Andersen Wood is a senior at Marcus High School and competes in both cross country and track and field. He also contributes to MileSplit with his runner's perspective.
Cross country is arguably the oldest sport of all time. People have been running as long as there have been people. Over the past forty years especially, running has evolved in new ways. Advancements in science have changed how we train, what shoes we wear, and even what we eat. During my four years of running, we've changed the ways we train to adapt to new studies and other advancements in the art of running. Most notably, the way in which we measure our workouts has changed. Now, runners run with watches that can measure distance, heart-rate, pace, and more. The accuracy of this information allows us to shape workouts to suit individuals, enhancing the takeaways from our workouts. None of this would have been possible even twenty years ago.
My first year of running high school cross country, I had to get an actual running watch, something foreign to me. In the years prior, whenever I ran, I simply used a watch that had a stopwatch and nothing else. The running watch, at first, made no sense. There was a whole other side to running that I was ignorant to. The biology and physics of running was a new concept to me and massively changed the ways I trained. Now, when I run, I measure my heart-rate and try to keep it within a certain range; I can actually see my pace, rather than just eye-balling it; and I can accurately see how far I've gone. This all has changed how I workout. I'm more capable of understanding what paces I need to run to maximize improvement.
While technology and science have changed how we train, the biggest component of training still remains the mindset. A high heart-rate is nowhere near as concerning as a negative mindset. Mindsets can make or break workouts, no matter the science involved. You can meticulously craft any number of workouts designed to improve yourself, but if you're not invested, it won't make a difference. Currently, I'm training for my first marathon. To do so, I've been running longer runs than I've ever done in my life. On those long runs, I keep a steady pace and carefully watch my heart-rate, but the hardest part will always be keeping my mindset positive. With three more miles left in my twenty-mile training run, it can be nearly impossible to stay positive, yet turning negative could ruin the workout. I've found that it is of the utmost importance to find a balance between calculated workouts designed around science and plain-old grit. It's possible to have one without the other, but a workout focused solely on one or the other will bring about little improvement. To make the most of training, you'll need workouts based around the most up-to-date science and elbow-grease.
In the last forty years, the science behind running has had a lot of improvements. Rather than just running mileage or guessing the best number of reps to run, we can accurately determine what is best for each runner and adapt workouts accordingly. Measuring heart-rate, keeping a careful eye on pace, and accurately measuring distance have all changed how we train, yet the most important part of any workout has always been the same since the beginning of running as a sport. Running is and always will be, first and foremost, a mental battle. Without a positive mindset, trust in the workouts, and a commitment to improvement, all workouts will fail to reach their full potential. So, as we all enter winter training to prepare ourselves for track, brave against the cold, focusing on staying positive and focus to commit to the idea of improvement.