With the coolness of winter in the air, spring track may not be on the minds of many High School runners. However, this is a crucial time for runners wanting to be ready to compete in the spring.
The period between the end of Cross Country and the beginning of Track offers necessary recovery time, the opportunity to build a solid base of miles, and time to strengthen your core and other essential muscles.
Rest & Recovery
After a long cross country season, it’s important to give your body and mind a break from the rigors of training and racing. According to Team Norris Running and “The Importance of Rest Days for Runners”, rest is essential to becoming a stronger and faster runner by allowing damaged muscles to heal, aid in the prevention of injuries, and helping to preventing burnout by providing a mental break.
I would recommend at least two weeks of no running after a cross country and track season. This doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. You can go for walks, easy swims, bike rides, or play a game of ultimate frisbee or flag football with fellow teammates or friends.
If you’ve already taken two weeks off since the end of cross country, good job! If you continued running after cross country with no break, take a quick 1-2 weeks off before starting back up.
Just like a solid foundation is crucial to having a strong building, base miles provide the aerobic foundation to being a strong runner. According to Runner's World "Build A Better Base", winter is great time to build base mileage because of the positive effect it provides to your spring and summer racing. Base miles should incorporate a large portion of your weekly mileage. These miles should be longer and slower and must include at least one longer run per week. I would recommend doing base miles at 50-60% effort (Base Building). The goal is to gradually increase your overall weekly volume over a period of time as well as increasing the length of your long run.
If you haven't run since cross country or very little, I would recommend building to 30-35 miles per week by the time track starts with a long run of six miles. If you took a little break after cross country and have been running consistently since, I would recommend building to 45-50 miles per week with a long run of ten miles.
According to Greatist.com, "The benefits of strength training for runners--for both injury prevention and performance--are real." (1) The off season is a great time to focus on your core and other essential muscles used in running. I would recommend doing strength training 2-3 times per week during this off time. Strength training can be done with or without weights and there’s also the option to use resistance bands. There are tons of videos on the internet offering different exercises to strengthen the core and other essential running muscles. Pick a few videos or programs out and then change the exercises up each week. To get started, below are a few links to point you in the right direction: