The time in between track season and cross country season can be a difficult in between to navigate. Post track season is a good time to take a bit of rest and recovery, and then it's time to prepare your body for the upcoming cross country season. Here are 5 things that you can do this summer to help you have a strong and healthy cross country season in the fall.
1. Run consistently: Over the summer, it’s easy to fall out of your routine, especially if you aren’t running with your team or if you are traveling a lot. However, it is really important to continue running consistently (3-4 days/week) over the summer. It’s much better to do multiple, shorter runs, than 1 long run a week. Using a calendar to track and plan your runs can help you stay motivated and accountable, as can planning your runs with a friend or family member (even if don't run together!). Finally, they may take up a little more space than flip flops, but pack your running shoes if you are taking a vacation, and look up running routes on Strava to plan your runs while you travel.
2. Build your aerobic base: Consider asking your coach how many miles per week you will need to run at the beginning of the season, and make it your goal to work up to that mileage. Most running injuries occur from building up too much running, too quickly. Over the summer take advantage of the time to build up your mileage slowly - no more than a 10% increase per week. Having a good endurance base at the beginning of the season will reduce injury risk, and your body will be ready to handle speed work and racing.
3. Take advantage of time for rest and recovery: During the school year, your days are busy with school, homework, practice, and extracurricular activities. Take advantage of your less busy schedule and focus on getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night, which is the recommended amount for adolescents ages 13-18. Sleep is when our muscles can recover from the strain of exercising, and is important for building new muscle. Learn more about why sleep is so important in this blog post: Sleep: An Endurance Athlete's Superpower
4. Focus on form: Running form can be a major source of injury and inefficiency that affect your speed. Pick one run a week to focus on optimizing an aspect of form such as your arm swing, posture, or cadence, so that by the time cross country season starts these things are second nature. Summer can also be a great time to come into the office for a running "tune-up" with a Resilient Runner Gait and Movement Analysis!
5. Get strong: If you've read this blog before, you know that strength training for runners helps you to run faster, for longer, and with fewer injuries - do you really need any other reason to do it?? The off season is the perfect time to prioritize strength training and will help your muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons to be ready to handle the demands of cross country season and more resilient to injury. Strength training doesn’t need to be complicated – 30 minutes, two to three days per week, with basic moves like squats, lunges, and heel raises, and a combination of single and double leg exercises. Check out Ask the Running Doc: Strength Training for Runners for 5 exercises that you can try today!
Thanks for reading! I hope that you have a great summer filled with fun, friends, and of course, running!
Dr. Elizabeth Karr PT, DPT