Anyone who pays attention to running these days likely gets bombarded with talk about minimalist running. While the concept has been hijacked by those talking about footwear (or lack thereof), it's application is much broader than that. In fact, taking a minimalist approach?is a helpful philosophy for life in general—the idea is to do, seek, or possess just enough to cover your basic needs for health, happiness and well-being.
In a world where the pressure is always on "doing more," taking a minimalist perspective helps us instead ask, "Why do I need this?" This ideology brings a healthy degree of skepticism to new methods.?It doesn't preclude making changes in our approach, but forces us to better assess such changes to make sure they are really worthwhile.
Assuming that running well or competitively is your primary goal, as opposed to building muscles, or just running for pure health reasons, here are seven ways to expand the concept of minimalist running to guide decisions about your training. This article first appeared on Predawn Runner.
Shoes1 of 11
You don't need to go to the extreme of barefoot running or toe-hugging shoes to embrace a minimalist approach in your shoe selection.?The goal is to improve your performance using as little shoe as possible.?Instead of starting from heavy, feature-laden shoes and working your way down, try starting from something moderate, and seeking more if you need it.?Minimize the number of shoes you buy;?they may last longer than you think.
Form2 of 11
While the minimalist movement is really?more about finding the right running form than it is about shoe selection, the reality is that there's no one right running form.?Start from what feels natural, and then seek incremental, step-at-a-time changes when driven to do so by potential performance gains or injury issues.?Focus on each change until it becomes natural before moving to the next change, if needed.?
Technology3 of 11
GPS and heart-rate monitors are amazing technologies, allowing you to get precise, or?at least we think precise, feedback about your distance, pace and exertion.?However, it is all too easy to become reliant on this technology and miss "hearing" the signals from your body, which is remarkably adept at providing feedback on your effort.?The minimalist approach to technology helps you avoid becoming beholden to the almighty stopwatch.
Workouts4 of 11
There are infinite combinations of paces, distances, recovery times and repetitions possible to put together quality workouts. You must understand the purpose of the workout and how it fits into goals for the season or the long term before adopting it.?Avoid the temptation to add workouts you see others perform without understanding their objectives. Limit the number of hard workouts to avoid injury and burnout, and run each workout to your current, not desired, ability.
Strength Training5 of 11
While strength training is an essential element to developing as a runner, it should be employed as specifically as possible to drive the gains you need.?Some of the traditional strength-building exercises are nearly useless for runners or even harmful if they build muscle mass in places you don't need it.?A minimalist approach employs a?myriad of bodyweight exercises that drive the gains being sought.?Strength training for the minimalist runner is a means to an end, not the end itself.
Flexibility6 of 11
It's natural to think that the more flexibility you have, the better you'll be at running. However, studies have shown that?flexibility is inversely correlated with running economy.?There certainly is a point where a lack of flexibility or mobility increases injury risk, but flexibility should only be developed to the point where this risk is minimized, and not beyond.?The tight-muscled runner is an efficient runner, so seek to do "just enough" dynamic or static stretching to avoid injury.
Injury Recovery7 of 11
When faced with injury, the tendency often reinforced by sports medicine doctors and?physical therapists is to do everything possible to fix the root cause: improve your form, strengthen, stretch, or find better shoes.?Most injuries have two basic causes: doing too much, too soon, and not listening to your body. Instead of reinventing yourself every time you get a whiff of injury, look for signs of overtraining. Other changes may be necessary, but these should be introduced incrementally,?otherwise you risk missing the underlying issue.
Advice8 of 11
You are your own runner, with a unique background, goals and constraints.?To lurch constantly from one piece of advice to another will stagnate your growth as a runner, and cause frustration instead of satisfaction.?Far better to find a?few advisors you trust (the fewer the better), and invest the time in letting them get to know you.
Racing9 of 11
Some runners jump into every race they find, often on a whim.?If your goal is to race as much as possible without caring about optimizing your results, this is fine.?If you are instead?working towards a longer-term goal, it is far better to prioritize your A race, and consider B races as your build-up or ramp-down from this key event.?This reduces your risk of overdoing things, causing injury to your body or wallet.
Diet10 of 11
Proper nutrition doesn't need to be that difficult.Whatever beliefs may drive your dietary selection, the fundamentals are simple: you need protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals in a certain range of ratios to fuel your training.?Calories in minus calories out yields weight gain or loss. If you enjoy trying new foods, by all means do so.?But don't feel pressured to conform to anyone else's perception of the optimal runners' diet.