Introducing… The Year of Fundamentals

Happy 2017! This is going to be YOUR year… when you finally break out and achieve more than what you first thought possible.

running fundamentals

Every year on the Strength Running blog, I announce a theme. This helps guide my thinking on the types of coaching material I publish to help you reach your goals.

From 2011 to 2016, we’ve had six distinct themes:

  • Year of the PR
  • Year of Stretch Goals
  • Year of Consistency
  • Year of Injury-Free Running
  • Year of Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
  • Year of the Team

Last year was a special one. The “Year of the Team” was about community, support, and bringing runners together. Strength Running’s mission is to help runners get stronger, stay healthy, and race faster – and there’s no way any of us can do that alone.

Three major projects helped us bring runners together:

  • Team Strength Running
  • T-shirts
  • The SR Podcast

These projects all work differently to create a sense of community among us as runners.

Team Strength Running


The biggest contribution to our theme of “the team” is definitely Team Strength Running. This program allows any runner to be coached affordably, no matter what race you’re training for or where you live around the world.

What makes it so special is not the affordable coaching, or library of 30+ training plans, or the new expert interview every month. Those are great but they don’t make it into a real team.

What makes Team SR so special are the members. Hundreds of real runners just like you sharing stories, asking questions, and experiencing the journey of running together.

You can hear from George on Episode 6 (and Lara on Episode 9) of the SR Podcast. I also featured Catherine’s experience with the team on the blog.

When I get feedback like this, I know the team is helping runners achieve more:

In a short while, I can already notice improvement in my runs with better planning. I feel more control, I’m getting better health and setting motivational goals.” – Hugo

Reading fellow team members’ posts about their dedication to training and resulting successes has helped me fully commit to my training program. Because of this, I am a healthier, faster and happier runner.” – Gina

I have a few (secret) plans in store for the team in 2017 so if you’re already on the team, get excited!

If you want to learn more, jump on the notification list here and you’ll be the first to know when we begin accepting new members.

Running Shirts!

Running t-shirts

I’ve always had an affinity for geeky running shirts. But most of them don’t really speak to me or highlight the areas that you’ve told me are fun, inspiring, or should get more attention.

So I decided to change that by commissioning unique designs that celebrate many aspects of our sport:

  • Trail running
  • Humor / NSFW
  • Passion for running
  • Team SR pride
  • Strength

The result? The Strength Running T-Shirt Shop. Our shirt designs are unique, sometimes controversial, but undoubtedly show your true love for running.

If you see someone wearing a running shirt like these, you know you’ll have to ask them about it!

The Strength Running Podcast

Strength Running Podcast

Fostering a greater sense of “a team” turned out to be more difficult than I first realized. How does a virtual coach reach more runners, bring them together, and form a community?

I decided I needed a whole new communication channel. A different medium to reach runners, but also a different medium for runners to get to know me.

So I started The Strength Running Podcast. It’s already been quite successful and for that, I have to thank my guests and listeners. All of you rock!

In just two months, the guests and topics have been unreal:

  • Olympians, American record-holders, and pro ultra-endurance athletes
  • Top coaches (to everyone from Olympians to beginners)
  • Behind the scenes coaching calls with Team SR members
  • How to make exercise easy using systems
  • New York Times best-selling authors
  • Health psychologists on mental training

Bringing my network to you is one of many ways that I’m bring us all closer together.

And I hope that by listening to my coaching calls and hearing me speak about running you’ll get to know me a little better, too.

If you haven’t subscribed yet, I’d be honored if you did right here!

2017: The Year of Fundamentals

As we’ve covered so many different topics over the years, there’s the risk of venturing into more and more obscure themes.

After mental toughness and injury prevention, should we have a “Year of Protein Powder” or a “Year of the Fartlek?”

I hope you think that’s as silly as I do…

So I want to take ten giant steps back. To zoom out and see the bigger picture. To get back to basics.

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017, we’re focusing on the fundamentals.

Because if we’re honest with ourselves, there are no magic workouts that will propel your performances into the stratosphere. There’s no “sexy training tip” that makes running easier.

