Form 101: Fundamental Athletic Skills
Runners must develop a full range of fundamental athletic skills in order to perform at their highest levels and avoid injury.

Six Fundamental Athletic Skills:

  1. Strength is the capacity to generate forceful muscle contractions.
  2. Power is the ability to generate those forceful muscle contractions quickly. By developing strength and power, runners can counteract the stresses on the body caused by the running stride and become better equipped to maintain fast paces, endure muscle fatigue, and avoid injury.
  3. Coordination is the skill of sequencing and timing muscle contractions for efficient movement.
  4. Flexibility is the ability to move joints and muscles through a full range of motion, which is important for maximum extension, proper body alignment, and possibly injury prevention.
  5. Balance leads to joint and posture stability.
  6. Agility enables one to change direction quickly. Balance and agility are especially important for cross country runners, as both skills come into play when athletes react to destabilizing movements and confront sharp turns and uneven terrain.

Additional Points:

  • Form drill circuits, a continuous cycle of form drills repeated multiple times, is a good way to approach form training for fundamental athletic skills and running technique.
  • Runners can also build strength and power by lifting weights or doing strength-focused circuit training, where athletes rotate between a series of strength exercise stations, running from station to station and repeating the circuit multiple times.
  • Form and strength circuits can be the main workout of the day lasting up to 30-40 minutes. They should be a staple of your workouts early in the training season. Later in the season, use shorter circuits, lasting 10-20 minutes, to maintain strength, power, coordination, agility and sound technique.
  • For strength training, distance runners should focus on developing strength-endurance, the capacity to produce moderate-intensity muscle contractions over long intervals without tiring, rather than bulking up. Sprinters will want to build bigger muscles for extra power and faster speeds.
  • The form activities, strength exercises, stretches and games featured in A Running Start will improve runners' fundamental athletic skills.