Cross Country Running Training Programs


Successful cross country running training programs are built on one main premise, CONSISTENCY.  My first running coach in the sport of Triathlon preached consistency, consistency, consistency as the key to being a great runner in any form; cross country, trail running, triathlons and full and half marathons. 

Cross Country running, particularly kids running, unfortunately is driven by how many miles/kilometres are done in training.   The most Miles / km's directly contributes to performance during competition.  In other words the kids who run the most in training or are pushed by ill-informed sports coaches do very well in junior competition.  However the trade off is very often the young cross country runner is burnt out at a young age, never to enjoy the life long enjoyment of recreational running.

The Golden Rules for kids running programs

  • quality over quantity
  • consistant effort over many weeks beats rushed preparations
  • 12 - 16 weeks maximum before the young athlete needs  multiple weeks rest from running
  • 2 - 4 runs per week maximum
  • variety in session structure ensures motivation stays high
  • 1 long easy paced run each week
  • 1 strength run per week
  • 1 speed session per week
  • include running drills as part of every session
  • include body weight exercises as part of every session
  • encourage cross training and participation in other sporting activities

Cross country running is not rocket science.  Beware of those running coaches who try and convince you otherwise.

As mentioned on other pages on this website the KISS principal works best.  

Keep It Simple Stupid!

The basic kids running weekly program

Monday - Strength Run

Tuesday - Nil

Wednesday - Speed Session

Thursday - Nil

Friday - Tempo / Fartlek session

Saturday - Nil

Sunday - Long run

Note - running kids usually participate in other sports so the 'Nil' could well be training or competition for another activity.   As you can see this means some children are very active and could easily be overtraining.  As a cross country running coach you may need to only run two or three sessions per week and rotate the different types of runs over a fourteen day cycle to ensure all required run sessions are covered.

The long run - This run is designed to familiarise the athletes body to having the endurance to run further than the junior race distances.  One - three miles / kilometres further than race distance is sufficient.  Kids running along should be able to hold a conversation or sing to themselves without breaking sentence to gasp for breath.  Junior runners must resist the temptation of increasing the speed towards the end of the run. Remember consistent effort!

The Strength run - Hills, hills, hills or longer distance race pace efforts over 800m - 1500m.  Cross country runners are working very hard during these sessions but are not sprinting!

Speed session run (aka track session) - This session involves interval race paced or faster sprinting efforts over distances ranging from 100m - 1200m.  Speed endurance sessions will involve lower pace but shorter rests (athletes will still feel the effects of the last interval and fatigue will accumulate throughout the session).  Pure speed sessions will involve 90 - 100% efforts over distances up to 400m with long rest periods (athletes need to be nearly fully recovered before beginning another repetition).

Cross country running is an extremely demanding sport.  Coaches must provide variety in sessions to keep running kids motivated.  Tempo runs(race pace efforts over distance) and fartlek training (speed play- surging efforts over constantly changing distances) should also be supplemented into the weekly schedules.

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Cross country running is demanding. I encourage my athletes to wear Compression Shorts.

Although the science is divideded whether these types of garments are effective, in the kids minds they feel confident training and competing in them.

Next time your watching junior sport, take note of how many athletes are wearing them!

Remember the old saying 'if you can't be a pro at least look like one!"