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When to De-emphasize VO2 max Training in Cross Country

Since the early days of exercise science testing and experimentation, it has been accepted that aerobic power development is one of four training domains used in preparing distance runners.  Consider the combined energy zone events of the 800 meters through the 10,000 meters; including both short and long cross country competitions.  Improvement in the anaerobic glycolytic domain in all of these races hinges on better management of hydrogen/lactate ion presence; while aerobically, the three domains are: improving running economy, shifting the lactate threshold, and boosting aerobic power.  These three aerobic domains have a sliding influence based on the distance of the race.  The shorter distance races lean more toward aerobic power, while the longer races lean more toward running economy.  Today we will consider how…

The Variety of Personalities on a Cross Country Team

A team is a collection of individuals attempting to accomplish like goals.  On a cross country team, the coach is responsible for providing the leadership skills necessary to bring individual personality traits together into a functioning unit that has selective group goals.  Goals vary between cross country teams under an array of context situations and circumstances, and many goals do not even involve running.  There are even a number of goals that are similar from sport to sport and likely extend to such organizations as business and educational teams.  It is through the activity of running that the cross country team exists in the first place, but goals for the most part involve the human variety of personalities and motivation, and not the actual sport. …

What’s In and What’s Out in Cross Country Training Theory

It is the end of the year, and with the change in calendars it is always fun to take a look at what’s in and what’s out – or more specifically – what is scientifically in and what is scientifically being pushed out in regard to cross country training theory for the new year.  Keep in mind that science does not “prove” seemingly logical ideas.  The role of science, using the scientific method, is to disprove flawed ideas.  This is why scientific knowledge moves along at a snail’s pace, with the route to answers being a web of paths that twist and turn along the way.  Scientific studies are presented to the public, along with an invitation to disprove the stated results by other scientists…

The Truth About Distance Runners and the Weight Room

  Finally! Scott Christensen’s newest course is finally ready for you, and we can’t wait to see the results you get because of it. If you’re currently trying to incorporate a functional strength training and power development component to your middle distance and distance program, or you think you want to start, make sure to read this entire post because it could be the missing link to finally running a fully modernized system for maximizing the potential of your endurance-based ATHLETES. You’re about to discover how a few simple strength and power training tactics could finally allow your runners to shed seconds and minutes from their best performances; times they simply can’t achieve by only doing more of the mileage and long interval training their…

The Foundation of the Distance Running Program

There was a time in high school sports when the only thing that really mattered was what happened during the season.  For better or worse, that time has come and gone for many high school distance runners.  Most good runners have found that simply running 500 miles during the cross country season is not enough to achieve success outside of their own school and by including the whole year in their training program they can make some real progress.  Today we will consider the foundation of the cross country running program. This is nothing against two and three sport athletes.  In most cases, during this age of specialization in high school sports, distance coaches have been very accommodating to the concept of multiple sport participation. …

Training Ecosystems in Cross Country Teams

Some of the best descriptors in lively conversations are analogies, and cross country coaches often make use of them when talking to or about their teams.  A good one for biology types is the analogy that relates a cross country team, and the training they do, to the hierarchy and organization of life on Earth. Today’s focus is training ecosystems and cross country athletes. In biology, an ecosystem is a slice of the biosphere.  Specifically, an ecosystem may be freshwater aquatic, terrestrial, marine aquatic, etc.  It is an interweaving of different communities of plants and animals living within a particular set of non-living conditions.  How could this be analogous to a cross country team?  The answer lies in two important aspects shared by both ecosystems…

Distance 101 – The Workouts Cross Country Coaches Use

In a simple distance training scheme it is effective to longitudinally separate the season into three different segments of time and the workouts cross country coaches use in each.  Early season is a strong preparation time characterized by general running, athletes not focused on their best event (all training together), and races that are interesting but not all that crucial.  Mid-season is a time of transition from preparation to competition and is characterized by greater workout specialization by event, the hardest work of the season, and races that are becoming increasingly more important.  Late season is the last and shortest segment of time in the training season and is characterized by high intensity, specialized workouts by event, increased rest between hard training sessions, and races…

Protein for the Win – Protein Needs of Cross Country Athletes

Low fat, high carbohydrate, low calorie intake, carbohydrate cycling, vegetarian, vegan, junk food!  What else have coaches heard from their endurance athletes regarding nutrition?   Today we will focus on the importance of protein. In the last few decades cross country runners have increased their awareness in how nutrition affects performance, but with diet fads, advertising, and a dynamic society it is difficult to fit the dietary pieces together into an athlete’s lifestyle and family situation.   As a result, many coaches just make very general (common sense) recommendations about what to eat to their athletes.  Notice though, that one never hears about the recommendation of low protein for endurance performance, and that is because protein is essential for many functions in the body and for…

Five Basic Workout Themes the Cross Country Coach Should Use

Cross country training can be rather complicated and confusing for a coach just getting started in the profession.  Many times, a new coach will start by merely constructing a training program that looks pretty similar to what they ran in high school.  Pretty soon it becomes apparent that circumstances and location are different, so adjustments in the training scheme are made to fit the new scenario and this becomes mostly a trial and error experience.  Evolution of the program may consist of simply copying and adding new and different workouts and session sequences learned from a successful neighboring coach or at a clinic.  Without understanding of basic workout themes, after a few seasons a rookie coach becomes a veteran coach and the training program many…

October Training for Cross Country Athletes

For cross country runners, October is the time of racing in big Invitationals and preparing for the championship meets to follow.  For a cross country coach, October is especially stressful because it is the month of capacity training schemes and sequences which are the hardest to master because the training effects are so individualized.  Already past in the macrocycle is all of the general conditioning work and the big repetition/short recovery sessions of the specific preparation period.  In October training the focus now is putting all of the pieces of the 5k race together so that the comfort zone and critical zone are what they are supposed to be for each runner in the important races.     October begins with the transition to a…

September Training for Cross Country Athletes

There is no better time in the cross country season then September.  Fun invitational meets, hard-core training, an already well-formed team, pretty good weather, and still eager runners all make for a very enjoyable month.  For a cross country coach, September training is especially interesting because it is the month of training creativity.  Already past is most of the general conditioning work, and the team is far from any sort of tapering activities, so workouts can be put together that are taxing, creative and full of variety. September begins with the last fragments of the general preparation period.  The focus there is still on building a strong mileage base, strength work in the form of hill repeats, vVO2 max work done in moderation, and an…

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…

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