I really enjoyed this tweet by triathlete and endurance journalist Kelly O’Mara:

Putting in the work isn’t sexy. But it’s what gets results.

In an age of instant gratification, we need to stop chasing shiny red balls that promise better results with less work (CrossFit Endurance, anyone?).

They don’t exist. This mentality of “run less, run faster” only leads us to run poorly, get slower.

If you truly want to realize your potential, then there are no shortcuts to greatness. There are years of running as much as you possibly can – but that’s not “motivating.”

My prior coaches would have multiple cardiac events if anybody on their teams used these excuses  for skipping a workout or half-assing a training session:

  • “I couldn’t get out of bed this morning”
  • “It was too cold/hot/humid/snowy/rainy”
  • “I don’t have time”
  • “I’m not an advanced runner, can I do an easier workout?”
  • “But it was the holidays!”

It’s easy to complain. But it’s what you do that really matters.

As my entrepreneurship and hustle mentor Gary Vaynerchuk recently posted on Instagram:

Man, I love Gary’s intensity.

This doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurship. Every good runner you look up to didn’t get there without a ruthless focus on hard work.

And that hard work is based on the bedrock fundamentals of training theory, exercise science, and physiology.

Ultimately, it’s based on sound training – which always places high importance on fundamental principles.

If you’re a new runner, these are critical.

The Principles of Fundamental Training

You might be asking yourself, “ok, sounds good but what ARE these fundamentals of training?”

The fundamentals are the basics, the first principles, and the core elements that always must be adhered to in any training program.

They’re the 99% of training that actually matter.

If you find a new training program somewhere, you can always evaluate it very well using this simple checklist.

There are five fundamental aspects of training that runners should always focus on:

Injury Prevention

An injured runner can’t run. And if you can’t run, every other principle is moot.

That’s why I’m so bullish on strength exercises, smart training design, adequate sleep, and being strategic about your goals. With a focus on prevention, everything else falls into place.

You can run more consistently. You can run higher mileage. You can race more often. And you can have more fun!

Aerobic Development

From a training perspective, this is the top priority. Building endurance through the ongoing development of the aerobic metabolism is perhaps the #1 method for getting faster.

After all, most runners can run already run fast. But they have trouble maintaining that speed for any meaningful distance.

That’s an endurance problem, not a speed problem. And since the vast majority of every race from 5km on up is aerobic, it’s the cornerstone of the Strength Running Philosophy.

Speed is a Skill

I’m often dismayed to see most runners avoid running fast because they think they don’t need to if they’re training for a long race or because they’re worried about injuries.

That’s like a basketball player never shooting a three-pointer because the risk of missing the shot is higher. Of course… but so is the reward!

Like most skills, speed must be practiced through diligent strides, hill sprints, or other speed training.

Whether you’re a veterain marathoner or a beginner, there’s a place in your training for speed work.

Athletic Development

Runners can’t just run or else they’ll develop imbalances and weaknesses. Eventually, a lack of general athleticism will lead to injuries and sub-par performances.

There’s a reason why good runners lift weights, skip and perform running drills, get on trails, and do plyometrics. These ancillary exercises build more well-rounded athleticism that improves your running.

More strength, agility, coordination, balance, proprioception, and power lead to faster and healthier runner.

Strategic Specificity

If you have a goal race, then it makes sense to train specifically for that goal race. Want to run a marathon? You shouldn’t be doing 400m intervals faster than 5k pace three months before the race.

That example is one that I see constantly – runners who are doing workouts that aren’t going to help them achieve more in their goal race.

By having a goal and then being strategic about how you train specifically for it, you’ll not only put yourself in a better position to succeed, but you won’t be as likely to get hurt during the training cycle.

These fundamental principles apply to every runner no matter your age, goal race, background, or experience level.

Get these right and most other problems usually fade away…

Will 2017 Be Your Best Year Yet?

Get ready for an incredible year of running. But remember: growth requires a ruthless focus on the fundamentals.

And today I have some work for you. It’s not enough to read this article, think “great stuff Jason!!” and then go on sipping your coffee.

No, we need to take action.

So right now, I want you to think about the ONE AREA in your running that needs the most work. What is it?

