How to Prepare for Cross Country Season

Cross Country runners race up a hill

5 Tips from a High School Coach

For some, it will feel like the track season just ended, so I hope all of you track and cross country athletes out there have taken a little break.

Cross country season is just around the corner and below I’ll provide a few tips on how to be ready for the start of the season.

Get a Good Pair of Training Shoes and Spikes

A runner jumps in their cross country spikes

Head to your local running store (preferably a Fleet Feet) and get fitted for shoes. You’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet, so having a comfortable pair is essential. Running is hard enough and not having a good pair of shoes makes it a little harder.

If you are really committed to doing cross, I would also suggest investing in a pair of spikes. Depending on the terrain, spikes definitely give you more grip (and a competitive edge) during meets or practices.

Best Spikes Guide

Touch Base with Your Coach

It’s not too late to reach out to your coach and ask for a little guidance on how to prepare over the weeks leading up to your first official practice. Depending on the type of program you are in, you may already have those tools in place. Newer runners should not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. It’s okay to be a little nervous and not really have an idea on how to start running or how to make the transition from middle school to high school. Checking in with your coach is a great way to make sure you’re prepared and ready to go on day one.

Connect with Your Teammates

A group of cross country runner huddle together before a race

Get your teammates together for runs! Contact days for coaches and athletes are different around the country. As much as coaches would love to hold lots of practices over the summer, there are rules that limit the amount they can officially hold.

There are no rules for getting a couple of teammates together to go for a run or hold a workout. Not only can it help set a positive tone for a season, it is a great way for teammates to get to know each other.

In an anonymous post-season survey, one of my seniors gave the following advice:

“Make friends with and get to know your teammates across all grades. Running can sometimes be really hard, but I have found that the connections and friendships that I have made on Cross Country (XC) more than offset that. The great friendships that develop on the XC team are what makes cross country a great experience.”

Set a goal

Whether you’re coming off of a break or new to cross country, starting up can be tough. This is where talking to your coach comes into play as well. Your coach can help give you structure and guide you to get ready for the start of the season.

If you’re new to running, the run walk method is a great way to start up. Tell yourself you’ll run for two minutes and walk for one. I find it important to set small tangible goals on your way to reaching your bigger goal. It helps build momentum and can give you a little bit of confidence.

If you are a more experienced runner coming off of a break, just run for time for a bit. It’s easy to get caught up in how many miles others are running, but you have to remember to listen to your body. The training for runners on your team and others might be very different; try not to compare.

If you struggle a little bit, that’s okay. In fact, you should expect it. Running is not a sport where things are always linear. For both a newer or experienced runner, consistency goes a long way in having a successful season.

Prioritize Recovery

Last but not least, it is extremely important to learn to take care of your body before, during and after cross country season. Recovery includes things like listening to your body when it needs extra rest, prioritizing sleep, hydration and rolling out sore muscles with massage tools.

Doing all of these things will aid your body in feeling better pre and post run. Running is hard enough, so it’s important to be consistent with all of these things to make it a little easier.

These are just a few of many tips to help you get ready for the upcoming season. All of us are a little different, so it is also important to find things that help you along the way. Good luck and have fun with the upcoming season. Stay healthy, and happy running.

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