Category Archives: Distance Running

Cross Country Summer Training

Training High School Cross Country Runners

Summer Training

Developing a cross country program at the high school level requires careful attention since governing bodies in most states limit preseason activities for a season that is invariably shorter than that of other high school sports. Books dealing with the training of world class athletes are less than helpful, not only because of the vast physical differences, but mainly due to the limited time frame given to the high school cross country coach.

While a well established program may have the athletes training in groups during the summer, many coaches are faced with a group of poorly conditioned cross country hopefuls. The great New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard would have his elite athletes run long runs over various terrains for at least ten weeks (about the length of a high school season) just to get them prepared for what he would call training. He felt that the key to cross country progress is aerobic capacity. When we were fortunate enough to get the opportunity to spend several hours alone with Lydiard a month or so before he died, we discussed this philosophy as it concerned high school athletes. He was adamant that putting in the miles is the key to success. These runs are generally done at “talking pace” which is a speed that increases as fitness increases. This long distance training forms a base upon which the real training program can be built. Opponents cry out that runners cannot learn to run fast by running slowly, but the base is merely a conditioning process to prepare the entire body to be able to handle a very intense work load. Where some coaches go wrong is they will see measurable increases in speed with the endurance phase and, therefore, neglect the faster tempo and speed work which is necessary to gain optimum performances for the championship races.

An essential ingredient, then, in building a successful high school cross country team is a summer training program. In some states coaches can be directly involved, while in others they must have no contact at all. Summer runs can be conducted by team captains. This takes the coach out of the equation and helps develop a sense of camaraderie and team unity. In most programs the athletes meet at a chosen location three to five days a week and then split into groups based on ability. The runners set out on their respective courses for a given number of miles or minutes. For developing a sense of “team,” choosing minutes works out better as everyone finishes at the same time no matter how far they have run. Finishing at the same time allows runners of all abilities to do the stretching and core strength exercises as a unit.

To reach the highest levels, top high school runners usually log between 50 and 90 miles a week during the off season with less mileage run during the weeks of higher intensity training. These athletes add mileage each year to their weekly totals. Most freshmen aren’t prepared to handle the same mileage as a senior, especially when the intensity increases. Most programs continue to include a long run each week to help maintain the aerobic development. Many of the top high school programs also include an easy team run before school each morning.

Ideally, the coach greets a group of youngsters who are fit and ready to go after having trained throughout the summer. Realistically, many still fall far from this category.  What these kids need is a bit of fairly easy distance running to prepare their systems (muscles, tendons, lungs, heart, and self confidence) for competitive training. For some kids, that means most of the season will involve getting ready to start training. For the better prepared, faster workouts will be started almost immediately. It is essential, though, that high school runners build as strong a base as possible before high intensity runs.

Waukee High School Cross Country

Why Tempo Training For Runners

Tempo Training For Runners

Waukee High School Cross Country

What is Tempo Training?

Tempo training is also known as lactate threshold and anaerobic threshold training.

Threshold pace is the effort level just below which the body’s ability to clear lactate, a by-product of carbohydrate metabolism, can no longer keep up with lactate production.

Toby Tanser, author of Train Hard, Win Easy  – The Kenyan Way, says, “The foundation of Kenyan running is based almost exclusively on tempo running.”

World famous coach & exercise physiologist Jack Daniels says, “That pace is 25-30 seconds per mile slower than current 5K race pace.”

Coach Daniels says 20 minutes is ideal

Add 1minute to your 1600 PR to get tempo pace

Why Tempo Training?

Improves running economy

Raises the lactate threshold

Increases VO2max

Increases ventricles in the heart, stroke volume increases = allowing more oxygen extraction from the body

Increases capillary development

Benefits of Tempo Training

If done right – enough time and at the right intensity.  The comfortably hard effort will allow you to have some intense days around the tempo training.

Learning Pace – athletes should not slow down during effort. If anything, build into the correct tempo pace.  An athlete will learn to build to a good sustained pace; translating to being more controlled early on in races.

Tempo runs train the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently. Exercise Scientist Bill Pierce says that metabolic fitness is a crucial physiological variable for running success.