What are you struggling with the most? If you could get this one thing right in 2017, how quickly would you improve?

Leave a comment below and tell me. I’ll try to respond to every comment individually with suggestions.

If you’re as excited about 2017 as I am, then let’s prepare to reach new heights!

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  1. Zac Morford says:

    For me, the area to improve upon is consistency. To help me be more consistent, I need something that puts a frame around my training. That way I can see the path I’m on and how to achieve my goals, not just going out for a run tomorrow morning.

    So, how should I incorporate my three different speeds each week (from the playbook!). How long should spend building my base? When should I increase my target pace for tempo runs or speed work or long runs? Should I incorporate recovery weeks and what should those look like? This kind of framing can help me stay motivated to get to next year, not just to the next race. That will help motivate me and ensure that I remain consistent.

  2. Jennifer Tyson says:

    I tend to cramp up the last mile or so of a faster marathon and especially once I finish. I feel like I’ve fueled well throughout but something is obviously off.

    • Muscle cramps, particularly at the end of a marathon, are usually because a) you started too fast or b) you weren’t prepared for the distance. So we can use those reasons to reinforce the importance of even pacing and great training with a focus on the long run. Good luck Jennifer!

  3. I would have to say hips and core is what needs attention.

  4. Yvette Chen says:

    Hi Jason! Huge fan of yours. I am a 22 yr old woman runner — started running after I graduated from high school and am pretty addicted to the endorphins and positive effects running has on my mental health/overall life. I’ve done two half marathons and run 30-40 miles a week but don’t really do anything else! I am thinking about joining a gym and incorporating weight training, etc…in the past I have done HIIT classes, TRX, yoga, barre, etc. but want to be more methodical/strategic/smart with my training and running. I think a lot of women like me can struggle with pigeon holing themselves into cardio bc the weight room is a bit intimidating…and I just personally find running more fulfilling…but I know I will be most fulfilled by supplementing my running and seeing greater gains! Let me know if you have any suggestions for ways I can supplement my running and Happy New Year!

  5. Great post to kickoff 2017, Jason. I really like the focus on returning to the fundamentals, after all it is easy to forget that they’re the bedrock on which everything else is constructed.

    As for my area of improvement, I’m stuck between strength and flexibility, but I have made solid progress in my strength late in 2016 so I’m pretty confident that the flexibility will yield the biggest returns. I guess I struggle with it because I’ve always had tight muscles and it seems like no matter how much I put into it (admittedly not as much as I should) the return just isn’t there. I’m sure you can see how that feedback loop goes.

  6. Sharona N says:

    Endurance. I’m going on 66 and started running six years ago after losing 40+ pounds walking. I can walk for many miles, but keeping my running going beyond 1/2 mile (on a good day) has me gasping for air so badly I feel like I’m going to fall down. I run 5Ks and have also done a 6K, but I have to run-walk them. I do some strength training and cross-training (rower and weight machines). This year I want to run a half-marathon in November. I think if I could gain more endurance/run farther without walking, it would help me immensely. How do I do that? Thank you.

    • Progressively (safely and intelligently) increasing your mileage and long run is the best route for gaining endurance. You’re going to love the beginner-oriented material I have planned for this month Sharona, stay tuned!

  7. A tweaked hamstring has kept me frustrated for the last year. I have rested, gone to PT, worked on strength exercises and cross training. I use Strength Running warm up and strength routines and have a goal-specific Training Plan from you. However, each time I feel I’m ready to get back to running, the same hamstring soreness reappears. This is what is holding me back. I was tempted to sign up for your coaching offer, but until hamstring issue is resolved, my training/running is limited.

    • Sounds beyond frustrating… might need to see a different and better PT (best if she is also a runner or focuses on runners). An MRI and gait analysis might also be helpful.

      • Jason, thanks for reply. Enjoy your emails and posts. I have made progress with Strength Running plans and workouts. Agree that will need to revisit this with better PT.

  8. I’m finally ready after 3 years of half-hearted running to commit this year, so this focus is perfect! I’ve run multiple 5ks and two 10ks, but this year I’ve got two main goals – go into my races feeling strong (I’ve always felt like I could have done better) and to run my first half marathon.

