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Analyzing Work Sessions for the Cross Country Athlete

Cross country coaches need to be prolific note takers because not only is there much data associated with the sport, things are happening so quickly that unless a few notes are scribbled down as they occur, thoughts will be forgotten.  Analyzing work sessions, or the day’s workout, gives a picture of where the runners are now, how fast they are capable of racing, and what to proceed with in the future.  Usually, small notebooks can be seen in coach’s hands at meets with pens moving feverishly as the action rolls past.  These same notebooks are seen at practice each day as well.  Within the pages are notes on kids, what to do later, random items to remember, and data from the day’s workout.  Many notes…

Utilize ‘Check Your Gauges’ Cues to Positively Influence the Cross Country Runner During the Race

Attending a cross country running meet is an exciting experience.  Parents, siblings, teammates, friends, and fans are screaming and cheering nonstop as the runners go past them.  Cross country meets are also a place of work for the coaches whose teams are participating.  A race is a test for both athlete and coach as to the effectiveness of a training plan.  Here we will identify what “Check Your Gauges” means, and its importance in influencing the athlete’s performance in a positive manner. A coach may wonder what they should be yelling, (saying above the crowd), to their athletes as they run past them that may actually be helpful at that moment.  Perhaps a key word or phrase that a runner may pick up on that…

Training Camps for Cross Country Runners

Physiologists have shown that it takes about 25-27 weeks to establish a peak in aerobic development for a novice or emerging cross country runner.  Since exhaustive performance in the five kilometer race has been shown to depend on 92% of the necessary energy particles (ATP) to be produced in the aerobic energy system, full development of this system is a real competitive advantage for the runner.  Today we will consider the value of organized summer training camps for high school cross country athletes. A cross country season for most high school runners in the U.S. is about 14 weeks which is not nearly enough time to fully develop the aerobic energy system.  Most cross country coaches stress “running in the summer” to their athletes but…

When to Eat Before a Cross Country Race

Athletes, coaches, and scientists have long known that meal timing affects distance running performance. Knowing when to eat before a cross country race is vital as going for a long intense run with a stomach full of food can lead to anything from discomfort to all out vomiting.  Digestion calls for the re-directing of blood to the small intestine, while running calls for a re-directing of blood to the working muscles.  See the problem?  The systems of the body are in conflict at this point and the muscular system usually wins out in the struggle for blood, hence the issues with the stomach and intestine.  On the other hand, going for a long or intense run on an empty stomach has its issues as well….

Distance Coaching 101: Workout Planning Fundamentals

Training distance runners is similar to other rewarding endeavors in life in that it seems rather daunting to begin with, and then stays challenging throughout.  The athletes themselves are in most cases strongly self-motivated, task-oriented, and inquisitive, while the training is based on scientific principles.  If the coach is not a strong people-person and well-schooled in science, the learning curve can be steep.  Important in this process are the workout planning fundamentals. For these reasons a good distance coach cannot be just a good distance runner themselves, but more importantly a person eager to learn and apply scientific theory to the development of interesting, effective, and sequential training workouts and schemes. All mainstream distance races from the 800 meters to the 10,000 meters are characterized…

The 3 Most Important “Fuels” For Successful Distance Running

The ability of skeletal muscle to re-synthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP) during exercise and recovery after exercise ultimately depends on the diet of the cross country runner.  Today we will focus on the 3 most important “fuels” for successful distance running. Fat and carbohydrate (CHO) provide the majority of the metabolic fuel for ATP re-synthesis, with protein and ketone bodies able to contribute small amounts in certain situations.  Both fat and CHO are stored in intramuscular regions of skeletal muscle and in adipose tissue in the case of fat.  Both CHO and fat can also be stored in the liver and to a small extent in the blood.  Generally, signals inherent to the muscle dominate the regulation of intramuscular fuel use, with some help from extramuscular…

Growth and Development Issues in Distance Runners

Most cross country coaches’ work with athletes that have not yet reached absolute physical maturity and awareness of growth and development issues in their distance runners.  Many of these same coaches have teams with both boys and girls on them, which raises the concern of different rates of development.  Even coaches that have a program of one gender, grades nine through twelve, have athletes that are scattered on a continuum of physical growth and maturity and must deal with issues surrounding this fact on a daily basis.  Growth and development issues in cross country begin with the basic indicators of height and weight as these two variables are the most useful in examining rates of change and are controlled by the genome signaling of chemical…

Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Running Injuries in the Middle Distance Athlete

Running injuries of the leg and lower back are the most common types of acute or chronic ailments found in distance runners.  Aches and pains are common in runners training in excess of 15 miles per week, but these transition to injuries when the ailment is severe enough to reduce the number of miles run over the course of at least one week and/or cause the runner to take medication or see a health care professional. Most running injuries are musculo-skeletal overuse syndromes related to cumulative stress and strain of the legs.  All of the common injuries have noticeable symptoms, related causes, and training characteristics as to what to try/avoid and how to treat the injury from a training perspective.  An observant coach will take…

Proper Posture in Distance Running

When trying to make cross country runners faster there are no more important variables than proper posture and the characteristics of foot contact on each stride cycle.  Foot contact times vary with pace in running.  Slow paces show longer foot contact patterns, and increases in velocity show consistent decreases in contact times (Figure 1).     Foot contact patterns also vary with pace. Slow paces show full footed contacts initiating in the heel. Increases in running velocity show consistent changes in contact patterns, with contact occurring closer to the fore-foot (Table 1).     The amplitudes of running movement observed in distance running paces, particularly at the hip joint, vary with velocity, however the degree of hip extension observed remains fairly consistent at all paces….

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