By increasing lactate threshold or the point at which your body fatigues at a certain pace. During tempo runs hydrogen ions and lactate are byproducts of metabolism and are released into the muscles. The muscle becomes acidic due to the ions and leads to fatigue.

With training you are able to push your threshold higher and use lactate and hydrogen ions better. The athlete has less acidic muscles so they keep on contracting, letting you run farther and faster.

Workout examples of Tempo Training

The most beneficial tempo runs are a continued effort of 20min or more depending on the athlete and/or the distance you are training for.  Starting with Tempo Intervals is a great way to monitor pace and for athletes to get an understanding of what it feels like.  To send out athletes on a 20min continued effort to begin with would be a waste of time (either they’d go way too fast or run it too slow).  It may take some athletes an entire season to understand how to run a tempo workout properly, some may take a couple of years to truly learn how to run a tempo workout effectively.

A high school athlete that runs the 1600-5k would benefit greatly from a 20min tempo run once a week.  It might be 20min total of tempo running; with running tempo intervals or cruise intervals as some call them.

Foundation Phase – Competition Phase

Week 1: 2-4 x mile @ Tempo Pace w/ 90sec-2min Rest

Week 2: 2-4 x mile @ TP w/ 60-90sec Rest

Week 3: 3-4 x mile @ TP w/ 60sec Rest

Week 4: Veteran athlete – 2mi @ TP, rest 2min, 2 x 1mi @ TP w/ 60-90sec Rest

OR 2 x 2mi w/ 3min Rest

Frosh/Newbie athlete – 3 x mi @ TP w/ 60sec Rest

Week 5-10: Veteran athlete – 3mi @ TP, 3-5min rest, 1mi @ TP OR 20min continuous TP for athletes that can run it effectively

Frosh/Newbie athlete – 3 x mi @ TP w/ 60sec Rest OR 2mi @ TP, rest 3min, 1-2 x mile @ TP

Championship Phase

Last 3 weeks: This phase is all about racing at a high level and rest.  This phase it might be most beneficial to go back to tempo intervals.  A workout could be to begin with a tempo interval to keep tapping into that system and work towards faster intervals.

2-3 x 1 mile @ TP w/ 60sec – 2min rest

1mile or 2k @ TP w/ 3min rest, 800, 600, 400, 200 (all at race pace or faster)

*You may want to start your younger athletes running 800 or 1ks at tempo pace to get down pacing and effort. You’d just want to decrease the rest with it being a shorter bout.

For more distance running tips, check out this article

Author: Josh Maxwell Head Boys Coach, Waukee High School, Waukee, Iowa

Coach Josh Maxwell

 

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Cross Country Training For Distance Runners

Distance Running Training

High School Cross Country Runners

In Season Training

By Joel Pearson

USATF Level 2 Certified Coach

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What happens when the regular season begins varies tremendously among the top programs. Some have succeeded with high mileage programs (this term includes distances from 50 miles per week to well over 100). Others emphasize fast runs, and still others base their workouts on a very small amount of running with high emphasis on a series of drills.

Fortunately, there are a large variety of activities available to steer your athletes toward success. Physical fitness can be improved in more ways than simply running. Core strength can be increased through specific exercises, various drills can improve neuromotor skills, correct stretching exercises can increase stride length, and specific running drills can increase stride rate and efficiency.

During the cross country season a coach can use a variety of workouts to help improve anaerobic fitness and to prepare the runners for races. These workouts (examples listed below), such as mile repeats, kilometer repeats, Oregon drills and sharpening speed, give coaches plenty of different options for helping the athletes peak at the highest level at the right time. Athletes, typically, should start the season with longer repeats which add up to a bit more than the distance of the athlete’s race (5,000 meters for most states) and run each interval at date pace (level of the athlete at the current time) or just below goal pace. During the middle of the season as the team approaches conference championships, athletes are running intervals that add up to race distance and are at race pace or goal pace per repeat. During the peaking stage, the athletes will be running repeats faster than goal pace in a shorter overall length than the race itself.

