Cross-Country Running TipsHave a look at three important cross-country running tips to make the most of your cross-country running season!
Want to get into cross-country running ?
Or are you a cross-country runner wanting to improve ?
Then read along and pick up some of my running tips!
Cross-country running brings associations to me... rain, fog, wind, snow, cold hands and ears as well as mud, tripping over tree trunks, sliding, falling... in other words, lots of fun !
And that's what it is, lots of fun. But you need to prepare for cross-country running a little bit though.
So, in order to make the most of your cross-country running season, have a look at the following cross-country running tips.
Cross-Country Running Tip #1: Do All the Regular Running Training
So, first of all, before getting into some specifics about terrain and weather, let's just deal with the 'normal' running training.
Now, your cross-country races are probably going to be 2 miles or 3miles/5k, depending on your age group and, sometimes, terrain limitations.
So, what do you need to do to get faster at cross-country?
There are basically three main running ingredients: easy running, tempo workouts and intervals. You will want to do all three of them for different reasons.
Also check out the video below which tells you more about the different types of training and why you do them:
You will want to do a lot of easy running. Especially in the off-season. Have you heard that quote that says that fall winners are created in summer? Well, it's true!
Make sure that you cover plenty of miles in your off-season. Do mostly easy runs, but push in the occassional tempo run.
Click on the link for more info about easy running.
Tempo runs are very important as you will want to be able to run your race as fast as possible. Running at high speed, your muscles create a nasty waste product when they work: lactic acid.
When they create too much lactic acid, your legs get heavy, and your muscles basically have too much difficulty doing their job.
Tempo running helps improve the removal of lactic acid.
Learn more about tempo running
And then there is interval running. Many people focus too much on intervals. They are important. At the right time of the season. They are pretty much useless in the off-season. Your time is much better spent doing easy running and tempo running then.
However, when the season starts to get into full swing, that's when you will want to do your intervals.
Check out the link for more info on interval workouts.
Cross-Country Running Tip #2: Familiarize yourself with the terrain
Running on the streets, you know, solid flat concrete, does not compare to cross-country running. Running on the track even less.
Of course, you can do plenty of good running on the streets and on the track. But, make sure you get away from the street and track often enough and go find the trails.
Go find the mud, the uneven terrain, the hills, the puddles....
When you want to do well in cross-country, it definitely pays off to have done some trail running.
Cross-Country Running Tip #3 : Familiarize yourself with the weather
Cross-country running weather is often... well, not too good.
Wet and cold.
Getting ready for cross-country running means getting ready for the weather as well.
Are you a runner who postpones the training session as soon as you hear the weatherman thinking about clouds?
Hmm, you really want to be a cross-country runner?
So, get over it and start making sure you are running in bad weather as well.
First of all, it is good to get the experience of bad weather running already in your training and not in your race.
Second, I am sure you will find that running in bad weather is not that bad after all.
Even when it is really, really cold (below zero temperatures), I find that I'll be sufficiently warm within as much as seven, eight minutes of running.
And a bit of rain during the run is not a problem at all.
The only thing I really don't like is running in strong winds. Running into the wind is a nuisance because it affects your breathing.
Here in Melbourne, Australia we often get strong dessert winds.
You know that type of weather that feels like they put a warm blanket over you?
Well, those winds feel like they are slapping hot blankets in your face continuously!
But does that stop me from training when it's windy? You have got to be kidding me!
I make a point of going for a run, especially then. And during those sessions I focus on my breath and on dealing with the circumstances. A good run in the wind can really boost my confidence!
Another thing about running in bad weather is that you can do a lot to protect yourself. There is plenty of good running apparel available.
When it comes to apparel, there are three things important in cold weather:
Nothing will insulate you more against the cold, wet weather than layers.
Cross-Country Running Tip #4 : Practice Tempo Changes
In competitive cross-country running you often have to deal with sudden tempo changes.
There are often certain parts in the race where you have to take it easy. Hilly, slippery parts. But when you get to an easier patch, that's where you'll want to increase your speed.
And that's where your competitors will try to get away from you as well. They might want to break open the race and leave you struggling behind.
These tempo changes are hard to deal with, especially when during the race the lactic acid in your legs starts accumulating.
In order to prepare for that you need to train for it. Make sure you do tempo runs. These will help you deal better with fast-paced running and will make your body produce less lactic acid.
Secondly, do lots of tempo changes in your running training as well.
Be it in a structured pyramid-run, where you change speed every 5 minutes or so, or be it in a more play-like fartlek session, make sure you practice a lot with tempo changes.
And make sure you put in lots of speedy running at the end of your training session when your legs are heavy and painful.
What is that proverb again? Ah yeah : No Pain, No Gain!
Cross-Country Running Tip #5 : Know the Course - Prepare Yourself
I have been in races where you start in an open field for the first few hundred metres and then disappear off into the woods where you find yourself on small trails, very hard to pass people.
Those races ask for a full-on sprint at the start.
You will need to be in as good a position as possible going into the woods. Let everybody behind you deal with how they are going to pass you then!
It's little things like that that can make the difference between you winning prizes or not.
Make sure you do your homework. Learn about the courses you'll be running on. Work out where you can make your move, where you'll have to speed up, where it is hard to pass others, etc.
I hope these simple cross-country running tips help you make the most of your cross-country running season.
Most importantly, enjoy being out there battling the conditions.
After each workout or race, give yourself a pat on the back for doing it!
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The Running Training section of the site has got the most articles. It is constantly getting updated with new tips and information. A must-visit if you are serious about improving your running performance.
The 5k is a great distance to run and train for. The great thing is that you can do it quite often and see big improvements.
The 10k is a real challenge. You need to run fast for an uncomfortably long time! Check out this section if you are strong of mind and legs!
The marathon is a massive challenge. Proper training is so important! Make sure to check out this section if you have got your mind set on the marathon!