So here we are in about the middle of the summer. What are high school cross-country runners doing?
That's right, you don't want to show up on the first day of school having taken the summer off (unless you were injured, of course). Instead, you want to have spent your summer running.
But what kind of running? How far should I go? How fast should I run? Who will coach me?
These are easy questions to answer. First of all, you should mostly be doing easy running. The hard running comes during the season when you're training your body to race. But in order to be able to do the hard running, you have to be "in shape," which means that you have an endurance base. This means that just running miles is all you really have to do in the summer. Well, that, plus other strength work like pushups, abs, etc. - all of those things will get you ready for the Fall.
Second, you should have taken some time off after your track season, like a couple of weeks. Or maybe you are totally new to the sport. In either case, you should view the distances you might run during the summer as a long process of building endurance. This means to start with shorter distances and then increase. How do you know how far you can run? Just try a few miles at first. If that feels easy, add a mile or so, then another, and so on. For example, on the team I coach, some runners started at 3 miles, while the more advanced runners started the summer running 6 or 8 miles in the first workouts. Now, halfway through the summer, even the shortest distances are around 6 miles.
How fast? Don't even think about speed yet. Just enjoy being out running, preferably with your friends on the team. Sometimes runners want to race each other during these workouts (because it's fun) and end up running long runs really fast. I think that's a bad idea because you increase your risk of injury if you try to run fast before your body is ready to do that.
Coach? Who needs a coach? Actually, as coaches, we are not allowed to hold workouts or coach anyone until a specific date a week or two before school starts. All we do is provide a place and time for student-athletes to run - in fact, anyone can run with us, and we often have parents or students from other schools join us. We're really just a bunch of people who like running. We can suggest how many minutes or miles to run, but, at least for our team, the captains actually direct the workouts. We pretty much just bring the first aid kit in case anyone trips and falls and maybe some water. This is a good setup because summer running is a chance for everyone to just get out and enjoy running. The benefits of summer running are huge, but the motivation comes from the student-athletes anyway: everyone who wants to improve knows they should be running in the summer.
Another way we offer runners an opportunity to stay in shape over the summer is to hold a running camp. I will be writing a separate blog post to tell you all about what our running camp was like. Here's a preview: It was awesome!!
Until next time, keep on running!