What Plan for High School Cross Country?

  • Creator
  • #56005

    Hi UA,

    My 13 year old son is going to be participating in high school cross country running in a little over a year. What training plan would you recommend and how should it be modified to fit his age and fitness level? He can currently run one mile in 9-10 minutes, but can’t keep running for a second mile. My main concerns are keeping him uninjured and having fun.


Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Participant
    Shashi on #56013

    Do not have any specific input, but can point to some resources that might help –

    Podcast – Training for Juniors, with Scott and Maya

    The Uphill Athlete Podcast

    Forum discussion –

    Training for the young athlete

    If you still have questions, let me know and I can ask Scott to share his thoughts.

    Anonymous on #56030

    If your son finds it impossible to continue at that pace for a second mile then the pace he is running at is too fast/hard to develop the kind of base endurance he needs. Most HS XC races will be 3 miles. He needs to slowly build up his endurance so that he can run for 3 miles. Only then can he begin to think about running faster. Doing more short, fast/hard runs at his limit will not help him build that endurance. Running slowly exclusively is no fun so he should also do a couple of short speed sessions each week. These can be done as games or playing soccer. Keep the length of those speedy runs under 20 seconds with at least 2-3 min of easy recovery running between.

    Don’t put him into situations where he regularly has to train with older faster boys. Occasionally is ok but no more than 1/week. This will discourage him, lead to injury and burnout.

    I hope this helps.

    Coach on #56044

    For now, I wouldn’t worry about putting him on a specific plan. As Scott said your son needs more time running longer distances at a lower intensity. I would encourage him to do bodyweight strength exercises a couple of times a week for injury prevention and mix up his training by doing both running and hiking. As you said, it is important to keep things fun and less intense at this age. If he enjoys other sports let him use that as cross-training (biking, soccer, skiing etc..). The biggest thing I would keep him away from as Scott mentioned is doing too much high intensity especially right before his XC season. Most of the important races are usually towards the end of the season so let him use the earlier races as his intensity training so by the end of the year he is at his fastest.

    I hope that this helps and best of luck to your son!

    brianbauer on #69770

    when I was in middle school I ran cross-country simply because I was able to walk onto the team due to the fitness I carried from nordic ski race training( cycling, roller skiing, hiking, running). it was a long time ago but as I recall, my cross-country running race training simply involved “running”….without structure. mostly longer distance at a low effort. Kids new to running who are still growing do need to take some precautions. teenage ailments like shin splints are common. basically you need to slowly work up to the mileage. youthful enthusiasm and energy does not counteract the pounding on young bones and muscles. my suggestions 1) try to do volume on soft surfaces( ie not paved roads)…over time the body gets used to the pounding 2) keep it fun. if he can train wit friends to get in the volume, that is good. 3). aerobic condition takes some time…so he will need to put in the months of work 4) speed takes weeks( vs aerobic that takes months)…get the aerobic base and speed is the frosting on a well formed cake and can be developed more quickly

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