    The one thing I need to get right this year is consistency – I have until October to get ready for the half marathon with some smaller races between now and then (10k in April, 5ks in August and September) and I’ve always just stopped running for a month or so after each race I’ve done.

    Do I just need to put runs on my schedule and get through them for long enough until it becomes a habit? I’m terrified of getting hurt (I’m clumsy, never played a sport as a kid, and I’m bad at recognizing pain and stopping) and going from my currently lazy schedule to running 13.1 miles in 10 months sounds like a million chances to get hurt and ruin my plans.

    • Getting through 30-60 days of consistent running is a great way to make running a consistent habit. With your injury history, focusing on prevention should be a top priority. Best to refer back to Injury Prevention for Runners!

  9. Motivation! I get to the gym everyday but find excuse after excuse not to run. I enjoy running, I just don’t get out the door. Help me rekindle my love of running.

    • Discipline is far more effective than motivation, which is fleeting and unreliable. Do you need motivation to brush your teeth twice a day or do you just have the discipline to do it regardless of whether you want to or not?

      • Nice! Well said Jason – I will definitely take this sentiment to heart! I LOVE being a part of the team – even if I am not as vocal as others. I have seen improvement and KNOW that as I use all the tools you have made available to us more, I am going to have a really great year!

  10. I most struggle with strength training. I’m trying to incorporate the pre and post workout routines, but having trouble remembering them at the time, so I end up doing some squats and kicks and calling it done. I know with my ambitious goals this year that I need to be far more disciplined to prevent injuries. Any thoughts or good cheat sheets to use when away from youtube to remember the steps in all of the routines, until they become… well… routine?

  11. John Gardener says:

    1. Are “The workouts that boost your speed” already in the Training programs? If not – why not?

    2. IF I knew the “One thing” that would help me achieve my “Goal”, I wouldn’t need a Coach! Possibilities are a) More speed, b) More strength, c) More endurance. I am trying to increase all three!

    3. I am following your “Training Program” for the Marathon (Advanced).


  12. Hi Jason, Mine would be endurance. I have made leaps and bounds over my previous years plagued with injuries. My major goal for 2016 was constancy, and no injuries. I was able to achieve it. Very scary!! This year I would really like to build on that mind set, and add endurance to it. There is nothing worse than 1 mile left in a 1/2 marathon, and you bonk. You have nothing.!! But then I say to myself, your not injuried, you trained, Constancy, but you have more work to do. Now lets get moving!! Ah, to be so close. So this year mine will be Endurance.

  13. Catherine says:

    Good post! I look forward to reading more about the fundamentals. I’ve struggled with being injury-free. I was a good runner in high school and then ran less and less frequently over the 5 yrs after school…it’s now 20 yrs since I finished HS. I tried to get back to running around 2007 or 2008 and had IT band syndrome, peroneal tendonitis, and pain in my right knee and hip. I took over 7 years off (I thought that maybe my body just couldn’t tolerate running anymore because of all the miles I ran when I was young). Then in February 2016 I started trying to run again at the suggestion of a physical therapist who I was seeing for a shoulder problem. I tried to build up gradually but it was less then 2 months before my knees hurt so bad that I was limping when walking and I had to stop running again. I took several months off and started running again in August. By late September 2016 I had a stress fracture in my left heel (my longest run had been 3 miles), a partially torn peroneal tendon in my left foot, and peroneal tendonitis in my right foot. I’m now 6 weeks out of a boot, working really hard in PT on increasing strength with reverse lunges, one-leg exercises, and leg press weights, and I’m running again. I’m currently able to run 1.5 miles in .5 mile increments with quarter mile walking in between. I hope to race a 5K in May or June. I want to run fast again and not get injured. I think before I do any speed work I probably first I need to build up to being able to run a continuous distance of about 5 miles. I’m only running on flat surfaces and I try to split it between pavement and grass/dirt surface. I love running so much and I hope I can do more of it without getting injured.

