OPTIMISING YOUR WINTER RUNNING PREPARATION WITH SOME CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING

Remember: secondary school and the joys of cross-country!It's not always a stroll in the park… However, many more seasoned runners will do some cross-country running from November to March, after a break following a long and intense summer season. What is the purpose of cross-country running in preparing for trail, road or track running events? What are the specific requirements of this discipline and how should you prepare?

5 GOOD REASONS FOR TAKING UP CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING

You're hesitating between doing a series of cross-country runs this winter or taking a big break until the next 10-km run or half marathon? Here are our best reasons for choosing the first option:

1.     cross-country running breaks up the routine of running on tarmac;

2.     it develops the power of the aerobic system which corresponds to efforts of endurance over an extended period.It is dependent on the body's maximum consumption of oxygen;

3.     it helps to exercise the stride and foot movements: knowing how to change stride – shorter when going uphill, longer on the flat and extended when going downhill;

4.     it develops mental strength by forcing you to be aggressive to finish your runs, while forgetting the pain;

5.     it helps to push back the lactate threshold, thereby delaying the time it takes to feel the fatigue.

These are the qualities that will help you perform even better on roads as well as on trails!

 

HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THE SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS OF CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING?

Cross-country running preparation can be broken down into the following 4 phases:

-       very basic development phase and a phase of muscle development:4 to 6 weeks of working on your aerobic capacity and power and strengthening the muscles with general physical preparation (GPP) exercises and specific physical preparation (SPP) exercises.Contrary to the GPP, which is more general, the latter involves physical training that is specific to the sport you practise and designed to improve your performance.

-       the pre-competition phase: 6 to 8 weeks of the same type of exercise as the previous phase and participation in your first cross-country events of the season

-       the competition phase: 4 to 6 weeks exercising at the specific cross-country pace, maintaining the VO2max, strengthening the muscles through hill workouts and running on specific cross-country terrain

-       the regeneration phase: 2 to 3 weeks with 1 to 2 weeks of rest + 1 week of slow jogging outings.

The specific sessions generally reproduce the level of stress experienced during cross-country events: fast start, regular support pace, final acceleration. The changes in pace can be infinite (from 90 to 105% of the VO2max) while also having an overall running mileage that does not exceed the length of the race (from 4 km for short cross-country runs to 12 km for long cross-country runs).

 

Here are our final recommendations for preparing your cross-country runs:

-       Preferably choose a training plan based on 3 weekly sessions;

-       Stick to the set paces, according to your physical ability;

-       If, during your session, you feel that you are pushing yourself too much, don't hesitate to decrease your speed by 5%, e.g., from 95 to 90%;

-       Drop the interval training if you have not recovered enough from your previous session

-       Do some stretching exercises at least once a week to avoid injuries

And above all, make sure you enjoy yourself, even when it gets difficult!

 

In some ways, cross-country running provides a lesson in running where all the different disciplines come together (track running, road running, trail running, triathlon, etc). This coming together is therefore very enriching where a relatively high level of performance is required. So, there is no need for any hesitation, just go for it!

Yvon

This article was written by Yvon Hillairet, Decathlon store manager at St André de Cubzac and passionated athlete.

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