So You Want to Have the Best Cross Country Season of Your Life…

Alright, it’s in the title, let’s get down to business.

Track season has just finished for most high schoolers and unless you’re amazing most college athletes are on about a two week break right now. The season of summer training is beginning and we’re all motivated to have the best xc season of our life, me included. I wanted to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to help you have the best summer of training possible!

I’m assuming if you’re reading this that you’re either new to the sport or have been running for a few years and want to up your game to the next level. Here’s how.

1. Mileage

You’ve heard it a million times and I’m gonna preach it to you right here. RUN MORE! It’s really simple. To get better at this sport, or at any sport you need to put in the hours and the work. Simply running more is the best way to have a great XC season. But let’s get more specific. Running is very aerobic, especially cross country season, and in order to increase our aerobic fitness we need to gradually increase our mileage. Typically, a good progression will start with easy to handle mileage, so for instance if the most miles you’ve ever done is 70. Maybe this summer you bump it up to 75 or 80 miles in a week BY THE END OF JULY. The beginning of June needs to be around 35-40 miles, and from there you gradually increase about 5 miles a week or so.

Why does this work?

Look at BYU or NAU or any other power house in the D1 NCAA Division. They do a TON of mileage. It’s simple they just have a load of years of consistent running. The key word is CONSISTENT. You need to be consistent in your training or you won’t get as much benefit from the aerobic training.

So if you really want to up your game this season. Up the mileage. BUT, be careful and don’t get injured. If you increase your mileage too quickly this can happen.

2. Tempo Runs

The Arizona State University squad

What the heck is a tempo? A tempo run is a workout that increases your aerobic fitness. The technical term is a lactate threshold run. It’s supposed to be run at a pace that you body can efficiently start to clear lactic acid in your legs (the heavy feeling in your legs when you are going ham). Typically, you will see runners run their tempo pace about a minute to 90 seconds slower than their mile time.

Ex. 4:20 -> 5:20

But that is pretty optimistic. I like to look at it where it’s a pace I can hold for about 60 minutes, but by the end I would be completely dead. You aren’t doing the tempo for 60 minutes, so that’s a good gauge at the pace.

Tempo runs are extremely important.

They make you a lot better and you need to learn to love them. Personally, I was more speed based in high school, so it took a while to learn this.

You can start anywhere from 10 minutes to 15 minutes and increase that to 20 minutes – 40 minutes by the end of the summer. I would not recommend 40 minute tempos until you’re in college. Even then, that’s a very long tempo, and I would begin to call that workout something else, maybe a “long tempo sesh”.

3. Long Runs

Okay, it’s in the name, this is a long run that you do once a week. Typically 15-25% of your weekly mileage. It’s MEANT to BE A WORKOUT!! This is not a slow run like your easy days. Personally, I think this is the most important workout to have each week for the summer. If you can get consistent long runs in every week, where you are just out there ballin’ hard and crushin’ it, you will see so much improvement in your aerobic fitness. TRUST ME! I started doing these my junior year and I ran a 15:41 5K.

Out in wilderness

Effort: Not all out. Easier than tempo. Harder than moderate. I good 7-8 on a scale to 10. By the end you should be very tired and a good omelette will treat you well.

Tip: Stay very hydrated throughout the summer.

Typically you want to drink AT LEAST half your body weight in ounces. So if you’re 150 pounds. Drink at least 75 oz of water a day! Water works a miracle and has affect on your perceived effort when you are running. So…if you are hydrated runs won’t seem as bad!

4. Hills

Hills are important in order to develop the needed strength for cross country, because well, there will most likely be hills in the race. Oftentimes, I find that hills get me into shape really quick. These don’t have to be a separate workout day, but if they are, keep them pretty light on the reps. I wouldn’t over do it, maybe 4 on the first day, and work yourself up to 12 (obviously depending on the hill).

What I like to do is to make sure you incorporate hills into your easy days and moderate days so that you are always building strength throughout the summer. I know it sucks, but use a straw and suck it up.

5. Have Fun & Eat Healthy

Don’t forget to have fun. This is the process and many do it. Enjoy it or you will hate it. Run with friends and don’t make things to serious. That’s for in season!

ALSO, eat healthy. It’s super simple. Don’t eat ice cream every night, but you don’t have to eliminate it from your diet. Go have a burger or a hot dog. But always keep things in proportion. A good diet can really transform your running. Make sure you eat lots of foods that are rich in iron because iron is super important in transferring oxygen to your muscles.

Super epic pic of me in the rain.

Follow me on my socials for more recent updates and some baller content! I would really appreciate it!

Twitter: @jojodicke

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