  14. As always there is plenty of food for thought in your post Jason, thank you!

    For myself I’m looking to achieve much greater consistency with my running in the year ahead. 2016 was a bit of a washout in truth with illness and injuries (not specifically running related or induced) keeping me off of my feet for long parts of the year. In the final couple of months of 2016 I have managed to get back to a healthy state and have gently increased my mileage and the frequency of my runs to the point now where I am comfortable in committing to running at least 3 sessions per week going forwards to slowly rebuild my aerobic capacity and my stamina.

    Thanks for continuing to provoke thought and inspire with your writings (and podcast).

  15. Christopher says:

    After running my first half marathon, which went extremely well due to a training plan from you. I realized there wasn’t, and I didn’t give much attention to, a recovery period afterward, (I tend to go all out in races). I tried running as I would normally after the race, but quickly realized I was spent, fell off the running wagon and am now trying to get back on track.

    It would be nice to see something around “post race” running and training to rebuild for the next event.

  16. My main focus this year is on consistency. I really enjoy running, but I haven’t gotten any better over the past two years because I don’t train consistently enough. I’m super excited about this being the year of fundamentals, because that’s how I’m approaching most aspects of my life in 2017. It’s all about building good habits, instead of trying to pull through with willpower.

    I’m already signed up for my first half marathon on February 26 and my first full on April 1. My wife and I get up early every day and either run (if it’s scheduled) or take the dogs on an extra long walk (rest days).

  17. Louise mclellan says:

    I’m 46 years old, only running three years since a heart transplant and want to knock 3 secs off my 400m PB if 1 min 37 secs in British transplant games in July

  18. So I run 4 times a week..well walk/ run i need to get back to running for 45 minutes at a time . Right now i walk for 2 minutes then run 8
    I ran (the whole way) a half marathon last March…then I took a month recovery easy runs and now I can’t seem to get my motivation back..I struggle so much in the 8 minutes running I sometimes stop for a breather…and I’m running slow already?!

  19. I’ve run for years in fits and starts. As soon as I start to run with any consistency, I get knee injuries. Now, after a pregnancy, my core is less strong and my strength has diminished. Injury prevention and running consistently are my goals. Thanks for your post, Jason – I’ve been following strength running for a while and this is my first time to comment. 🙂

  20. I took some time off (7 months) due to injury (plantar fasciitis), so my problem now is that after all this time off my plantar fasciitis is still there in my right foot, I’ve tried orthotic insoles, different running shoes, stretches, sleeping with the boot and nothing seem to work, it is frustrating because running is what I love, I feel handicap if I can’t run, any advice on how to get rid of it is appreciated.

  21. For me is trying to prevent injury. I was injured fir 4 months in 2015 and 6 months in 2016 (still currently trying to get over Achilles tendinopathy). This stops me from progressing and running consistently. It’s very demotivating.

  22. Manuela Sampaio says:

    I need to discover how to run for weight loss, as my slow running seems to have done some harm to my metabolism.
    Right now I’m about 40 lbs overweight and am recovering from a sprained ankle that I got when I did a half marathon in November.

  23. James Valadez says:

    My goal for this year is to PR at the well known distances from 800m to 10k (so 800m and the mile, but not the 4 mile for instance). So getting consistent is definitely my overall goal. That has been my problem for the last two years. I know from high school that I’m faster than my current times suggest. Before I used to run 3 – 4 times one week, none the next, 2 – 3 times the week after that; it’s was a total mess. But this year I’m finally going to get it together and run everyday, add in lifting and yoga, and run the times I know that I can. But I’m going to do it smart. I’m gonna start off running 2 – 3 miles a day and slowly introduce the yoga, lifting, and drills. Usually I try to do everything at once and have failed. So I’m getting smarter and I’m gonna work harder.

  24. I’ve taken up running in the past year, mainly for obstacle course races, but have found that I enjoy mid-distance runs by themselves (5-15k….maybe a half this year…..) I’m trying to nail down a good strategy for base building. Should I focus on heart rate or pace?

    I love the podcast and all of the free content on your site.

    Thanks for all you do!

  25. Hi, jason,
    My plan for the year as a marathon runner is to work on speed,endurance and strength. Now working on strength and recovery. Thanks for your mails. Let’s do this in 2017.

