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Summer Cross Country Running

by Billy K
(Bethesda, MD)

Hi, I am going to be captain of the cross country team and previously our Summer workout schedule has been over a week:

Long (8 or so but increasing over the summer to about 12 or 13)
Rest day
Medium easy day (4 but increasing to 6) Medium hard (6 but increasing to 8)
Another medium easy
Another medium hard
Another medium easy

And then we start all over.

In August, we try to double a little to add some extra mileage. Also, all of the summer runs are done usually at conversation pace but sometimes faster depending on how we're feeling.

We never increase mileage more than 10%, and take an easier week in the middle of July.

What would you change, and when/if should we add some intervals, tempo, or fartlek.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi there,
Thanks for your question about summer running. You are taking this captaincy seriously. I like that you ask about what to do in the pre-season, rather than coming to me three weeks out from a big meet and ask me for last-minute advice.

I think the schedule you are using at the moment is great for summer running. Pre-season should be all about base running.

Speedier work like intervals are best saved for when you get to real race preparation. When it comes to tempo running I am a little bit in two minds. When you look at traditional running training, i.e. the type you learn in excellent running training books like Daniels' Running Formula it is very clear that you should just do easy and long runs in the pre-season.

But when you look at more modern training methods, the type of training done by Kenyans, then there is a lot more focus on tempo running. When you look at the training described in a book like More Fire it seems like almost every run turns out to be a tempo run. Someone like former Olympian Marius Bakken, who has spent a lot of time training with Kenyans, talks a lot about the benefits of tempo running as well.

I personally prefer the more modern approach and include at least one weekly tempo run in my base building period. It helps break up the monotony of base building a little bit more and it does provide the benefits of pushing up that lactic acid threshold right through summer.

By the way, if at all possible make sure to include some hills in your summer workouts as well. Still easy running, no hill reps or something like that. But again, it helps break up the monotony and it helps condition the legs.

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Regarding the 10%-rule: Everybody uses it, I don't like it. Also see my increasing mileage safely page.

The week in between in which you cut down mileage is a good idea: I am a big fan of cutting down your mileage every 3rd or 4th week. For runners rest and recovery is as much an integral part of their schedule as the workouts are.

Anyways, that's it for now.
Hope this helps.
Best of luck with your running.

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