An 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.