Tips for a Cross Country Great Season
Cross Country Season has officially started with the Gazelles Cross Country Club. Whether you are new to Cross Country or a returning seasoned member, the start of Cross Country can be somewhat nerve wracking and exciting all at once. Memories of previous experiences and thoughts about the hard work that goes into Cross Country training can make anyone anxious to start up.
But never fear…. the pain is only temporary and your body will adapt and you will become better skilled and better prepared for all that gets thrown at you. Here’s some tips that I put together for those new to Cross Country or even for those who need a tune up on best practices for success in Cross Country.
1. Mental Toughness – I put this point first and foremost. Without mental fortitude, you can’t be successful in Cross Country. Your thoughts, attitude and mind control every aspect of your body and your race. Even if you are the best and most skilled runner; without mental toughness and perseverance you won’t make it past the first race.
What does it take you ask? Well, some of us are just better equipped than others in regards to this aspect. Years of life experiences and our personality make us who we are. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt and become stronger. First off, your attitude on how you approach things is key. We’ve heard it time and time again but it’s really that simple. Bring a positive, winning attitude to everything you do and you will be successful or at the very least it won’t be as hard as you originally thought. With a positive, willful attitude you can accomplish all that you put your mind to it.
Establish Patience and Confidence. If you expect the work to be easy, if you get frustrated and upset at the small things that come your way, you can expect to fall back and feel defeated earlier on. Trust the process that Cross Country training takes. Have patience – not every day and every practice or race will feel great and be easy. But remain confident that with a patient outlook you will develop and get better each time. Improvement comes from many setbacks and failures, it’s all part of the experience, embrace it!
Focus and Perfect Effort. It goes without saying that if you are not focused on the task at hand, you cannot give your perfect effort. However, if you decide to Focus and give your Perfect Effort you’ll have one hell of a run or race. It translates to a feeling of achievement and giving your best. All these factors contribute to being mentally successful.
2. Training – Definitely a very important aspect to being successful. Sure, you can train on your own and be successful. However, without expert, invested coaching, workouts designed for progression and teammates with whom to run with who push and challenge you; you probably won’t excel quite as well as those who are part of a club or team. You should also ensure you take a look at what the club can offer you in terms of coaching. Are you pretty much left to your own devices without any feedback or are the coaches knowledgeable, invested in you, encouraging you, pushing you, challenging you?
Training demands a lot from the athlete: Consistency and Perseverance. Know that the training has been well thought out and designed for you to improve in areas of Endurance, Speed, Strength, Technique and Strategy. However, if you are not consistent with your training, skipping out on workouts or not giving 100% effort then you’re wasting your time. Embrace the hard work it takes and make it part of your routine and welcome it. It’s what it takes to be a successful Athlete, it’s who you are.
Along with training comes Feedback. Communicate with your coaches on how you did and how you felt. Ask for feedback on areas for improvement and aspects where you are already strong. Know your strengths and weakness and focus on those areas that need the most attention.
Another crucial part of your training is also ensuring you take good care of your body. Ensuring you have a good relationship with a Healthcare Provider such as a Massage Therapist, Physiotherapist or Chiropractor (and many others not mentioned here) that you see with regularity will help ensure you are in the best physical form to train and in the long run prevent injuries. Don’t wait till it’s too late to establish these relationships. Once injured, you simply can’t train.
3. Nutrition – Another great point that deserves attention. Without proper nutrition and proper fuel in your body, it won’t take too long to see how fast you will digress. Don’t take proper nutrition for granted. Not all foods and foods sources were created equal. Gain the knowledge you need to ensure you fuel yourself for success. Ensure your coaches can help you in these areas and can provide nutritional knowledge.
Water, Water, Water…. Don’t underestimate the power of hydration. Dehydrated athletes fatigue significantly faster than those who stay hydrated. Drinking an adequate amount of fluids is the single most important thing you can do before, during, and after a run.
Choose a diet rich in Complex Carbohydrates, Fruit and Vegetables and Protein. All contribute to providing energy sources, vitamins and minerals and the ability to improve performance and recovery.
5. Rest – Never underestimate the Power of Rest. Consistently training hard is extremely demanding on the body and mind. You must ensure you give yourself one complete day of rest where you don’t do anything physical and your mind is not even focused on Cross Country or running for that matter. Take the time to rest, sleep, enjoy the little things, take time for yourself. In the end, you’ll be much better for it and your body will have time to repair and reset. Don’t feel the pressure to continuously train as it is counterproductive and can actually cause setbacks and possible injuries.
Cross Country running can be a very enjoyable challenge. It can provide a sense of accomplishment and rejuvenate your senses. Our job as coaches is to help you develop, improve and challenge you to become the very best you can be. We are here to push you and support you in all you need. It takes a good relationship between Athlete and Coach to ensure success on all fronts.
Written by Coach Cathy – Head Coach RFYL/Gazelles T & F Club @ Clarington