Santa Margarita Cross Country Program
By Dave Zeitler
The Santa Margarita cross country program starts with three weeks of
rest following track season. During this time the athletes are encouraged to stay active
with other sports, but asked NOT to run. With this break from the rigors of training, it
is my hope that the teams will return refreshed and anxious to start their training
Rest is followed by 2 to 3 weeks of easy running, every other day for
30 minutes each run. From this point on is the gradual progression--increasing the number
of days and the length of the runs.
By the time school is out for summer vacation, the dedicated runners
are going 5 to 6 days a week. Most of the runs last just 30 minutes, but for 1 or 2 days
the duration of the run is extended to 40-45 minutes. At this time, we also begin our
summer weight training, lifting 3 times per week.
Since this is the CIF "dead period," the captains usually
organize a run after the coach has gone home; this allows the boys and girls to run with
someone. By the time the "dead period" is over in mid-July, our varsity guys are
expected to be able to run comfortably for 45 minutes 3-5 times a week, with at least 1
long run per week lasting one hour.
For the next 5-6 weeks the emphasis is on getting as much distance on
the legs as possible. Many of our runs will be over hilly terrain and, while speed is NOT
stressed, effort, consistency and teamwork are the main focus of our running. During this
time (mid-July to mid-August) none of our runs will be less than 45 minutes, and at least
3 per week will be for 1 hour. On days when the runs are only 45 minutes the varsity will
run an easy 30 minutes in the evening at home.
The last week in August marks the beginning of the next phase of our
training--getting ready to race. For the next 6 weeks (last week of August to the first
week of October) our running consists:
- Cruise intervals
- 45 minutes of running in the hills followed immediately by 3x400m on the
track at race pace with 1 minute interval
- If there is a race on Thursday -- a shorter distance run followed by
- If there is no race on Thursday, we will do repetitions in the form of
fartlek. Usually the hard efforts of the fartlek last between :30 and 1:30. There would
probably be 8 of these hard efforts within a 45-50 minute run.
- Either race day or another distance day -- 45 minutes and over flat
- An OFF day, or the team will do a pre-meet workout on their own at home.
- Usually race at an Invitational
- Runners are expected to run a minimum of 45 minutes and, hopefully, go
for 1 hour.
Let me explain a little about the above sample week, since I believe it
crucial to whatever success we achieve at SMHS. The term "cruise intervals"
comes from Dr. Jack Daniels. For my boys and girls, it means running 1000m at :24/mile
slower than race pace. Because there is less intensity than what most people run
intervals, there is only 1:00 interval (rest). Both boys and girls will do 5 of these,
followed by and preceded by 2 miles of easy running and some stretching. These C.I. are
done over moderately hilly terrain.
On Tuesday, because it gets so hot in Rancho Santa Margarita, the
workouts are conducted in the morning before school. This is doubly beneficial, I believe,
because we get a quality workout in the cool of the morning, plus we are doing our last
hard work before a Thursday race some 9 hours earlier. The "repetitions" also
come from Dr. Daniels. These are shorter, hard efforts done much faster than race pace.
I think a small selling point of the program is the Friday-OFF concept.
This allows the teenager to go home, like other students, get ready for the football game
that night, or do whatever his friends are doing. The trade-off for this is the Sunday
morning run. This is obviously unsupervised and totally optional, however, I believe that
our athletes do the run. I emphasize that this will help supply the strength that we will
need in late season.
One last note here, is that on Tuesday afternoon the varsity boys and
girls do a pool workout, running in deep water. I'm not so sure this helps their
cardiovascular, but I think helps them loosen up and definitely helps team morale and
From the second week of October until league finals, we enter the next
phase of our program. Monday workouts are now typified by race pace running with longer
intervals (the rest period). The runs will be from 600m to 1600m. We continue the same
Tuesday effort, including the pool for varsity members in the afternoon. If we are racing
on Thursday, then Wednesday stays the same. If there is no race on Thursday, we do some
cruise intervals that are shorter (usually 800m) and less (usually 4-5) and done on flat
terrain. Thursday is a distance, 40-45 minutes followed by some easy strides. Friday is
still our off day. If there is no invitational on Saturday, we will go for a long run in
the hills. If we expect (hope) to go to C.I.F. Finals, we will discontinue the optional
one hour run on the Sunday before league finals.
The preparation for C.I.F. is characterized by shorter and faster
running. Monday before C.I.F. Prelims we'll run for 35 minutes in the hills. Tuesday we go
to the track for some "cruising." We alternate 400m and 800m--cruise 400m, 800m,
400m, then race pace 800m, 400m, all with 1 minute interval. The boys and girls love this
workout on the flat, sure-footing of the track, and I love it for the leg speed we get
from it and the confidence they get. The times they hit are often much faster than the
times that are asked for! Wednesday our runners will go 35-40 minutes; Thursday for 30
minutes. Both these days are done over flat terrain. On Thursday we follow the run with
some easy strides. Friday is still the off day. If we're still in the running the
following week(s), we simply repeat these same workouts.
BASE BUILDING PHASE
July 22-July 28
Mon. at SMHS -- 45 minutes. Var. 30 min. in evening
Tues. at Woods Canyon -- 1 hour
Wed. at SMHS -- 45 min. Var. 30 min. in evening
Thurs. at Whiting Ranch -- 1 hour
Fri. at SMHS hilly -- 45 min.
Sat. Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Pier and back
EARLY SEASON PHASE
Sept. 2 - Sept. 8
Mon. 6 mi. easy at opponent's course
Tues. Cruise intervals, 5-6 x 1000m
Wed. at Peters Canyon -- 1 hour
Thurs. at SMHS -- 45 min. in hills and 3x400m at race pace
Fri. 45 min. -- easy
Sat. 5K at Laguna Beach
Oct. 14-Oct. 20
.5 mi. at race pace -- .5 mi. jog
1.0 mi. at race pace -- .5 mi. jog
.5 mi. at race pace -- 1 mi. warm down
This workouts is done the O.C. Champs course
Tues. at SMHS -- 45 min. in the hills + 3x400m at race pace
Wed. 4x800m at Cruise Int. pace
Thurs. 45 min. -- easy
Sat. O.C. Championships
Sun. 1 hour on own
LATE SEASON PHASE
Nov. 18-Nov. 24
Mon. 35 min. in the hills
on the track = 1 min. int. between all
400 at Cruise int.
800 at Cruise int.
400 at Cruise int.
800 at race pace
400 at race pace
Wed. 40 min. -- easy
Thurs. 35 min. -- easy
Sat. C.I.F. Finals
-- Tuesday after school
5 min. easy swim
2 x 50m in relay races
2 x25m under water
5 min. warm easy running in water
fartlek varying lengths of time, but always ending w/sprint
5 min. easy running in water
3 x week in the summer/2 x optional during season
Bench press -- free weights
Dumbbell curls -- free weights
"Flys" -- machine
Lat. pull downs -- front and back
Arm swing with weights
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