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Cross Country Training Program

Article By: Bill Miller
Centennial High School, Las Vegas, Nevada

We like to break the season into three parts: summer, season, and peaking. Nothing is etched in stone, and workouts are sometimes based on where the athletes are and where they need to be. Our workouts are based on distance, speed and hill training, with equal emphasis put on each.

Our athletes are strongly encouraged to use the time between the end of track season until early July as a period of "active rest" or cross training. This is a time when we want them to get away from running for a while, more for mental rest than anything else.

We begin our summer workouts on the first Monday after the 4th of July, and meet 3 mornings per week (usually Mon., Tues. and Thurs.) until mandatory practice begins in mid-August (varsity runners should run 5-6 days per week). This is the most important part of the season. We feel championships are won in July and August. Ironically, our workout intensity is the lowest at this time. One of our mottos is "2 miles per day is two more than zero!"

These workouts are geared towards building a base. Our main goal is to prepare our athletes to handle more intense workouts once the season begins, and reduce the risk of injury. This does not mean LSD everyday, but longer intervals (e.g. mile repeats), tempo runs, fartleks, some hills, and pick-ups, with a slight increase in mileage each week.

During this time we get on the track about once every 2 weeks, and our mileage is relatively low. Varsity athletes will average approximately 30-40 miles per week all summer, while first year runners usually put in 15-25. Please note that in Las Vegas the temperatures are usually over 100 degrees as early as 6:00 AM, and as late as 11:00 PM in July and August making it difficult to "beat the heat."

One of our favorite and most beneficial workouts is running the 7-mile loop at nearby Mt. Charleston, which sits at about 6,000 ft. and temperatures are usually 30-40 degrees lower. Our athletes are expected to race this course, not just run it; and since the first half of the loop is nearly completely uphill, we feel there is not a course or race all year that is more intense than this workout. We do this workout 6-8 times per year between July and early October.

When official practice begins in mid-August, we practice 6 days per week. These workouts generally take the hard-easy approach, with 2-3 days dedicated to speed (3-4 miles of intervals) and hills. The weekly mileage does not increase much but the intensity of the workouts does. We continue this pattern through mid-October.

A typical season consists of a dual/tri meet once a week through September and attending 2-3 Saturday invitationals. In October, we typically run 1 invitational, and our division, region, and state meets. During this time, we like to "train through" the season, focusing on the last 3 weekends, but understanding that all of the meets are important steps along the way. We focus on 2-3 meets in September as the ones we want to perform well in and evaluate our progress.

Peaking begins the first or second week of October. Mileage decreases slightly each week but the intensity remains high. Ultimately, we want the athletes to go the starting line feeling fresh-legs and mind. Our practices are shorter at this time. Rest is essential. Varsity runners put in only 10-15 miles the week of the state meet.

Throughout the season tremendous emphasis is put on nutrition, flexibility, rest and academics. These are things each individual has control over. The athletes know that cross country is a physically and mentally demanding sport, so "don't let things outside of cross country make it any more difficult."

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