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By Jim Clendaniel
Yucaipa High School

Organizing a cross country training program that will be competitive in Southern California and, hopefully the Championships in late November, takes months of long planning and organization. We involve the coaching staff and the team members with this process. If runners have an active role in their season planning, they will take more pride in their individual and team performances.


In mid-May we hold a full team meeting in which we cover everything from team philosophy, team goals for the season, summer practices, running camp, fund raisers, schedules, etc. This is the time that we break the season down into different phases, always pointing to November when the big meets occur. We believe that to reach a level of excellence you need to develop many facets of the individual and team, but that running must be something that each runner looks forward to during the day.


Summer practice is one of the most important training times for cross country runners. This is the time when you can bring your team along slowly, not rushing the runner; this has really helped us to avoid serious injuries. We encourage the runners to attend as many practices as they can, when they are not away on summer vacations with the family.

At the mid-May team meeting, every runner is given a summer practice schedule listing days, times, and locations so there should be no excuses that they didn't know where and when to meet.

During the summer we enjoy various means of training. Every runner is required to keep a daily traiing log which will be checked regularly. Consistency is the emphasis in summer practices. It's far better to do something every day lightly, then to overdo it and then take a couple of days off in their schedule.

We are probably a mid-mileage training team. During a typical veteran varsity summer training week, we will run on Monday 6-8 miles at a relaxed pace, followed by 6-8 form striders, cool-down with a circuit training weight session in the afternoon (only time we can get in the weight room). Tuesday and Thursday are pool training days. This was our first year using pool running on a regular basis, and we enjoyed success with this cross-training. The runners got a tough work-out, with no pounding on their legs. Mentally it kept our runners fresher and our whole team was able to be together, building great team unity, since very few of our top runners were as accomplished in the pool as they were on the road or in the hills. Wednesday was usually a hill training run; virtually every run in Yuicapa involves hills (It must have to do with the geographic make-up of the city.). Friday involves a time run where the runners were placed in groups by ability and were able to explore during their run. On the weekends runners were encouraged to run on their own, or get together with each other.

Besides the pool training sessions, I feel that the use of heart rate monitors helped our training program (we had 10 this year). We are better able to regulate the athlete's training, keep a closer eye on them, whether they are training too hard, not hard enough, or developing a possible illness, etc.

Racing during the summer is strictly volunteer, but recommended as a way to check on their training with no pressures. The runners enter local 5K and 10K road races, plus an occasional 2 1/2 mile fun run at UC Riverside.

Our big highlight of the summer is our annual Mammoth Lakes Cross Country training camp. This camp is truly a family affair. We take among 40-45 runners, based on requirements set forth in our May meeting, not based on team rank or ability, but rather on commitment to the program. Parent involvement here at Yucaipa is tremendous, with an average of 10-15 parents traveling with us to Mammoth. We have found in our 11 years at Mammoth (310 miles from Yucaipa) that the benefits are tremendous, both in running, but probably more important, in team unity. We are up there from 8-10 days, concluding with a team race made up of 4-5 co-ed teams where everyone is a scorer. The runners take this race seriously, built on tradition and all-time lists for the 9200 foot elevation course that we use. After we come back from our stay at Mammoth, we feel that we are mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season.


Once school starts, we have concluded our first phase of training with our summer practices, and now proceed into phase two. This phase lasts until the first part of October. We view the early races as training and learning experiences, not cutting back on our training for the sake of racing. Because of the weather conditions in Yucaipa at this time of the year, we have to keep a careful eye on our runners. It is not unusual for temperatures to be close to 100 degrees, with smog. One way that we have gotten around the weather without cutting back on our work-out load is to have 6:00 am. practices, which our varsity runners are required to attend. We run from 3 to 5 miles, then shower, eat and hustle to class by 7:30. We come back in the afternoon and, if the weather is horrible, we can cut the work-out back and not lose out. We have found that if we push our runners hard on a continual basis in horrible conditions, we are doing more harm than good. This last year we were able to get stronger each and every week, and this was a main reason.

During the first six weeks of school, we have increased our mileage, started our hill training and longer repeat sessions. Most of this running is done on dirt trails and runs in the community. Heart monitors are always worn by 5 of the top males and 5 of the top females, rotated every few repeats amongst the varsity training groups and monitored by the coaches after every repeat. The heart monitors are set for every runner individually (runners are tested for levels) and the runners are to keep within their training zones. If a runner gets too far over their zone they take a longer recovery time. These repeats vary in distance from 400-1200 meters and degree of difficulty and in number of repeats.

With the start of our league season the first of October (our league meets are on Wednesdays), raceday serves as one of our speed days. The mileage is a little less, the repeat pace is increased and the meets are starting to gain importance with every week. We now start to stress the importance of certain races, but we never want our runners to lose sight of the end product, qualifying for the Southern Section CIF Finals, and a possible trip to the State Finals. The first few invitationals that we run in September are close to the beach because of: 1) the much cooler temperatures, 2) the tougher competition and 3) the flatter and faster courses are less demanding physically and teach us to get out quicker. In October we change gears and tend to run the type of courses that we train on--hills. We firmly believe that the hills are the great equalizer and are to our advantage.


By the end of October our mileage is about half of what it was, stressing a much quicker tempo, a few more hills and shorter distances in our speed runs. We really try to make sure that we don't leave our races on the practice days. This past year, with our girl's team, we had to closely monitor their work-outs during the CIF and State season. They were being so competitive because of the talent and the depth, they were tending to race everything in practice.

We continue to stress the importance of eating well, getting the proper amount of sleep (sometimes difficult for them because of the academic work loads they carried).

Lastly, the importance of taking care of any illness or injury cannot be overemphasized. All the hard work and time coaches and runners put in can be destroyed if runners don't take care of themselves.

This past cross country season, we were very fortunate with our training which resulted in tremendous results for our team. We probably undertrained our teams a little, this was done both by design and because of physical maturity.

The longer I coach, the more I am improving as a coach. We are learning and trying new training methods. We keep the athletes excited about cross country and make them proud to a part of the greatest sport. We make them a part of the planning of THEIR team. We listen to our runners and have fun. And, we always try to build on the positive.

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