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Essential Cross Country Running Tips

Cross country running can be more challenging than running on roads or professional tracks. You'll have to run up and down hills, and you'll have to deal with weather and tempo changes as well as changes in terrain. Here are some tips to help you run your best cross country races.

1. Know the Terrain

Running on professinal tracks and on the road is different from running cross country. The terrain of roads and race tracks is flat and smooth. Cross country terrain is generally uneven, and while it may be dry in good conditions, it will often be wet, muddy and slippery. Here's how you can prepare for cross country races:

  • Go off-road. Practice trail running in the woods to get used to running on uneven surfaces.
  • Watch your step, especially in foul weather; there could be rocks, tree roots, holes and puddles.
  • When running uphill, lean forward and take smaller strides.
  • When running downhill, lean forward slightly and run on your toes. Slow down a little so that you don't fall. Lengthen your stride, but carefully. It's easy to trip and fall when running downhill.

2. Become Impervious to Weather

You'll get cold and wet as a cross country runner. Prepare yourself for race day by running even in foul weather. Pay attention to weather reports before you train so you can dress appropriately. Don't train in truly dangerous weather conditions, such as might involve flooding or high winds.

When running cross country in cold, wet weather, layer up. Wear water resistant, light weight running jackets and pants to keep warm and dry on the trail. Don't forget to stay hydrated; you still need to drink water even in foul weather.

Don't think that because it's cold outside you should work harder. While pushing yourself is an essential part of athletic training, don't push yourself significantly harder just because you're not heating up the way you would in warm weather.

3. Famliarize Yourself with Changes in Running Speed

As a cross country runner, you'll need to get used to speeding up and slowing down, depending on the terrain you're covering. You'll want to slow down to run up and down hill and to cover rough or slippery patches. You'll want to speed up again where the going is smooth.

To familiarize yourself with constant speed changes, do tempo runs. You can try structured pyramid runs, in which you'll speed up and slow down at five minute intervals. You can also try Fartlek sessions.

A typical Fartlek training session lasts about 45 minutes. However, every Fartlek session is different, because different athletes tailor them according to their own training needs. There's no right way to do a Fartlek session.

Start by warming up with gentle jogging for five or ten minutes. Then, run hard for about two kilometers. Follow this with a rest period during which you'll walk briskly for about five minutes.

You can then begin a round of gentle jogging interspersed with 50 meter sprints. You might follow this with gentle jogging in which you'll pick up the speed for a few steps every few minutes. Run as fast as you can at intervals of one minute. Run as fast as you can uphill for 200 meters. Remember to cool off with brisk walking when you're done. Fitday can help you track your progress.

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