  26. Endurance is my weakness. Recently ran a full marathon in Houston. Having run a PR of 4:23 in 2015, my strategy was to run the first 10k conservatively at a 10 minute pace and to run the last 10k at slightly under that. Ran the first half at about 2:10 but finished the second half at around 2:30. I don’t feel like I bonked or went out too fast. I Just did not have the endurance to maintain the target pace. I have never been able to run negative splits. This is what I need to improve in order to have a shot at a BQ.

  27. Rick Toth says:

    I have 2 goals this year, increase my speed and to do a half Iron Man. Speed is the main issue, I can run consistently at a 10 minute pace with no issues for 6,7, 8 miles but want to increase my speed to better my 1/2 marathon times.

  28. Hi! This is so great for me, im a long time runner, qualified for boston and do all sorts of cross training but unfortunately started getting hurt. I eventually found out I’ve been overtraining, I never took time to take care of myself and get the rest or sleep i needed and didn’t eat nearly enough! So now i am forced to rest as i have adrenal fatigue and low thyroid, and this year I’m trying to go back to the basics and start over, hopefully doing it right this time!! So I’ll take any tips on creating a healthier mindset towards exercise and food and coming back stronger and better (and happier) than ever!!! I really enjoy your pocasts and emails they’re all so helpful and informative, keep it up!

  29. Injury prevention has become a top priority to manage a niggling hamstring tendinopathy problem…how do I get those lazy glutes to engage and give the hamstrings a break?? and endurance. Being able to run faster for longer.

  30. For me, i think core strength is the goal. I get tired too fast and that slows me down.

  31. The toughest thing for me is running regularly. I’m a student right now, so there are a lot of tests, exams, projects, etc. etc. My sporadic “runs” do not show great results.
    I want to be able to run regularly this year.

    • I ran 8-10x per week for 80+ miles/week as a double major in college while also serving on the college’s Judiciary Board (and I partied like an animal). Why can’t you run regularly?

  32. I’m in a very similar boat as Darryl above: I’ve been fighting a hamstring injury since July. Easy runs of 3-5 miles are fine as long as I foam roll and stretch, but as soon as I start adding speed, hills, or distance, it flares back up again and I’m back on the sidelines. I’ve been doing PT exercises (though I haven’t actually been to a PT because I’m poor, just consulting Dr. Internet), and (knock on wood) I think I’m finally on the upswing. So my goal for 2017 is to get healthy and get back in fast (for me) distance-running shape!

  33. Chris Rudolph says:

    Very good post! I’ve also really enjoyed all of the podcasts as well, especially those w/George & Lara.

    I think my biggest weakness is endurance because in the past I’ve had problems running more than 30 miles a week consistently. (My weekly mileage normally tops out at 25.) I hope I’m tackling the endurance problem in the right way.

    So my goal is a big PR in the Pittsburgh HM in early May. To accomplish that goal I am using a self generated training plan from the Team SR site. The plan is 20 weeks long and mileage tops out at 59 miles a week. In the past whenever I ran more than 40 miles a week I had lots of little aches & pains, especially when trying to walk after getting out of bed in the morning. Back then I wasn’t doing any dynamic stretching or runner specific strength training. I’m really hoping that by doing all of the dynamic stretching, warmups & strength training in the plan will eliminate the feeling of “death by 1000 niggles” & keep me injury free!

  34. I keep getting what I think are minor injuries (not necessarily from running) and not having them checked out. The long term effects are changes in my gait and more unanticipated injuries.

    My short term goal is to be healthy enough to run a 10K at the beginning of April The long term goal is to run a 1/2 in under 2 hours. But my biggest goal is to run healthy so that I can actually enjoy it!


  1. […] week, I replied to comments about your toughest challenge in […]

  2. […] it’s not always so easy. You have to get the fundamentals right from the beginning. Even so, you’ve probably had […]

  3. […] talked before about the fundamentals of running and how speed is a skill. And beginners must practice this […]

  4. […] year we’re focusing on fundamentals – the bedrock principles that make you a better, faster, healthier […]