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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 regimen.

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 6-8x100m strides.
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 terrain.
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 camaraderie.

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.


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

Sun. Off



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

Sun. Off



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

Fri. Off

Sat. O.C. Championships

Sun. 1 hour on own



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

Fri. Off

Sat. C.I.F. Finals


Pool workouts

-- 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


Weight Room

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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