Back to the Basics

“Excellence is achieved by the mastery of the fundamentals.” – Vince Lombardi


Whether you are a beginner or a veteran, streaker or weekend racer, 5K or ultra, social or completive, you are a runner. As runners, coaches, and supporting crews it is always good to reflect back on the basic fundamentals.

Running can be a simple sport, but key basics can make it much more enjoyable and reduce the risk of injury long term. Also, taking a minute to reflect on the fundamentals every now and then can breathe a fresh new breath into your training, racing, and social runs. Let’s take a minute to review some basics.

Find a good pair of running shoes.

You do not want to pick a pair of running shoes based on how they look. Find a model with the proper fit and support specific to you. Every runner is unique as is every model of shoe. If possible, go to a specialty store and consult a representative regarding the fit and support of a running shoe. Fleet Feet Louisville, Ken Combs, Pacers and Racers, and Running Soles have educated staff who would be happy to help Louisville area runners.

There is no one “right” foot strike.

This is typically debated by many, but again every runner is unique and if you have been running for many years relatively injury free, it is better not to change. If you are fairly new or a returning runner after an extended break, consider a more mid foot strike.

Increase your cadence.

Most runners have a tendency to average 150 to 170 steps per minute. Increasing your cadence near 180 steps per minute will reduce length of impact with the ground as well as shorten the stride of those who tend to over extend. The longer and harder the impact the more shock the joints receive. Think about running light footed.

Barefoot drills / exercises may benefit you.

Let the feet free of the confines of the shoes every now and then will go the body good. Not saying you should run your entire workout barefoot, but maybe a few round of 50 – 100 meter strides on a football field. If you are concerned about stepping on something being barefoot, try toe yoga to work the finer muscles of the foot which are not as well worked in shoes.

Lean forward from the ankles.

A trademark of good running form is an ever so slight forward lean from the ankles. Let gravity do some of the work for you. A slight forward lean may also aid on a more mid foot strike for those who tend to favor a heel strike. While leaning slightly forward, remember to keep your chest up and open for easy breathing. Your arms should form a 90 degree angle and flow freely with a small but predominantly rearward motion.

Relax and enjoy the ride!

Running is a great natural anti-depressant and helps reduce anxiety and stress of a long work day or other life struggles. We want to enjoy running for the long haul so relax and enjoy the easy runs. I support an 80/20 style approach, 80% of your running should be done at an easy conversational pace while the other 20% is where strength and speed work can be done. Always remember to give your body adequate recovery time after any strenuous workout.

Cross Train.

Running is great and we love it for a variety of reasons, but do not fall into the trap of only running. Mix it up and cross train with cycling, swimming, rowing, lifting, yoga, or other sport you enjoy. Try to make your cross training a less impacting event for your legs so they have an opportunity to recover. For example, if you are running 5 days a week playing basketball the other 2 days a week is not an ideal cross training option. Listen to your body, if your cross training is overworking an area, change it up.

Happy Running!

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