Take a break

First of all, if you have had a long and tiring track season(s), it is most important to consider taking a short break – about 3 or more weeks, or whatever you believe your body needs! You want to allow your body to rejuvenate physically, and also mentally, from the intense work of the track, so you enter the cross country season with a fresh mind and body, to attack the mud and hills and higher weekly mileage in the long winter ahead.

Check your running gear

Do your  running shoes need to be replaced? If so, do it immediately before starting up!

Buy some new practice shorts and related gear.

Starting back from your break

It is important to start back running gradually. Allow two weeks to do so, including some easy runs and light training sessions. Starting back too quickly can cause injury, and this is the last thing you want at the beginning of a new season. Listen to your body, and back off if you feel any niggles. It is common to feel muscle tightness when starting back running after a break, so a roller massage from a teammate is helpful to get rid of the knots.

Endurance training

Cross country training is quite different from track training. Weekly mileage is higher, and training sessions focus on building your endurance and aerobic base.  So it is highly recommended that you attempt to do as closely as possible the training guide that is distributed to you over the summer. 

Run with a group

If you train on your own, consider forming a training group with other teammates. Training with a group of people of a similar speed to you is very beneficial. You can work together to get through the long training sessions on cold winter nights, and it will encourage you to keep on working hard until the end. It will let training be a fun social event too. Running in a group will let you become familiar with the aspects of cross country races by having a field of people running around you.

Core strength

The undulating terrain of cross country tests your strength, and reveals your weaknesses. Core work is often forgotten in a training schedule. It is, in fact, a key element of training, that is going to put you that step ahead of your competitors, when the going gets tough towards the end of your races. Core work will help to strengthen and stabilise your posture during a race, helping to reduce energy wastage. (Swimming, bike riding, stair climbing, sit ups, push ups, core training planks)


Fuel and hydration: before

Everybody has their own preferences about eating plans before a race. It is important to consume a meal providing you with the right source of energy, a few hours before your race. If your race is around midday, have a good breakfast such as porridge or muesli with toast. Complex carbohydrates will give you the slow release energy that will keep you going through the race. This will also be the time to make sure that you are adequately hydrated. Avoid foods that give a fast release energy, such as those high in sugars. Try to refrain from eating and drinking too much close to your race, as you don’t want to feel nauseous while running. Instead, have small snacks, such as a cereal bar, and sip lightly on water or an energy drink to sustain your energy levels.


Fuel and hydration: after

Consuming food after the race is equally, if not more, important than what you eat before a race. This time, different food groups are more important. Try and eat a snack that will provide you with a source of proteins to stimulate muscle recovery after your race. Good snacks with a protein source are most essential. 


Walk the course

This is a very important step to follow, especially if you are unfamiliar with the race course. It allows you to identify the sections of the race which you are going to find challenging (or are extra muddy!) so you can think ahead in your race. We always go to courses in advance to train on them (with very few exceptions). This is why missing a practice that we travel to practice can be very costly! (To you and your teammates)


Warm up

Before your race day, plan out your warm up. Depending on the length of your race, take a good warm up run for 10-20 minutes. Do some stretches and dynamic drills, and follow with some short interval reps at a moderate intensity for up to 3 minutes, to get your heart rate up. Don’t forget to allow time to take off your layers about 15 minutes before the gun goes off. Added stress of rushing to get to the start line is unnecessary and wastes energy!


Race tactics

It is important to pace your race. Starting too fast can cause tiring early during the race. Cross country races focus more on the placing rather than time. Different courses will suit different people.


Warm down

Don’t forget to fit in an easy 10-20 minute warm down jog after your race. This will help loosen off your muscles and ease any tightness which you may feel the next day.


Good luck and enjoy your cross country season!