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Hoover High School Cross Country

By Greg Switzer
Hoover High School
Cross Country Coach



At Hoover, the first question we have to answer is "where are our runners coming from?" With no feeder program of any kind, we have to be very clever to get kids to try out. We follow this routine: 1) Advertise in the school bulletin, 2) have a name and address sign-up sheet always available in the coach's classroom, 3) talk to the PE coaches at the junior high to try and identify any upcoming talent, 4) get an address printout of all the incoming freshmen with 3.5 GPA's or higher and have TA's address envelopes for all these prospects and mail an invitation to Cross Country Tryouts the second Saturday after school is out.


I like tryouts because I think kids like to feel they "made" the team. Our standard is relatively easy for freshmen -- 7:50 or better in the mile for the girls, and 6:20 or better for the guys. If someone doesn't make the standard, we work with them for 10 days and test again. We do that all summer long until the kid hits the mark or gives up trying. For the first 3-4 weeks of summer during the CIF dead period, former team captains, now alumni, run the 10-day cycle of training and tryouts for the beginners.


Learn to run in your ZONE! Zone is a catchall term for the pace at which we do steady state or lactate threshold runs, tempo runs, hill repeats, repetition runs, interval training, spring training, etc. Basically, "zone" means the best or fastest pace you can run, with respect to whatever your energy level is that day, so that at the conclusion of each rep and at the conclusion of the entire workout you can say, "I could have gone both farther and faster!" At Hoover, our training maxim is this: "Successful running is not about how fast you can run with pain; but rather how fast you can run WITHOUT pain." We strive for this all year long.

EARLY SUMMER TRAINING (June through mid-July)

The second week in June, we have a team meeting in which all returners are given a log book to take home and keep a record of their training (Thank you! Ken Reeves of Nordhoff!). For the last 2-3 weeks of school and the first 3-4 weeks of summer, the team does Time Running (a set number of minutes per day on their own). On Sunday, they phone their total into the coach who monitors their progress. The following is the breakdown:

Weeks 1-6 Minute Buildup

WK M Tu We Th Fr Sa Su TOT1 10 15 10 15 10 15 20 952 12 21 12 21 12 21 28 1273 15 27 15 27 15 27 36 1624 19 33 19 33 19 33 44 2005 24 39 24 39 24 39 52 2416 30 45 30 45 30 45 60 285

When they finish these six weeks -- the dead period is over -- they're used to running daily and they're ready to start hitting target mileage as follows:

Mileage Targets

   1st Year 2nd Year 3rd Year 4th Year
  9th Grade 10th Grade 11th Grade 12th Grade
 Boys 24-32 32-40 40-50 40-50+
Girls 18-24 24-32 32-40 32-40+

As before, the kids phone their totals into the coach on Sundays. During this time through the end of summer, we meet as a team 3 days a week, usually Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They run on their own the other days.


LATE SUMMER TRAINING (Mid-July through early September)

1. Continue daily running.

2. Challenge better runners to alternate a high mileage week with a target week (i.e. 60-50-70-50-80-50) with the last high week being the last week of vacation.

3. Our long run, building gradually over the summer, hits 2 hours (always an easy pace on grass and trail).

4. Our uphill running becomes a little more specific: on 3 separate occasions, we run 20-30 minutes up Mt. Wilson as fast as we can without violating ZONE guidelines.

5. The last two Saturdays before school we practice racing conditions by running a flat 3 mile race-like effort striving for 2 even splits over mile 1 and mile 2 and then a negative (faster) split over mile 3. This prepares us for the season's beginning invitationals.

6. Cruise intervals on the infield of the track. Up to 6x 1 mi with 60 sec recovery.

7. Mondays the varsities try to meet for a fast flat run; upper edge of ZONE.


EARLY SEASON (early September through late October)

1. Continue target mileage (but no more high weeks).

2. Long run reduces to 60-70 minutes usually on Sunday individually, or on Monday as a team.

3. One day of weight training which is a circuit with about 30 stations. 10 reps on each. By October, I encourage individuals to stay and work extra on hamstring curls and squats (3 sets of 10, starting at 10-20 lbs. with weight increasing each week to a goal of body weight).

4. Hill running becomes more specific with repeats up to 6x3 min. uphill, jog down 3 minutes for recovery. We want to be strong uphill runners, not so we can dominate the competition on the uphill, but so that we can hold our position uphill with relative ease and then have better energy on the all important crest and downhill.

5. Repetition runs are on the flat and usually alternate each week with uphill repeats (though on non-race weeks we usually do one of each). In September we're doing things like 3 x 1 mi. repeats with 5 min. rests. In October it would be 6x880 (jog 440), and late October something like: 1x 1 mi. +3x880 + 5x440 with the last 2-3 440s at 1 mi. race pace. These workouts are all done on the trails at Griffith Park.

6. Typical week:

Mon -- Practice race starts; 3x1 mi (5 min. recovery) + 3 mi run.

Tues -- 30 min run around the infield of the track + weight training + 20 min run

Wed -- 55 min run in the hills stopping to do 6 hill crests of 30 sec each

Thurs -- Flat ZONE run of 45 minutes around campus and nearby parks

Fri -- Easy run of 30-40 min + 4x110

Sat -- Mt. SAC Invitational + 30 min easy run

Sun -- 60 min slow and easy


LATE SEASON (Late October through November)

After 20 years of trying, like Jack Farrell of Thousand Oaks, I still don't know how to peak a team. If I try anything unusual, my teams are always flat. So our aim is business-as-usual from Saturday after the race through Tuesday or Wednesday. From then to the Saturday race, we do about half the usual. The only other change is that our repetition work becomes linked to the specific course we will be running on Saturday.

Typical week:

Sat -- (after meet) 30-40 min run after the race

Sun -- 60 min run easy in hills

Mon -- 25 min run + weights + 20 min run

Tues -- Simulate Mt. SAC. Race warmup + 1 mi (flat, should be a zone PR) + 3x 1.5 min uphill repeats + 1x880 (flat) + 3x440 (last 2 at 1 mi race pace)

Wed -- 35-45 min zone run. (Note: Tuesday's workout was at zone pace, and therefore did not tire us out)

Thurs -- 15 min run + stretch

Fri -- 20 min easy run + 4x110 (e-m-fast-faster)



By running "zone" throughout the year, we strive to train without straining. Consequently, our runners still feel fresh at the end of the season. I have made mistakes in overtraining and the uniform result is always sickness, injuries and fatigue at season's end when all the important races occur. Of course, my runners may, in fact, never reach their true potential because I keep them from pushing to their limit. But that possibility I am willing to trade for the benefits of this statement:

"Successful running is not about how fast you can run with pain, but rather how fast you can run WITHOUT pain!"


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