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Strength Work vs. Intensive Work in Cross Country Training

Are the cross country runners on your team getting better each day, or are they just getting tired each day?  It is surely not the same thing.  Lots of different workouts will leave even the fittest distance runner tired and exhausted, but was it a proper stimulus for the time of the season?  Today we will consider strength work vs. intensive work when training cross country athletes. Oh, how easy setting up workouts would be if fitness gains precisely followed a linear curve of development.  It is because distance development is so non-linear that it needs to be broken down into the four periods of macrocycle periodization: general prep, specific prep, pre-comp, and comp.  The former two periods are generally characterized by training that can…

Stimulus, Adaptation, Fitness, Timeframes and the Cross Country Athlete

Why do distance runners need to train all summer, effectively doubling the length of their fall season, in order to be competitive in the championship cross country meets at the end of the year?  The answer lies in the rate by which physiological changes occur in humans.  Today we will discuss stimulus, adaptation, fitness, and timeframes as they relate to the training of the cross country athlete. Fitness gains to the aerobic energy system requires enough time for structural changes in tissue to occur.  In the same light, strength improvements in the muscular system’s Type 1 fibers requires enough time for the cross-sectional diameter size of the myosin filaments to increase; again, a change in tissue structure.  Improvements in both the aerobic energy system and Type…

Assessing the Athletic Lifestyle of the Cross Country Athlete

More and more scientific studies on distance runners have shown that proper recovery facilitates faster physiological adaptation and enhances endurance-related performance. By ignoring recovery today, it all leads to tomorrow’s poor practice session and, eventually, poor recovery habits that are tough to break. It also reinforces attitudes that can lead to under-recovery injuries. However, by taking advantage of planned recovery and making it an integral part of a comprehensive training program, athletes can experience the gains that elude them when they work hard, but do not have the proper rest and recovery integrated into their plan.  With this in mind, today’s focus is the athletic lifestyle of the distance athlete. A coach can only pester and prescribe so much when it comes to rest and…

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…

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