Cross country season is getting closer and closer by the day. The season should be as exciting and challenging both individually and team wise as any other year.
However, what are athletes, coaches, and parents thinking and practicing?
What does it actually take to be a good distance runner. It's a pretty easy question, however the answer to the question might not be as simple. It could very well depend on who you ask as to what their answer or philosophy is.
Mileage is definitely an important factor. However, does it take high mileage or a low volume mileage plan to get good or fast? If we are talking about competing for a 5K, how much mileage does it actually take to run a little over three miles? Training for a 5K, 10K, and for a marathon are completely different distances and races and should be approached differently, right?
Which running philosophy is the best, Paavo Nurmi, Jack Daniels, or other? The debate on whether low mileage, medium mileage, or high mileage is most conducive for distance running will go on forever. One thing is for sure, some sort of direction is better than a flow as you go type of mentality.
Then, you have to have balance between training and rest. A rested athlete will be a faster and healthier athlete. So, how much rest and recovery should an athlete get? At least one day off from running is a good balance for health maintenance or is a shorter volume day sufficient for rest?
Nutrition is one of the tougher areas to stay disciplined at for many young athletes. However, it is a very important factor in becoming effective. Your calorie intake is important. Most distance runners don't have a need to count calories. The need to track carb and sugars isn't life or death, but the point is to make sure that either way it doesn't become that way. Eating well and a diet that compliments your physical training can easily boost performance. It is just as paramount when it comes to preparation as training. A healthy intake will make a huge difference in determining how good you feel when training and competing. When thinking about nutrition, an easily overlooked ingredient is water. This just in, Texas gets HOT, but it's more than the temperature that makes water essential.
Running form is important as well. Efficiency or the lack of for the course of a race 5,00m or more will heavily impact performance. Wasted movement through inefficiency over the course of a long race can cause a slower time as well as fatigue faster than efficient running. Over striding, or incorrect running on your toes or heels can effect speed and injury. Good form can result in relaxed running, which can be time saving over the course of a distance run.
Just like Air Jordans cant make you jump higher or a better basketball player, running shoes and other equipment can't make you a better runner -- Or can they? Technology is always improving and more cushioned and lighter shoes are always being researched and produced. Different brands come up with their own spin on the best running shoes to fit each distance and gait for athletes. The best shoe is up for interpretation, but one thing for sure is that it seems to be important to have a good and comfortable shoe that fits your gait and without too many miles on them for health maintenance.
Mental strength and fortitude of a good distance runner is important. All of the other characteristics are all important. However, one can argue that having all of the make ups of being good or elite are wasted if a runner is weak mentally. Being able to withstand challenging times in training and racing is important. competing against the course, clock, and your competitors are enough not to have to compete against yourself when competing. Do good runners have less psychological issues?
Cross country is coming and it will be here before you know it. Vote on what you think is most important to making a good distance runner.