Areas often overlooked in coaching high school distance runners have nothing to do with workouts, drills or exercises. The most important intangible for high level success is “expectations.” No matter what the sport, the coaches who produce championship teams every year are those who truly “expect” their athletes to succeed. While some are hoping to place high in their respective league championships, the kids in the top programs are certain that they have a chance to win the state or national championship. Former Mead High School (Spokane, WA) coach Pat Tyson always started out the cross country season with the statement, “We are going to be state champions this fall.” That actually happened 16 times during his 23 years at Mead. Expecting to win was the key.

Another non-running key to success is for the coach to ensure that all members of the team feel important. The best athletes in all sports gain the most recognition, but cross country is a unique sport where the slowest runner may never outrun anyone, yet that runner can work hard and at the least improve. A good coach will note kids with these improvements and create a team with all sorts of winners.

High School Distance Running Training

Examples of Running Workouts and Drills

Mile Repeats:  Mile repeats can be done on the track, at a golf course or on a maintained trail. Take 2-3 minutes rest in between each mile repeat. Start each season by doing 4 or 5 one mile repeats. Decrease to three repeats as the pace gets closer to race pace. End the season with a mile time trial. 

Oregon Drills: Using the perimeter of the football field, stride the length at an easy pace (let’s say 10,000 meter pace to half marathon pace). Then cross at the goal post, jogging to the other side. Run the length at a medium stride (5k pace or cross country pace). The athlete will again cross at the goal post and then run the length at mile race pace. The athlete will repeat (easy, medium, hard) for 30-40 minutes in the early season and down to 15-20 minutes during the late season. This drill is a good one two days before a hard invite or a championship meet. Athletes may run these barefoot (massages the feet and improves ankle strength) or in racing flats (good time to break in new racing shoes). Likewise, this workout works well when the athletes are tired.

1k / 200 meter repeats: The one kilometer / 200 meter workout is a great workout for alternating race pace with hard anaerobic running. The athlete runs a 1k at race or goal pace followed by an immediate 200 meter jog. Then the athlete goes straight into an all out 200. Take 2-3 minutes rest after each set. 6-8 sets are usually done at the start of each season and get as low as 2-3 sets at the end of the season when the kilometer is run at race pace or faster.

1600 meter drill: Place a cone at every 100 meters on a track. Run a hard 500 followed by an immediate 400 jog , a hard 400, jog 300, a hard 300, jog 200, a hard 200, jog 100, a hard 100, jog 100, hard 100. This system continues nonstop throughout the workout. All the hard work adds up to 1600 meters. This workout is best done the Tuesday before a major race. Complete each set (1600 meters) three times with no rest between each. Run at 5k date pace during the early season and gradually increase the tempo until it is faster than 5k goal pace at the end of the season.

Drills/Circuit Training:
            The main thing one should do in drills/circuit training is to build up and develop the central nervous system by doing a series of dynamic movements. We call this neural training. Neural training is designed to enhance running specific strength and coordination workout muscles that are controlled by the central nervous system. These drills may include the following: Skipping, Skipping backwards, skipping with crossing arms, lateral skips, high knees, butt kicks, horse kicks, hamstring skips, skipping for distance, ABC’s, walking high knees and more. Other drills are useful such as tempo quick skip, speed running (in place) and hip flexor swings. Calf rises, walking lunges, side to side lunges, and vertical hops are also used. These drills are used on a daily basis.

“4 sets of 3” 
The four sets of three drills are used to decrease the chances of runner’s knee, IT band problems, ankle issues, hip flexor problems and shin splints. The athletes set cones 75 meters apart before they begin the drills. They will then do four sets of movements [1. walking, 2. skipping, 3. running, and 4. hopping]. For each mode there will be 75 meters with the toes straight, 75 with the toes facing inward, and 75 with the toes facing outward. Do all three styles with walking and then proceed in the same order with skipping, running, and hopping. Athletes must make sure they are over exaggerating the movements in these drills. All the movements used in these drills work every muscle from the lower central nervous system to the athlete’s feet. This drill is done every day BEFORE practice and is performed seven days a week!

Examples of High School training weeks: (Athletes should, in addition, have a good warm up, drills, and stretching before each workout and a warm down and stretching after). W in the schedule stands for days to do weight training.

