Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting in Shape

Each year the same thing happens. A new runner comes out for the team. The team starts together and all of a sudden they are breathing hard and falling behind, while the veterans of the team seem to be talking and hardly breathing at all, and running faster. The coaches say “just get your miles in and you’ll get into shape”.

But what does getting in shape really mean?

Well, to push your body forward you need two basic things – muscles and oxygen. Muscles make sense. Just like when you do pushups every day for a couple of weeks, you can do more at the end of two weeks than when you started, the same is true in running. Your muscles become more toned to push your body forward, and you can go further and faster.

Oxygen delivery is the really important factor in distance running though. Every time your muscles contract to push yourself forward another step there is a little chemical reaction between the glucose and oxygen in your body creating that energy. People generally have plenty of glucose – especially for a 5K race or under an hour of running – so that is not the limiting factor. Oxygen is the limiting factor. It is why you get short of breath so easily when you are starting to get in shape.

The best way to improve the oxygen delivery system is to run. Every day. At an easy pace.

Running too fast is one of the most common errors made by new runners (and even veteran runners). Running too fast makes muscles sore and limits the ability to go out and run every day. Running too fast increases the risk of injury as you are stretching your muscles and ligaments to their limits. Running too fast limits the distance that you can go on a single run. Your heart and oxygen delivery system get built up a lot more by going for a slow 5 mile run than a fast 3 mile run.

Coach used to tell us that we did not get the elite level runners at Bucknell, and the only way we could compete with these other schools was to build up our base. We ran 100 miles a week most of the year. Over four years this had an accumulating effect of building very high capacity and efficient oxygen delivery systems. We may not have been as talented as other teams, but we had built up to the point where we could compete with them.

We take a similar approach on the MXC team. We recommend the following template for runners:

Freshman/Year 1: 25-30 miles per week.
Sophomore/Year 2: 35-40 miles per week.
Junior/Year 3: 40-50 miles per week.
Senior/Year 4: 50-60 miles per week.

To optimize this, the mileage should be done on a year-round basis. With some variation of lowered mileage towards the end of a season and a week or two off when the XC and track seasons are over and a gradual rise back up to this mileage level.

While some elite high school teams train in the 70-100 mile per week range, we do not recommend it except for the unusual athlete. We think most high school boys are still growing and developing, and too much mileage can cause injury or burn-out on the sport.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MXC Guiding Principles

We have 4 Guiding Principles on the Moorestown Cross Country Team:

1. We are a Team. Most people think running is an individual sport. However, MXC is a team. We run workouts in packs. We run races in packs. When one of us has a bad day, the other guys pick him up. We are always there for each other. We can always count on each other. We trust that we are each putting our best efforts forward for the sake of the team.

2. We Work Hard. From the Championship Squad thru the guys trying to earn a Varsity letter by running 19 minutes thru the guys trying to earn their first Mileage T-Shirt. We all know that to be our best, we have to put in the miles – year round.

3. We Learn. While Cross Country seems like such a simple sport (run as fast as your body will allow for 5 kilometers), the fact is we all learn something from the sport every day. What is the best way to get in shape? How do I avoid injuries? How far can I push myself? Can I make the Championship Squad? What does it take to wear the Bumble Bee Shirt at Meet of Champions? How is what I learn running useful in school, in life?

4. We Have Fun. We like running. We like competing. We like seeing far we can push ourselves. We like our teammates. We like seeing our team progress during a season. We like Psych Parties. We like Summer Camp. We like cheering on our teammates.

The MXC 2008 team has the chance to be our greatest team yet in terms of fulfilling our guiding principles. I can’t wait for the real season to begin!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Mileage

There is one overwhelming key to a successful high school cross country season - a summer full of running.

The chart is of the mileage and performance compare for the MXC team of 2005. It shows that the more mileage run, the better the times.

The only real way to get enough miles in for a season is to run all summer long - starting in June.

I'll do another post at some point to give the physical reasons for this, but the basic principle is that with each mile run, the cardivascular system is built up a bit more. Making the delivery of oxygen to muscles more efficient and effective.

This is not a secret, and most good high school teams have their top runners logging 40-80 miles per week during the summer.

There are a wide variety of summer programs out there. Here are some quick links to give ideas on how different schools approach summer training:
WWP South, NJ - 40-80 miles per week
Flathead, MT - 40-50 miles per week
Claremont - 40-60 mpw
Washington Lee - 40 mpw

Joe's Eugene Pictures

Joe Halin, the manager for the Moorestown Running Company, went out to see the Olympic Trials. You can see some of his photos on our store website. He has pictures with Ryan Hall, Alan Webb, Gabe Jennings, Nick Symmonds, and Anthony Famiglietti. Very cool...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

York High School

Joe Newton has been the coach at York High School for over 50 years. Coach Newton and York have created a template for high level success in cross country teams. He has deep teams with over 200 runners, and the team is typically one of the top in the State of Illinois and quite often in the country.

There is an excellent book he wrote called Coaching Cross Country Successfully that should be on any coaches reading list. A movie was made of the team's 2005 season called the Long Green Line, and was introduced at the Eugene Olympic Trials. The YouTube clip below is a sampe from the movie.

Moorestown Cross Country

Lorenzo Eagles started coaching the Moorestown Boys Cross Country team in the fall of 2004. Fortunately, I got to tag along as a volunteer assistant coach. We have a blast.

We set up some basic Guiding Principles that have served the test of time:
  • We are a Team
  • We Work Hard
  • We Learn
  • We have Fun

One of the things I love so much about cross country is the fact that almost anyone can do it. While some people have more talent than others, nearly everyone will improve by doing work. And the more work they do, the better they get. From our point of view, this is a pretty good life lesson.

Our team welcomes anyone and we celebrate their individual progress. This helps to account for the growth of the team - our first year we had a little over 20 runners. This year we should have over 60 runners of all abilities and levels of personal commitment. What we try to do is have each runner expand their level of commitment and work over their years in our program. It is great to see them move forward.

My Running Blog

I have another blog that really focuses more on my business life. I thought I would start up one where I could write about the running side of my life. The Moorestown Cross Country team, the Moorestown Running Company, my own current and past running and any interesting topics I find. I'm hoping others can learn and share from this blog.