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Nike Cross Nationals Training Tip by American Track & Field

Date: 
12/06/2008 - 11:44

TIP: December 6, 2008

The date with destiny . . . For most of the past six months, you have lived, breathed and dreamed about NXN. You have run in heat, in cold, in hills, on flats, in good days, in bad days and now, you are part of the teams and individuals who are running at NXN. Run your race. Run to the best of your ability and when it comes time to kick, do that will all of your might. Know that, when you cross the line, you have run as hard as you could for as long as you could. Finish your season with a tough race, something you can relish as you start to build up to next year! And, from AT&F, and your friends at runningnetwork.com, good luck!

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TIP December 5, 2008
The word for today is relax. The day before the big race, jog the course. Then, find a movie you wanted to see and go see it. Have an easy dinner and get some sleep. If you can't sleep, find a book to read so that you can fall asleep. Nothing can help you be better now. Your race on the next day is the result of your hard work over the past several months. Good luck!

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TIP December 4, 2008

Keeping it in perspective---I remember reading about the World Cross Country meet in Rabat, Morocco in 1975. In that year, the U.S. won the world junior men's xc that year! I remember reading a story about one of the U.S. runners, who was frozen when they put him into the horse stall just before the start. The race was on a horse racing loop, so that the King could watch. There were man made hills and hay barriers as well. The race got out with one fast rush and off they went! It was in the first mad loop that this runner realized that, if he were to race well, he had to look at the World Champs as just any other race, and relax and race. Once he did that, he finished in the top ten. Good lesson for all of us.

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TIP December 3, 2008
Thinking about the final race: This is the culmination of your season. Whether that is the league finals, sectional, state, nationals, this is it. You have worked long and hard, and now, you have four days to go. Clear out the cobwebs, do your easy run, then perhaps some relaxed 200 meters on the grass, but stay relaxed.

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TIP December 2, 2008
The importance of checking your equipment. Four days out from the NXN, or from any major race, it is good to check your racing flats and spikes. Take both of them to the race, in case you need to change for the conditions. Get your racing socks, shorts and singlet in a bag. Put your sweats, dry t-shirt, hat, gloves, socks and if you have them, dry training shoes, in a bag. Get your snacks too, sportsbars, sports drinks, water, and a good book.

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TIP December 1, 2008
Easy days are important. In between the hard stuff, and especially, at the end of the season, a nice relaxed 30 to 45 minute run is perfect. Even two days of a relaxed run are fine. But keep easy easy. Running hard now is always the temptation, but keep the hard stuff for your racing.

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TIP November 30, 2008
The tempo run is something that you have done all season. It is, in its simplest form, a 20 minute run, done at 30 seconds slower than your current mile pace for five kilometers. So, if you can run 5:10 per mile over 5k (or 16 minutes) your tempo run will be at 5:40 pace for those 20 minutes. If now, you are racing at 5 per mile, that 5:35 pace will seem easy. Remember what this workout is about: to help make you more efficient during the middle of your races.

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TIP November 29, 2008
Long runs, what they mean: A long run now is a recuperative event, a 90 minute easy training session that keeps your mileage up, should be done on soft ground and should also be done with friends. Once a week now, this run helps you body recover and
clear out the lactic acid you have built up racing and training hard. It is also a time to consider yourself this season, and how far you have come.

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TIP November 28, 2008
Strategy is part of cross country. Charging over the crest of a hill, and pushing the downhill will give you some room on your competitors and is a better use of your limited energy than racing them up the hill. As you get closer to the finish, open up a little bit, but know that you will need to increase your kick with 300 and 200 meters to go!

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TIP November 27, 2008
A race at the end of the season is the culmination of six months of dreaming, training, working hard and learning from your mistakes. Keep it simple. Keep it focused and keep yourself in present time. Stay alert during the race and remind yourself of your hard work and how ready you are for a good race.

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TIP November 26, 2008
As you observe the weak spots in your competitors make sure when you pass---pass them with strength and confidence. Make sure your competition knows you have something left with 150 to go, increase the pace so that by 100 to go you are moving, arms pumping, knees lifting and you are running through the finish line.

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TIP November 25, 2008
The most important night for sleep is two nights out from a big race. Go to bed early, turn off the music, read a bit, keep the room dark and go to dreamland. Get eight to ten hours of sleep which will give your body and mind time to recoup. The night before, you will be in a hotel and around new people and nervous, but your body will be responding to all the good work you have done all fall.

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TIP November 24, 2008
Racing shoes can make you feel like you are lighter than air. A pair of racing shoes should enable your runners to race faster and feel great doing it. But those shoes should also have been tried on the courses and used in quality workouts. NEVER use anything new in a championship race, no matter how cool it looks.

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TIP November 23, 2008

Working on your finish . . . After a nice 40-minute run, go to the track for six 300 meter cut downs. Cut downs mean, you run each one faster than the one before. So, if you start at 55, then, the last one should be the fastest of the day. This helps you focus on your leg speed but also really clears the cob webs out.

