Author Michael McGovern
Cross Country (or XC as short hand)
The XC season will be upon us Early October. So what are the benefits of Cross Country training and races?
I know that visions of mud, sweat and tears come to mind BUT think again.
XC provides a much needed break from track and road races and, if you pardon the pun, goes back to the grass roots of running which is why so many clubs have the name Harrier in their title. Distances are never accurate in XC so you can forget the strictures of the much loved garmin watches and concentrate on actually beating opponents whether that is at the top of the field or in the middle (or in my case, sadly, at the back of the field!!)
Cross country racing is analogous to a 10k or 5k race on the track which is 3 to 6 miles without rest over grassy and oft time’s hilly terrain. Given the distances we race in Ireland the key to success for men is a good 8k - 10 k and for women it is a good 3k - 6k .
Training for cross country races is hugely beneficial. For those who favour the track in the summer cross country running hugely increases stamina, leg strength and provides a much needed mental break thus preparing you for the stresses of all out summer track sessions and races. For non track runners these benefits alone will increase your road race efficiency.
So why not commit to giving this a try especially if you have never done it before??
Training for cross country- What’s it all about?
Cross country races are seldom flat and so if you run up a hill during a race your heart rate will increase by about 10%. So if this is not catered for in training then severe oxygen debt will occur during a race and you will be a sitting duck to your opponents.
Now I often see runners doing a hill session simply running up a hill and then jogging down again. You should be aware this is not a session in its own right nor is it a XC session but is often used at the end of a normal session to improve posture and stride.
In a XC race once a hill is climbed you will need to keep pushing on at pace and so this must be replicated in training.
For those involved with Susan’s group I know she is starting XC training this coming Saturday in the Phoenix park.
Her sessions will include hilly mile loops in the park and also fairly long reps. The length of her Saturday reps will be such that you will actually be running around your anaerobic threshold pace.
This type of training (a biggie when it comes to racing XC) is aimed at upping your threshold i.e. the point where your lactic accumulation overcomes your body’s ability to clear it. You are essentially training to run faster for further!!
In addition she will not be neglecting your VO2 Max sessions (the other biggie XC session)which are essentially the type of sessions which are done on Tuesdays.
RACES AND XC SPIKES
The Business Houses Athletic Association (BHAA) are much loved races by Crusaders (and by yours truly) . BHAA host about 8 XC races per season all taking place on Saturday mornings (providing a welcome break from training) and all around parklands in Dublin.
In addition there are Novice, Intermediate and Senior races provided by the various athletic bodies in Dublin, Leinster and at National level. These take place on Sundays around the country and these contain team competitions
Not, I am afraid the gear of the performance enhancing type, but gear for your feet!
XC spikes are essential for racing XC…obvious innit!! Try Elverys bottom of Grafton street or places like the Run Hub. Avoid the sports “fashion” shops like Lifestyle or similar. You need proper XC spikes!!. Otherwise try http://www.startfitness.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=cross+country+spikes
make sure you go for the same brand as your ordinary runners. You will also need to get 9mm and 12mm spikes (bought in Start fitness) as the bought pair will normally only come with 5mm which are useless for XC.
Ask me if you are not sure.
So XC ?? Who is up for it!!!
Author: Michael McGovern. No part of this article may be shared or reproduced without permission from the author
Athletes State of the Union..........Author Michael McGovern
This week (January 2016) Barrack Obama (as all US Presidents do at this time of year) gave his State of the Union address. This address assesses what has been achieved over the past year and sets out goals for the coming year. And this is exactly what you as athletes should do.
What have you done running wise last year? Are you training smart or just training? Do you need to re assess your running and your training? Do you need to set new goals or indeed just a goal?
Here are areas which I would think about for my State of the Union-
1/ What type of runner am I and what are my goals?
Well what type are you? Are you more suited to long distances or short distances? Cross Country, roads, track?
Of course you can get a Profile by getting tested by a Sports Scientist and they will advise what event specific type you are most suited to. Or maybe you already have a good idea. You could be easily beating some athletes over long distances but who trounce you when it comes to the shorter stuff. Or indeed vice versa!! So that alone will give you an good indicator.
Have a look at this chart, input a recent race time and see how well you do across the various race distances and see where your speciality is. This should give a good indicator of the most suitable distance for you.
THEN when that is done set a Goal whether it is a marathon, a 10k , a 1500m etc etc and then train for that specific goal
2/ What Training am I doing? Am I doing all or some?
