Kim Fraser

The other running ABCs: Alignment, Breathing and Cadence

When physiotherapist Kim Fraser starts working with a new runner, the first thing she does is check in with their alignment, breathing and cadence.

Awareness of these running ABCs — which the Still Physio owner refers to as the “other running ABCs” to distinguish from the running ABC drills — is key to running healthy and strong, Fraser says.


Good alignment refers to a “rib cage that can rotate and breathe, a stable pelvis and hips that can move.”

“If the rib cage is too stiff or if the pelvis is losing control, then our running economy and efficiency becomes very difficult,” Fraser says. “That’s when we can get injured or plateau in our performance.”

You can work to improve alignment by focusing on breath work (more on that below) and by doing stretching and mobility work after runs. Making time for a lengthy stretching session after a run isn’t always feasible, so Fraser recommends focusing on one or two exercises that will only add a few extra minutes to a workout.

“It’s important to stretch after a run because that directs how our next run will be,” Fraser says.


Breathing is important to supply oxygen to hard-working muscles. But Fraser often finds runners have restricted breaths — and subsequently have tight ribcages and diaphragms.

Fraser works with runners on mindful breathing exercises to get them thinking about taking longer, deeper breaths to maximise oxygen capacity and improve ribcage mobility.

One of her favourites is what she calls the “hill breathing,” which involves five breaths focusing on breathing up the breast bone on the inhalation and letting the breath passively fall down the back body during the exhale. Fraser encourages runners to use this exercise to combat race jitters, when they can’t catch their breath during a run or before strength training. This breathing exercise is best done sitting or standing. After five breaths your shoulder blades should start to relax and your ribcage will shift overtop of your pelvis, which will create the perfect running alignment.


Cadence is the number of strides per minute you take when running. Fraser says runners should have a cadence of at least 170 — anything lower indicates you may be overreaching with your stride, which is inefficient and can lead to injury. Fraser also finds a cadence of less than 170 steps per minute (spm) to be hard on the pelvic floor and can create bladder incontinence with running.

You can improve your cadence through practice. If your cadence rests under 170 spm, Fraser recommends people do short intervals at a cadence resting between 170 to 180, which may feel uncomfortable at first.

“Try a couple of small repeats where you challenge your cadence and within two or three weeks, it will start to organically improve,” she says.

Focussing on alignment, breathing and cadence will ultimately help athletes be sustainable and lifelong runners, Fraser says. Focussing on all three together can be overwhelming, so don’t do it at once; Fraser recommends dialling in on one element at a time.

“Take your time and watch yourself transform over a season of running,” Fraser says.

Physiotherapist Kim Fraser specializes in women’s pelvic health and sports performance for both women and men.

For more about Fraser, visit her in-person at her temporary location at E3 Chiropractic and Wellness in Evergreen until her new space on Broadway opens up in the fall. You can also find her online at, on Instagram @stillphsyio or by email at Fraser also has an online running platform called THE JANES, an online community for women’s wellness in running at