August 10, 2019

How do you prepare for cross country season?

Exercise | Health Tips


Fall sports, including cross country, utilize summer workouts to help athletes get in shape before starting their season.

According to Dr. Jonathan Shook, OrthoIndy sports medicine physician, training in the off-season has many benefits. “Most athletes aim to increase muscle mass, increase speed and agility and increase skills for their specific sport or sports,” said Dr. Shook. “These gains then translate into better performance when their sport’s season comes along.”

Off-season training also helps prevent injuries in the future. “Training in the off-season also has the benefit of reducing the number of “in-season” injuries,” said Dr. Shook.

How many miles should a cross country runner run in the summer?

Over the summer, cross country runners should continue to increase their mileage. To do this, it is important to have one longer run every week.

In order to determine the exact mileage of this longer run, you should take the number of miles you run a week and run about 25 percent of that number.

For example, high school cross country runners might run about 40 to 50 miles a week. In this case, their longer run once a week should total about 10 to 12.5 miles. The day after you do your longer run, you should do a recovery run to decrease stiffness.

“Increasing intensity at a slow steady rate allows your muscles, bones and joints to adapt to the increased stress they are experiencing,” said Dr. Shook. “Your muscles and tendons gain strength and flexibility with training, and this process happens slowly. Your bones get stronger with strength training, but if you do this too quickly, you can actually cause stress fractures of the bones.”

Each week of conditioning should slightly increase in intensity which helps prevent injury.

What you need to know about sports injuries in young athletes

Tips for a high school cross country summer training schedule

  1. Alternate between high and low intensity exercise every few minutes during your run. This is also known as interval training and should be done once a week.
  2. Alternate between high and mild or moderate intensity exercises every few minutes during your run. This is known as a fartlek workout and should be done uphill and downhill to imitate cross country running conditions.
  3. Control your speed. Run about 15 to 30 seconds slower than your speed during a race. This is known as a tempo run and can help keep energy levels up during a race. This should be done once a week.
  4. Sleep well. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night.
  5. Eat protein and carbs while staying away from foods that are high in fat. It’s important to fuel your body with the proper nutrients so you can perform at the highest level. Not eating can lead to dizziness or even fainting. Don’t eat too close to your workouts. Find a time that works best for you.
  6. Drink plenty of water. Hydrate before, during and after workouts. Practicing in the heat causes you to sweat more, which means you need to replenish your body with water at a faster rate. If not, dehydration can easily occur.
  7. Stretch after you run.
  8. Try bike riding to help increase your running speed.

Download our Ultimate Guide to Sports Medicine to learn more

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Julia Steele

By Julia Steele

Julia was the 2019 summer marketing intern at OrthoIndy. Julia is working on a bachelor’s degree in public relations, a minor in communication studies, and a concentration in media analytics at Ball State University. Julia will graduate May 2020.

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