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Preparing for Cross Country Races

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Nerves on edge, mind focused, elbows out. No, there is nothing quite like a cross country race. Anyone who has seen two hundred plus people lined up at the beginning of a race waiting for the gun to sound so they can push their way to the front knows what I am talking about. Most cross country runner will agree that the beginning of the race is the most important, especially since many courses bottle-neck onto a winding trail. This is what creates the tense mood at the start of the race.

But a lot more goes into this sport than performance at an actual race. This includes carb parties the night before, pre-race rituals such as power bars, walking the course, applying icy hot, stretching, and jogging warm-ups, and most importantly, months of training. Serious runners start training for cross country season long before the first race even begins. This is why a good training schedule is essential. Too many top runners peak during the middle of the season and drop off for the important closing races including district, regional, and state. A good workout schedule can prevent early burnout and provide runners with a chance to do their best when it counts.
There are several sources online that can help you develop a good training schedule. When you are developing your schedule remember that you want to push your body to improve to its best, but you do not want to prematurely wear your body out. You should rest your body completely one day a week. During racing season, use the day after the race to relax and let your body recoup. The day before a race you should do a light, short workout so your body has plenty of resources for the next day. During the rest of the week, it is good to vary workouts so you mix long runs with other types of workouts like weight training, sprinting, plyometrics, and intervals.

A young cross country runner should average around 35 to 45 miles per week. More advanced runners such as high school seniors and college athletes should run twice a day and average around 100 miles per week. Do not push your body beyond what it can handle. If you are a young runner trying to train at a schedule that is too advanced, you will only work against your body and wear yourself out.

Use these tips to create a schedule that will work for you. Ask your current or future cross country coach for a schedule you can follow during the summer leading up to cross country season, and work out with the team during the season. Your coach should be able to assess your individual training needs and help you perform at your best level.