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TIP November 22, 2008

Here's a great workout near the end of the season. About 10 days out, warm up, long and slow, do some strideouts on the track and get your top seven to run a good mile. If the guys will average five minute pace, have them run 4:40 as a team. If the girls will average six minutes a mile, have them run 5:20 as a team. It does not beat the heck out of them, but it does show them that their strength is right where it should be. Cooldown well and send them home.

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TIP November 21, 2008

Keeping it fun . . . the day after a big race, find some friends, find some soft trails and take an easy run, again, checking for any issues, and getting the junk out of your legs. Easy runs between the tough ones now give your body a real chance to hit its best peaks.

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TIP November 20, 2008

Try, try again . . . as you near the end of the race, try and access who you can kick by and who will fight you . . . with 100 meters to go, give it all that you have and see how many people you can pass before you hit the finish line.

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TIP November 19, 2008

Getting out at the start---end of season races are mad dashes at the start, fighting for position and one by one, picking off the runners in front of you. Treat the champ races like any other race, but try and stay focused then break down your challenges into one step at a time.

TIP November 24, 2008

Racing shoes can make you feel like you are lighter than air. A pair of racing shoes should enable your runners to race faster and feel great doing it. But those shoes should also have been tried on the courses, and used in quality workouts. NEVER use anything new in a championship race, no matter how cool it looks.

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TIP November 18, 2008

The night before your race: put your number on your singlet, check your spikes or racing shoes, make sure that they are cleaned up, make sure your racing socks are there, and your shorts as well!

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TIP November 17, 2008

Slow down the cool down . . . As we get longer and longer into the season, after your race, get into some sweats, a dry tshirt, and dry training shoes and start slowly jogging, taking time to access any issues that might have come up during the race. A sore soleus? a sore calf? a sore achilles? you were spiked? all those things are hidden after the endorphins released during a race. Take your time, and warm down well.

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TIP November 16 - hills

In races, where charging up hills is fun to do, staying in control until one hits the crest and then flying down the hill may be a better tactic. Check out the hills on a course to check the footing, not only uphill, but also check the footing downhill, so you can blast past your competitor. There you go! Heading to Miami!

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TIP November 15 - racing smart, part 2

Your athletes need to know that they need to know what they can do and what they can not do. If some knucklehead takes the race out at s suicidal pace, then giving him or her 50 meters and seeing how they are running at the mile is okay. Making a move over the last mile to catch some key runners is a smart tactic to use if one has had practice at it. Passing people at the end of a race is energizing.

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TIP November 14 - Finishing well

In championship races, finishing well can mean a great end to a season or a regrettable one. The last three hundred meters should be a place where your athletes have three gears-kick first time, kick harder and with 150 to go, final long drive. Remind them to not stop fighting until after the finish line is crossed. Championship races are tough, and lots of races are decided in the last two hundred meters.

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TIP November 13 - Racing smart

Providing your team with several different racing scenarios is essential. If a key athlete has a bad start, does that hurt the whole team? Does the key athlete realize that there are still three miles to go? Some days, everything feels sluggish, and they just have to know that is okay and they have to push through. Talk to them about big meets, prepare them early.

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TIP November 12 - Two days before the big race, do as little as possible

Most anecdotal research suggests that if you are taking a rest for your team, do it two days before the race. The day before, have them jog the course, and get them to read a book, see a movie, but relax and vegetate in a non stressful manner.

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TIP November 11- Warming up

A warm up is both physical and mental. Before your big races, get your teams to the race area early and make sure that they get in their entire warm up. Keep them relaxed. Make sure that they stretch, check their shoes, uniforms, numbers and that they are ready. A few stride outs just before the race to get them revved up is smart as well!

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TIP November 10 - Sports drinks do it smart

Just like you will not use new racing shoes on the big day, you should also not try a new sports drink. Get your teams to use a sports drink for a week or so before the race. Some kids may get stomach distress, so have them dilute it, half water, half drink. Races are all about the details!

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TIP November 9 - Snacking Smart

The wait at races can be real pain, but for athletes who are growing and have not eaten in four hours, this can lead to terrible races or worse, for some athletes. The perfect snack, is half an apple with peanut butter, if the kids can handle peanut butter (check for allergies). Celery with a chedder cheese spread is also good. And of course, water!

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TIP November 8 - Dry clothes, very important

Insist that your teams bring a change of clothes for right after the workout so that they do not hang out in their wet workout clothes. In their level of fitness, they are just a cold away from disaster.

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TIP November 7 - Easy days, keep them easy!

Monitor the easy days. Your athletes are in great shape now and while, for example, seven minute pace may have been hard for them at beginning of the season, it is easy now. Have them check their pulse for six seconds a couple times during easy runs to keep the workout easy. Recovery runs are as important now as your tough workouts. You need your athletes rested for the big races!

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TIP November 6, 2008 - Warm showers, Cold showers

Get your athletes to use all of the training weapons in their arsenal. One is showers. Start after workout with the athletes taking a normal warm shower, then have them push the shower, gradually over to cold water, as it does help in the recovery process. About a minute under cold water, if done gradually, is enough, then finish with a warm shower burst.

