Kids Running Cross Country


Kids running cross country is one of the most basic forms of kids sport.  Most kids are born with the ability to run.  With some specific sports coaching, kids training for cross country can see dramatic improvements in their running strength and running endurance.

Cross country running for children develop strong mental skills and build an improved sense of discipline towards running, other sports and life in general.

Kids running Cross Country Training Programs 

Beginning Kids

Experienced competitive children

Teenage / high school cross country

Elite high School Cross country

Sports coaches should love kids running cross country because it is a sport where effort in training is rewarded.  Cross country running like competitive swimming is about the amount of miles / kilometers junior runners get into their legs.  Also the amount of high intensity interval training that cross country kids do helps develop strength and endurance. 

A word of warning for the kids cross country coaches, if you want your young runners still running in later high school then caution needs to be executed when they are young developing cross country runners.  The preteen runners should be under trained so when their bodies have matured in later high school the cross country coach can substantial increase the high intensity interval training programs.

Kids Running Cross Country Sports Coaches

Kids training for cross country should:

  • maintain a high level of fun and enjoyment throughout the running training
  • ensure they are healthy and not participating with injuries
  • include warm up and cool down activities in the training sessions.  This includes stretching
  • not be over trained.  A little held in reserve each session will ensure the athlete returns with a positive attitude.  High school cross country runners will tolerate higher levels of high intensity interval training.

Successful cross country coaches will develop yearly / season plans.  This allows the running training to be implemented in phases.  Pre season, competition, and post season running training programs should be developed.

Advanced preteens and high school cross country runners should be exposed to a moderate amount of high intensity interval training including TABATA.

A great resource that is new is Pat Tyson's publication Coaching Cross Country Successfully. Pat has developed a program that will establish a positive running culture within an individual or squad. The book helps to assist a coach in establishing his or her own coaching philosophy. An educated coach leads to delivery of effective training programs that sees runners being fully prepared for competition.

I also have in my library of cross country resources the below listed titles.  Each author certainly has their own individual ideas making wide reading in this sport beneficial to coaches.  My bookshelf contains 101 Developmental Concepts & Workouts for Cross Country Runners, Training for Young Distance Runners & Developing a Successful Cross Country Program.  

Kids Cross Country Running is all MENTAL

The most under utilised tool for any cross country coach is ensuring the athlete has the correct positive mindset.  Most kids running cross country put too many limits on themselves.  Juniors set their goals saying, 'I'm not as fast as that competitor'.  This thereby limiting their potential with a negative statement rather than expanding it through a positive affirmation.  

Junior running coaches must ensure runners place an importanct emphasis on positive affirmations.  A large part of being a successful cross country runner is just imagining what you want to do and continually plugging in positive reminders.  There's a great deal runners can do in their subconscious to get the body to respond. 

Strategies for constructing affirmations and goals for the junior cross country runner

  1. Visualize all sections of your race in a positive fashion.  Ask kids running cross country to think about what a perfect run would look and feel like.  High school cross country runners should come up with their own mental picture of what the perfect run would involve; the body floating over the course, feet turing over with high cadence, arms swinging easily and relaxed, hands lightly clenched, controlled breathing.  
  2. Preparing the mind to accept the pain felt during the cross country run.  Cross country hurts.  Junior athletes need to accept this and mentally prepare themselves.  Done correctly, when pain does set in during a race, the young mind will be less likely to give in mentally and 'give up' during a race.
  3. Junior athletes must recognise that all runners in the cross country race will be feeling the pain of fatigue not just themselves. The athlete who deals with the pain most effectively will finish the best.
  4. Junior athletes must draw strength from within themselves when they pass other runners and when they recognise their competitors falling apart.

Participating in quality cross country racing in the weeks leading up to the major races of the season are the times to perfect the mental strategies needed to succeed.  

During the main races of the season if everything has gone according to plan junior cross country runners will be completely mentally under control throughout the race.  That doesn't mean they won't be hurting, but the ability to push beyond and cope with the pain becomes increasingly important during the final stages of the race.  

Return from Kids Cross Country Running to Coaching Kids Sports

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Kids cross country training 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!"