There are many differing coaching theories out there. Indeed there are numerous articles about running…….. some very well informed …… some absolute TOSH (eh but not this one though!!)
To my mind a muti pace training regime makes the most sense. What do I mean by Multi Pace?
Well by multi pace I mean running various sessions and runs at different paces during the week with each pace stimulating a differing energy pathway . SO a typical week should include
A VO2Max session – which is 3/5k pace intervals over a total distance of no more than 5k. (this is what the club Tuesdays session stimulates)
An Anaerobic Threshold or Pace run or Tempo run. These all mean the same thing and are aimed at upping your threshold i.e. the point where your lactic accumulation overcomes your body’s ability to clear it. You are essentially training to run faster for further!!
This is what you should do Thursdays or indeed this forms some of our Saturday sessions
Long Reps/Hill work. Great for your running strength and capacity. The hills are a great way to strengthen your leg muscles which will make you a more powerful athlete. It’s what we do Saturdays!!
Long Easy Runs. Here you improve your running efficiency (more efficient at using energy) and improving your strength.
Easy Recovery runs. Self explanatory
If you are continually skipping some of these sessions then, to my mind ,you will not be training a specific energy pathway and your running will be less rounded. So ensure you do not continually miss certain sessions.
Then as you train for a specific event you will need to shift the multi pace sessions either upwards (for longer distance) or downwards (for track work).
3/ What Pace do I use? How do I monitor ? VDOT v Heart Rate v Body Monitor ?
This is a perennial question and one which most athletes ( and coaches) seem to have answered almost unquestionable with “Run with a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM)”.
I am luke warm about this. Why? Well….there are a few reasons reasons and principally:-
To be an effective tool a HRM requires that you get continual testing (usually a VO2Max Threadmill test). However there are many factors which influence your Herat rate and therefore the test results can very often mislead athletes. For example were you tired when being tested? Were you dehydrated? Was it very warm in the room when you were tested? What part of the menstrual cycle were you at ? Were you coming down with a bug?
So if any of these factors were present when being tested then the test result will be inaccurate and then the outcome is that EVERY single run and session thereafter will be run at the incorrect pace.
To my mind the VDOT system (especially since the arrival of Garmins) is much more effective primarily because athletes race every few weeks and therefore you are continually re assessing your fitness level i.e. your VDOT . (Here is Jack Daniels running formula http://www.runbayou.com/jackd.htm. Just stick in a recent race performance to get your ideal pace for each run)
However, I would argue that the best method of all is for athletes to learn to recognise what your body is telling you when running various sessions. So if you are out doing a long run you should know if you are doing it too hard. Similarly if you are on your knees after Interval workouts then you know that you are working way too hard. For Tempo workouts, again you should know if it is too hard or indeed too slow. This will lead to you becoming a much more rounded athlete.
I recall a Kenyan athlete who was being paid to pace a track meet in the UK. He arrived at the start of the race but was not wearing a watch and yet was required to hit 60 secs for 2 ½ laps. He shrugged when asked how he was going to pace the race without a watch and then proceeded to pace it to perfection. He knew exactly what 60 seconds a lap felt like.
4/ Mileage and rest
What mileage should I do and am I taking sufficient down time?
Mileage is always a question which athletes ponder on. I think it is obvious that if you are training for a marathon then certain of your runs will be fairly long and as a result your weekly mileage will be high. At the other end of the scale if you are running 800ms then your mileage needs to be on the low side as you will be doing high quality sessions and high mileage will not accrue much benefit (especially in track season) to an 800m athlete.
Then there will be a raft of athletes who will be training between these two extremes i.e. doing 5k, 5 mile, 10k races who will be unsure of the correct mileage. At the top end of the scale, research by physiologists suggest that the extra benefit of running mileage in excess of 85 miles per week is fairly low. SO to my mind this should be the upper limit.
Your body should be telling you if you are doing too much mileage as you will be feeling tired and stale. If you do too much mileage then you will be doing your sessions on tired legs and therefore not accruing the benefits of that training. So always temper your mileage to suit your body.
And so you have trained for a specific event, which you then do and so, what then? Well, then it is important that you take “down time” such as a few very easy weeks or indeed a few weeks off. You cannot continually keep loading your body and keep expecting improvement. Then you will be refreshed and raring to go for the next challenge!!
So, in summary, think about some of the above and then see what is your State of the Union???
By Michael McGovern. No parts of this article may be shared or reproduced without the author's permission.