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 muscles 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. They can be a staple of workouts early in the training season, lasting up to 20-30 minutes as the main workout of the day. Later in the season, use shorter circuits, lasting 5-10 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 develop power and speed; while bigger muscles help, runners should not focus on bulking up at this age.
  • At this age, runners should only do strength exercises that use their own body weight as resistance.
  • The form activities, strength exercises, stretches and games featured in A Running Start will improve runners' fundamental athletic skills.