pose Method in the mid 70s. At the beginning of the 80s I did expert analyses of running technique of school children from the 1st to 10th grade through several schools during normal PE lessons with my colleagues, university teaches and highest qualification track and field coaches in my town in Russia. We were looking for the data of how many kids were running close to what we called a standard by comparison with technique of the best runners of that time.
The results of these analyses were quiet shocking. In each school (about 1000 students on average), not a class, we found only about 3 kids running close to the standard. The rest had some degree of deviations from this standard, smaller or bigger. It didn't look like running was a natural thing for them. It confirmed my opinion that kids should be taught how to run. I brought up this subject to teachers' conferences and continuing education meetings, but with not much success. The idea of natural running (meaning that we know how to run since birth and don't need to learn it) among coaches and teachers was too strong.
Before I continue with this story, let's briefly return to the subject of natural running by kids. Is it myth or reality? Natural running as we understand it in the Pose Method is falling and pulling, the elements that are usually in use until the age of 5-6, when kids "operate" by perception of gravity. At this age they didn't learn yet the concepts of push off and muscles efforts, which are usually brought up by a "friendly" social environment - parents, teachers, older friends etc. During their first 5-6 years of life, kids have the perception of the body weight and support, but not a developed muscle system to use.
So, we got attention of a couple of PE teachers and started implementing the Pose Method in the PE lessons, but not as a government program, more like a pilot, experiment, or testing program. We did a comparison between "regular" and experimental classes, where we taught using the PM of running. The results of this experiment were very positive. During only 8 lessons (twice a week, 15 minutes of instructions and drills) kids from the 6th grades improved their 20 meters (with a rolling start) sprint run by 0.5 seconds in comparison to no improvement in the control group.
These results were presented at a scientific and methodological conference, but it didn't change anything in teachers' and coacher's perception. It was just too much ahead of the time. Nevertheless our experiment showed that kids learn major elements of the Pose Method very quickly and efficiently. Because they didn't have any predisposed ideas and habits of how to run, it was easy to set their mind on leaning forward in order to run and on pulling the foot from the ground. Their minds didn't have any controversy with these elements.
We used some visual images to strengthen their understanding and perception of running elements. These images were very familiar for them: springiness - like that of a jumping rabbit or kangaroo; pulling - as if you were running on a hot floor, or on a thin and cracking ice, pulling the foot quickly as if someone wanted to grab your feet; leaning - as a stick, leaning against a strong wind, etc. Most kids were very good with imagery; some needed more sensors involved and only a few, with a logical mindset, required an explanation and a logical mind work.
What was interesting was the fact that none of kids needed any guidance of how to use their muscles, power, and strength. They easily understood the logic of movement through the images and the simplicity of elements of the Pose Method: in order to run faster they needed to lean and pull quickly, with higher cadence when they leaned more. There were no questions about push off, moving legs forward, landing on the heels, etc. But it was clear to them that keeping the knees bent as those of a dog, rabbit, or kangaroo was good and the right thing to do. What we added to learning was how to hold their arms bent in elbows and allow them to move in balance with the legs.
So, how to teach your kids to run? First of all, do not appeal to their muscle strength and power production. Do not teach them to do push off, but only pull, which could be the most difficult thing in learning. Keep their knees bent and teach them to be in a spring condition as all their favorite animals are. And certainly get them into the falling, which is easily understood by kids.
We have to use many hops, jumps with a rope, jumps imitating animals and developing quick interaction with support. We have to teach them to lean forward as a stick and pull their feet to continue to fall. Let them run downhill to get the feeling of gravity pull. Let them run behind a stronger runner (mom, dad, older brother, sister, or friend). All of the above needs to be matched with a specific perception of light, weightless running with short support, and absence of efforts. Teaching the kids the proper perceptions is our major goal.