Hey guys! Sorry, but I’ve been super busy with my internship + other busy work that I haven’t had real time to sit down and just write. Thankfully, I managed to carve out a bit of time today to sit down a jot a bit of my thoughts down.
Firstly, I can’t believe a month of summer has already gone by! It seems like just days ago I got off on summer break. Admittedly, I don’t feel like I spent my month as productively as I could’ve, but I guess that’s why it’s called summer break, right?
At least my summer running has been going pretty well! Having gotten injured last summer in preparation for XC and also this past track season (which is so dreadful), I knew I did not want to risk any injury this summer. So, I decided to be super careful with my buildup, and make the effort to track all my runs (miles, workout, comments) in a google spreadsheet to track my weekly progress and see how I was feeling. Surprisingly, it has worked really well for me so far (crossing my fingers) and though I’m nowhere near optimal shape/speed for XC season yet, I’m getting there slowly but surely.
I wanted to share a few of my key workouts/runs I do each week, and also a brief sample/overview of my current training schedule. Everyone’s running fitness and level is different, but I hope this can give you just a little glimpse and inspiration!
Here are some of the more major workouts/runs I’ve been doing, and that you can try out too:
#1) Fartlek Workout
Fartlek, the swedish word for “speed play”, is just like what it sounds like: it’s basically a continuous run where you vary your speed in between, interchanging between running hard and running easy. Fartlek workouts are great for people of any fitness level because you can make it as easy or as hard as you want, depending on your current shape/how you’re feeling that day. Fartleks are usually run outside on a trail/route, preferably with some rolling hills. These runs are great because they are challenging, but you finish feeling refreshed rather than fatigued.
A sample of some fartlek workout ideas are:
- Hilly Route: Run hard uphill, easy run on flats, run hard on downhills
- 4 mins “on” (faster pace, I usually run it at tempo pace, a pace I can hold for around 40 minutes) , 2 mins “off” ( recovery pace) x 4 times + warmup and cooldown
- 3 mins “on”, 2 mins “off” x5 + warmup and cooldown
- Song: During the chorus, run hard, during the other parts, run slow
The great thing about this is that you can really adjust it to your own level. For some people, the “on” part may be a jog/run and “off” a simple walk, while for others the “on” would be run at 5k/tempo pace and “off” at recovery pace. You can also vary the number of times you run the fartlek ( thus adjusting the number of minutes you run). This run is especially great for cross country runners because during a race, you don’t know how far you’ve gone, so you really have to rely on feel for judgement.
#2) Tempo Run / Tempo Intervals
Tempo runs are one of the most important runs for cross country training. A tempo run is basically a steady effort/pace, usually somewhere around 10k pace or a bit slower. Tempo runs are great for developing your Lactate Threshold (LT), which basically determines how fast your body can clear lactic acid from your muscles. Tempo runs are great for developing strength, speed, and also stamina and mentality, as it really is learning to be comfortable in the “uncomfortable”. You should feel that the run is “comfortably hard”.
I like to run my tempo runs in 2 variations: sustained tempo runs or tempo intervals. Sustained tempo runs are anywhere from 15-30 minutes long at a tempo effort, while tempo intervals are interval runs at a tempo pace (or slightly faster). Depending on where your fitness level is, it’s easy to build up your tempo runs to a greater mileage/faster pace.
Some Tempo Run Ideas are:
- 10 mins warm up, 20 mins sustained tempo, 10 mins cooldown
- 10 mins warm up, gradual tempo (increasing pace), 10 mins cooldown
- Warmup + 4x 1000m at Tempo Pace + Cooldown
- Warmup + 3x1500m at Tempo Pace + Cooldown
- Warmup + 4x1000m at increasing pace, slower than faster (start slightly slower than tempo pace, finish slightly faster than tempo pace) + Cooldown
I like to run my tempo runs either on a trail outside or sometimes even on the treadmill, as it is easier to determine my pace and keep my pace. Tempo runs take lots of mental toughness, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get to where you want on your first try. Remember, gradual buildup is key.
#3) Long Run
The long run is arguably the most important run for a cross country runner (and even more so for half marathon/marathon runners). Long runs are what they sound like: runs that are long. This varies from person to person, of course, but long runs are normally 1.25 – 1.5 times of your normal recovery run length. For example, I run an average of 8 km per day, and my long run is usually around 11-12km (1.35-1.5 times). These runs can be run at a sustained tempo pace (a bit harder) or at a recovery pace. I usually run my runs at the pace I would run a easy run, as I know that the length of the run is enough of a challenge for me.
For some elites, long runs can go up to 2 hours long or more, but I would say for high school cross country, your long runs should definitely by under 1 and a half hours, but that’s just me. Long runs are crucial for building endurance (duh) and not to mention increases your capillary growth, number of mitochondria (which produces ATP!), myoglobin concentration, maximum VO2, and a lot more.
Sample Long Run:
- 1 hour at easy pace, preferably on trails or course with hills
- Progression Long Run: Start a conversation pace and finish at tempo pace
- Tempo Long Run: Run the entire course at a sustained pace, not as fast as tempo but you should finish quite tired.
It is crucial that you don’t increase your long run length too much every week. The maximum increase should be about 10%, so if you ran 10km last week, the longest run this week should be 11km.
#4) Hill Repeats/ Hill Sprints
One of my most dreaded workouts is hills. Hill repeats/hill sprints basically fill my legs up with so much lactic acid and I always feel like quitting in the middle. But, hills are a very important part of cross country training, and many race courses contain at least 1 big hill or various rolling hills. Hill workouts are important because they act as speed workouts, help improve your form, and have a lower risk of injury than speed workouts.
There are 2 types of hill workouts: Longer hill repeats or short hill sprints. While the longer hill repeats are usually run at a tempo pace and help improve your lactate threshold, hill sprints are key in improving your fast twitch muscle fibers. Both are important for you to power through your race!
Sample Hill Workouts:
- 8 x 200m Longer Hills, 6 x 50m hill sprints
- 8 x 1 min hill repeats, 3 min recovery jog
- 30 min run + 8 x 15 second hill sprints
- Continuous hill run
So here is a sample of my week of summer training:
|40 mins easy
||4 mins on, 2 mins off x 4 fartlek + 6 x 30 second strides
||45 minute recovery Run
||3 x 1500m Tempo Pace
||45 minute Recovery run
||7 mile (11.2km) Long Run
Hope you enjoyed my post and learned something new. If you guys have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help out! Let’s all get after it! After all, cross country champions are made in the summer 🙂
Pic Creds: Mark Callon
Have a great rest of the week. Peace out!