Nearly half a million high school students in the U.S. participate in cross country. But just because the sport is popular doesn't mean it's easy. Cross country training can be tricky, especially for young athletes. Run too much during the week and you can increase your risk of injury, meaning you might miss your next meet. Train too little, and you'll find yourself at the back of the pack on race day.
One way to maximize your training and reduce your risk of injury and fatigue is to use a heart rate monitoring system to measure the intensity of your workouts. Without a heart rate monitor, training goals are generally based on speed, distance, time, past history and the runner's perception of the relative difficulty of the training.
A heart rate monitor lets cross country runners set their speed and measure their exertion based on their heart rate. This helps them determine over time when they need to speed up or slow down their intensity, thereby maximizing their daily workouts.
Because the intensity of a workout plays a large role in conditioning for an endurance sport like cross country, inaccurately measuring intensity can lead to overtraining, which in turn can lead to runners peaking too soon and not achieving an optimal performance on race day.
The following daily workout is designed for runners preparing for a Saturday race. It demonstrates how to use a heart rate monitor to maximize your efforts.
This is generally a recovery day as you start to work your body back into shape following the weekend race. Typically, your workout will last from 30 to 75 minutes and, no matter what distance you run, your heart rate should be between 65 and 80 percent of your maximum.
Time to hit the gym for some strength training. Today you will want to focus on your lateral strength to complement the muscle groups you use. Check out the video player above for an exercise demonstration. Some exercises to incorporate include:
- Lateral Tube Walks
- TRX Single-Leg Lateral Hops
- Core work
This is a tempo day. You will run intervals, generally between 15 and 25 minutes each. Your heart rate should stay between 86 and 92 percent of your maximum rate.
Repeat day. You run 1,000-meter intervals for two to five minutes, working to keep your heart rate at 95 to 100 percent of your maximum.
This is a light day with a free run of 30 minutes or less, keeping your heart rate between 65 and 80 percent of your maximum rate.