Training For Cross Country

The natural surface of cross country is varied and can include grass, mud, dirt trails, rocky areas, hills, gravel paths, and woodlands with roots or other tripping hazards and obstacles. Training for cross country must include preparation for these challenges presented by consistency of the terrain and changes in the elevation. An appropriate start would begin with light aerobic runs in county parks.

Take advantage of the variety in scenery. Look at pictures of ‘Rave Run’ from running magazines for inspiring ideas of more places to run (perhaps while on vacation). Get familiar with the feel of hard baked earth, with mushy mud, with cool moist sand on the soles of your feet. Learn to keep light on the feet even while cruising downhill. Get familiar enough with your surroundings so you can keep your chin up and scan the ground with peripheral vision or just occasional glances. This will develop your proprioception and reduce the chance of injury later when you run at full speed.

Since cross county distance events take place in the fall training should begin with accumulating base mileage over the summer months. Returning runners tend to log more miles than less experienced runners. A new runner may go out 3-4 times a week for 20 minutes runs. A more experienced runner may log runs 5-6 times a week or daily, totaling 30-50 miles a week and >500 miles over 3 months. Motivated runners may use the free online training log at Flotrack ( ).

One key to success in running is in having core stability. Core stability is an ability to move the arms and legs vigorously without compensatory movement in the abdominal spinal area and pelvis. Signs of core weakness include rotation, twisting of shoulders or hips, flexing or bending forward, and extension or leaning back. The base training period of summer months is a good time to work on the core with emphasis on resistance or weight training.