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How to Train for High School Cross Country

By Kate Hickman

High school cross-country is a great sport to train the body and mind in a fun yet competitive team-based environment. A successful high school cross-country experience requires unique training to prepare for this 3.1-mile outdoor race. Craft a training program that speaks to the facets of this sport while enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Hill Training

Incorporate hill training into cross-country training once a week. Select a hill that mimics the race surface of grass, dirt or compacted rock. Long, steady hills and short steep hills are equally beneficial. You can incorporate hill training into a short half-mile loop where you run up the hill each lap or perform a series of short repeats where you sprint up the hill, then slowly jog down. In the case of repeats, find a hill that is a mile or two away from your starting point. Run to the hill, run 10 to 15 minutes of repeats, and jog back to the starting point as a cool-down and recovery.

Interval Training

Interval training is a precise form of speed training where you run a short distance of 200 yards to 1,000 yards as hard as possible and then walk or jog a designated rest interval. The rest interval time and distance depend on the distance of the previously sprinted segment. For example, run a hard 400 yards 10 times with a jogging rest interval of 400 yards between each, or run a hard 1,000 yards five times with a three-minute walking recovery interval between each. Incorporate one interval training workout per week.

Fartlek Training

Fartlek training can be incorporated into a normal distance run of three to five miles once a week. Jog the first five to 10 minutes of the run to warm up, then incorporate 20 minutes of speed surges and recoveries. You can base these surges on time, effort or landmarks. For example, on a road with light posts, sprint between two light posts, then jog through the next two light posts. Fartleks train you to incorporate surges mid-run to simulate the point in a race where you need to pass a runner or create space from the pack.

Rest Days

Rest days are equally as important in a training program as workout days. Incorporate one rest day each week. Without proper rest, you're likely to burn out or sustain an over-use injury. A rest day doesn't necessarily imply doing absolutely nothing. Rather, a rest day can be spent playing golf, taking a dance class or walking the dog. Rest days are meant to rest running muscles by relaxing the body completely for the day or using other muscles for the day's activity.

Additional Tips

Never pair hard runs on consecutive days. Between hard training days, insert a long slow run to work out any soreness while still giving the heart a workout, or take a rest day if your body needs it. Cross-country is a team sport, so several workouts a week should be among other runners to increase competitiveness and reinforce team running. If you get an injury, seek a doctor's advice on how to adjust your training plan accordingly.

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