Introduction: How to Train to Be a Cross-Country Runner

Hey runners. This is a simple guide to becoming the next Steve Prefontaine! Using a "step up" method. meaning, you gradually work your way up to a more intense work out, you'll be running 3 miles in no time! You should also buy a good pair of cross-country spikes. With out further ado, let's get running!

PLEASE NOTE: I had previously used pictures from the internet that I had not obtained permission to use. I have since taken those off, and used different pictures from Wikimedia Commons. I do not own these pictures, and they are copyright of who they belong to.

Step 1: Setting Up Your Schedule: Making Time

One of the first steps in becoming a cross-country star is TIME. You have to make time during the week and on weekends to run. Start by setting up a schedule of 3-4 days a week of running. I usually do Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Or if your doing 3 days a week because you're just starting (or something along those lines), I recommend doing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This gives you weekends to rest and recover. Making the actual time is a bit easier. I highly, HIGHLY recommend running in the morning when it hasn't gotten hot yet. You can run when ever you want during the day, but the morning and afternoon are the best time to run. In the next step, I'll talk about your distance of running, and how long it will take you.

Step 2: Making Time: Part 2

In the last step, I talked about making time so you can run. In this step, I will talk about the distance and time it takes to run. This all depends on your level of expertise. if you're a beginner, it will obviously take more time to run a mile than someone who has been running for a while and is just trying to get back into it. To start, try running a half mile one day, a mile the next, then a half mile again. As each week passes, work your way up to 3 miles each day you run. This "step-up" procedure helps build your endurance and strength. Typically, running 3 miles is going to take you about half an hour, but you'll get better as you build up your muscles and endurance.

Step 3: Where to Run

Actually, you can run...pretty much everywhere. If you're in the city, you'll have to run on the side walk, and where ever you can in the city. If you are in the suburbs, running on the grass next to the side walk is a good idea. This is where your spikes are good for use. It will help you get used to them and is softer on your feet than the sidewalk or street. If you're in the city, you might not find many places to run CC (cross-country). I recommend running in local nature or forest preserves that has a path. DO NOT RUN THERE IF IT IS OFF-LIMITS. Very rural areas are good for CC running also. If you can't find time to run around your neighborhood, a treadmill works perfectly fine. You can always use that if for some reason, you're stuck in the house and can't go out (though treadmills tend to be a bit harder than running outside. For me they are, anyway). Try and get out to run as much as possible.

Step 4: Cross Training

I will only devote a small step to this, though it is still very important. You have to cross train, too. Cross training means doing other stuff besides just running all the time. On days you aren't running try different forms of exercise. Riding your bike is an excellent one. So is swimming (hey, its summer, right?) Lifting weights couldn't hurt either. Just try to add a bit of color to your schedule then just running.

Step 5: Actually Starting to Run

I've talked all about you're time and many other things, but how about ACTUALLY RUNNING??? Before you run, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS...stretch. Stretching is important in making sure your muscles are ready to run. Spend at least 5 minutes doing different stretches to warm up. There are many helpful guides in stretching out there, so I won't go into detail. Hydration: drink lots of water!!! THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!!! Drink lots of water before, during and after your run. Gatorade and the like are good to drink also, but don't substitute them for water!

Step 6: Form

The way you run, the way your body moves, your "form", is important in not hurting yourself while you run. I will explain the proper form in running in order to get the most out of your running. Feet: Make sure you don't face them out so they make a V shape. Keep them straight and pointed to where you want to run. Posture: Keep your back straight and never slouch while running. This will cause back problems. Arms: Keep your arms straight like your feet and never drag them across your body in front of you. Your arms are what help you drive through and keep going. Hands: The hands should be clenched in a ball-type shape, but loosely. They shouldn't be clenched really tight so you can't feel them, but they shouldn't be so loose that they're flapping all over the place. Just keep them in  natural hold.  Head: Your head should be up straight and focusing on where you need to go. Try not to look at your feet too might run into a tree!

Step 7: Running and Cooling Down

Now that you've actually run, reached your destination, got back home, or what-have-you, you need to "cool down". This means your body needs time to bring your body back down to your normal temperature. To help with this, walk, don't run, for another couple minutes after you're done, and focus on breathing. Drink lots of water, also. Stopping and crashing on the couch immediately after running is not good. You're heart needs to gradually work back down to its normal pace.

Step 8: Get Out There, and Have Fun!

This is the most important step. Have fun! Run if you enjoy it, and don't push yourself to hard! You can get hurt if you do. Well, that is the essentially the basics for training to be the next CC star! Follow these steps, and in no time, you'll be running like a pro! Also, scientists say drinking chocolate milk after a run is the best thing to drink. Have fun, and GO RUN!!!

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