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TIP November 5, 2008 - Shoes, get them into the cycle NOW

If your athlete's shoes are getting worn out, encourage them to get a new pair of shoes immediately and get it into the training cycle. If they want to race in something "cool" start it with some stride outs this week, and have them wear them in a speed situation the following week. You want to have three to five workouts in a new racing shoe before you race in it and training shoes should not be worn for more than 12 weeks at this level.

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TIP November 4, 2008 - Training smart---barefoot or near it, two times a week

If you are serious about racing, and truly want to improve your times, then strong feet are key. With 26 bones in the foot, proper foot hygiene is paramount. Twice a week in your lightest racing shoes, barefoot, or in shoes like a Nike Free, (for one's who do not wear this shoe, your racing flats will do), start by jogging easy for no longer than 30 minutes. Build up to doing your warm up exercises, high knees, butt kicks, in them. Getting your feet to work properly is a key to speed development.

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TIP November 3, 2008 - Training shoes---two pairs, always

Our sport is pretty basic. You need a couple good pairs of training shoes. I would suggest a pair of trainers that fits your foot, and get two of the same pair. Alternate them on workouts, and that will cut down injuries during the training cycle. If you race in spikes, racing flats, you should also-Gently-start using them early in the season at the end of the workout during stride outs. As you get later into the season, you should use your racing shoes for one hard workout a week, say the tempo run or three times a mile. Train smart, race smart. Using your shoes as the equipment they are is key.

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TIP November 2, 2008 - Hydration---yes, water is Magic

Eight glasses of eight ounces of water a day, for a sedentary person, is the rule. We suggest ten glasses of water a day for a training athlete, PLUS sports drinks, cut back on carbonated beverages (they hamper muscle recovery). Water helps your body transfer energy, at the cellular level. More leg cramps, worn out athletes have been "cured" by adding water to their regimen than by any vitamin or medicinal suggestion.

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TIP November 1, 2008 - Nutrition---Fuel the Engine

Unless you get real food into your system, every day, each and every day, your engine will not run well. If you are starving yourself, not eating right, living on junk food, your body will revolt.

The first facts are that if you are running five to six days a week, eat well and your body will get to its natural weight. Vegetables, green ones, yellow ones, red ones, you should have every day. Pasta, whole grain breads are all great. Milk and cheese are good for you, as is meat and fish. If you are a vegan, or want to be, remember to fuel the system with beans and rice, and cheese is great as well. Breakfast, a mid morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and evening snack all make sense. Try carrot sticks, try and apple slice with peanut butter. Drink a low sodium V-8. You can also eat smart while travelling. Bean burritoes, Chicken super burritoes at Taco Bell, Pizza with cheese, and veggies.

Drink water, fruit juice, green tea, sports drinks. If you want the book on sports nutrition, go to www.nancyclarkrd.com .

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Tip: It's All in the Details
October 27, 2008

It was not a coincidence that two athletes coaches by John Cook made it all the way to the Olympic finals in Beijing. Coach Cook is a man who understands that medals are won and lost in the details. Shalane Flanagan's masterful runs in Eugene, at both the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters, were followed by Shannon Rowbury's masterful 1,500 meter rounds and her command of the Olympic Trials 1,500 meters, which was a lesson in smart racing.

In Beijing, Shalane Flanagan got food poisoning and her race at 10,000 meters was iffy until she started. Coach Cook and Shalane decided to see how it went. Shalane stayed out of trouble for the first half of the race, then, very astutely took one athlete after another, running a new American record for 10,000 meters and taking an Olympic bronze. Shalane was so focused that she did not know if she had finished third or fourth!

Shannon Rowbury ran the rounds of the 1,500 meters quite well, and finished seventh in the women's 1,500 meter final, staying in contention until the last two hundred meters. After the Olympics Shannon took on all comers and had some excellent races over the 1,500 meters and mile.

Both Shalane and Shannon had long Olympic seasons. They made to three Olympic finals (Shalane in the 5k and 10k, and Shannon at 1,500 meters), and they did themselves and their team proud. Knowing Coach Cook, he is already planning for their performances at the U.S. Champs and Worlds in Berlin for 2009. Remember, it is all in the details: good warm ups, cooldowns, core training, tempo runs, long runs, sleep, rest, focused racing--your racing is the combination of the work you do in the training season, the lessons your learned in early racing and the focus and desire you can bring into that final race!

Good luck to all at the Nike X Nationals on December 6, 2008!

By American Track & Field Magazine for The Running Network, LLC.
(Note that our Training Tips will appear daily starting November 1)

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Tip: Preparing for the Big Races
October 21, 2008

From the very beginning of the season, coaches should be looking at how to make their athletes more creative racers. In early season events, have them try things such as, running the hills hard on the second half of the race, trying a long charge over the last mile, or pushing the downhills. You should also give them a race where they can compete using their own instincts. We learn more from mistakes than from successes, and failures come. Use the early races as a testing ground for the most important event of the season--the Nike Cross Nationals!

By American Track & Field Magazine for The Running Network, LLC.
(Note that our Training Tips will appear daily starting November 1)

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