Boost your speed and endurance for cross country

By Metro Creative Connection

Cross country is a popular sport. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ annual High School Athletics Participation Survey, cross country was the third-fastest growing sport for boys in 2016 and is the seventh most popular sport among girls. In a cross country competition, teams and individuals run a race on an open-air course over natural terrain.

Courses can be between two and 3.1 miles, depending on age groups and school-district guidelines. Cross country is an endurance sport, although speed also benefits cross-country runners. Cross-country runners typically devote considerable effort to improving their endurance and speed, and the following are some popular strategies aimed at doing just that.

• Engage in plyometric workouts. Running is about breath control and cardiovascular health, but a person also will need strong legs, says the fitness company REI. Athletes can build leg strength with box jumps, burpees, weight training, jumping rope, and more.

• Gradually add mileage to workouts. Runners should start off with a distance they can handle, and then incrementally add more miles, offers the health resource Livestrong.

• Run at different paces. Change the pace of runs, alternating between sprinting and recovery, to acclimate your body to running at various speeds. Work to improve your ability to keep up at faster speeds for lengthy periods of time. Many athletes like to use a fitness watch to track their heart rates and see how they can maximize time spent between easy, tempo and speed run paces.

• Vary the course. Cross country meets may take place in parks, at schools or on wilderness trails. An ability to maintain a consistent, quick pace on various types of terrain can be an asset. That means running up and down hills, around curves and not just on flat surfaces.

• Use an app to build endurance. Many different running apps can help athletes design workouts that will help them improve their pacing and endurance. Such apps include iSmoothRun and Runtastic.

• Run with a buddy. Some lighthearted competition can help improve both runners, who may push each other to keep up. Cross country running is a popular sport, and runners who take steps to improve their endurance and speed can make even more out of this enjoyable activity.