Sample High School XC training week:

  • Monday: Easy 60-70 minutes with drills and strides
  • Tuesday: 4-5 x 1600 at date pace or slightly slower than race pace
  • Wednesday: Easy 60 minutes with drills and strides
  • Thursday: Oregon Drills
  • Friday: Easy 50 minutes with drills and strides
  • Saturday: Race or Time Trial
  • Sunday: Long Run – up to 3 hours. Finish up the long run with 12 x 110 meter grass strides.

Sample High School XC Conference training week:

  • Monday: Easy 50-60 minutes with drills and strides
  • Tuesday: 5 x 1k/200. 1k at date or race pace with a 200 meter jog after followed by a 200 all out. Rest 2 minutes and repeat.
  • Wednesday: Easy 50 minutes with drills and strides
  • Thursday: Oregon Drills (30 minutes total) + 16 x 110 meters runs at mile race pace
  • Friday: Easy 40 minutes with drills and strides
  • Saturday: Race
  • Sunday: Long Run – up to 2 hours. Finish up the long run with 12 x 110 meter grass strides.


Sample High School XC State/Post Season training week:

  • Monday: Easy 40 minutes with drills and strides
  • Tuesday: Time Trial 1600 meters followed by team relays. Athletes break up into teams of two and run 300 meter trade off relays. Each athlete doing 5 to 8 each OR 3 sets of the 1600 meter drill.
  • Wednesday: Easy 40 minutes with drills and strides
  • Thursday: Oregon Drills – 15 minutes
  • Friday: Course Run with drills and 8 x 110 strides
  • Saturday: Championship Race
  • Sunday: Long, Easy Run

 

Distance Running Summer Training

summer-distance-runningAn essential ingredient in building a successful high school cross country team is a summer training program. In some states coaches can be directly involved, while in others they must have no contact at all. Summer runs can be conducted by team captains. This takes the coach out of the equation and helps develop a sense of camaraderie and team unity.

In most programs the athletes meet at a chosen location three to five days a week and then split into groups based on ability. The runners set out on their respective courses for a given number of miles or minutes. For developing a sense of “team”, choosing minutes works out better as everyone finishes at the same time no matter how far they have run. Finishing at the same time allows runners of all abilities to do the stretching and core strength exercises as a unit.

To reach the highest levels, top high school runners usually log between 50 and 90 miles a week during the off season with less mileage run during the weeks of higher intensity training. These athletes add mileage each year to their weekly totals. Most freshmen aren’t prepared to handle the same mileage as a senior, especially when the intensity increases.

Most programs continue to include a long run each week to help maintain the aerobic development. Many of the top high school programs also include an easy team run before school each morning.

Ideally, the coach greets a group of youngsters who are fit and ready to go after having trained throughout the summer. Realistically, many still fall far from this category.  What these kids need is a bit of fairly easy distance running to prepare their systems (muscles, tendons, lungs, heart, and self confidence) for competitive training. For some kids, that means most of the season will involve getting ready to start training. For the better prepared, faster workouts will be started almost immediately. It is essential, though, that high school runners build as strong a base as possible before high intensity runs.

Fortunately, there are a large variety of activities available to steer your athletes toward success. Physical fitness can be improved in more ways than simply running. Core strength can be increased through specific exercises, various drills can improve neuro-motor skills, correct stretching exercises can increase stride length, and specific running drills can increase stride rate and efficiency.

Circuit Training Sample:
            The main thing one should do in drills/circuit training is to build up and develop the central nervous system by doing a series of dynamic movements. We call this neural training. Neural training is designed to enhance running specific strength and coordination workout muscles that are controlled by the central nervous system.

These drills may include the following: Skipping, Skipping backwards, skipping with crossing arms, lateral skips, high knees, butt kicks, horse kicks, hamstring skips, skipping for distance, ABC’s, walking high knees and more. Other drills are useful such as tempo quick skip, speed running (in place) and hip flexor swings. Calf raises, walking lunges, side to side lunges, and vertical hops are also used.

These drills are used on a daily basis.

View Strength Training For Distance Running Article