Wednesday, May 24, 2023
By: Molly Huddle, Saucony Athlete, Olympian, and American Long Distance Runner
Summer is around the corner and there’s a lot to be excited about: wide open days to hang out with friends, sunny weather enticing you to hit the beach or the pool, and the opportunity to set yourself up for a breakout Cross Country Season.
I remember way back to my high school days and how the summer between my Junior and Senior year set me up for a fall season that changed my perspective on a lot of things: time (you can create a good base of fitness in 8 weeks!?), goal setting (I mapped out the plan with a little help from my Dad and got to work taking small steps toward the goals every day. It made me realize I can do that in other areas of my life.) and balancing priorities (I did have to carve time out of other summer activities to make room for the runs but it was worth it.). If I could go back and talk to high school me I’d say good job – you did something really good for your future self and also drink more fluids and wear sunblock!
Here are a few summer training tips that can help set the stage for special performances during the fall cross country races:
- Train a little but not too much: this is meant to be an unstructured off season in a way, but base miles without too much intensity are important to establish before you show up to practice in the fall. A little goes a long way and consistency is the unglamorous secret to success: decide how much mileage you want to hit a week, plan out what that means for each day, allow a few off days and go for it!
- Bring on the hydration! Summer miles can be literally draining and you have to stay on top of the hydration and fueling. My favorite thing is when someone busts out a giant watermelon to share after a long run – it’s never tasted sweeter. Be the watermelon hero! Also bring along a post run recovery drink like Gatorade or a cold chocolate milk for recovery.
- Find a buddy or group to get miles in with you over the summer. They can bike with you, be a four legged friend or a parent or sibling if your teammates are away – truly it’s better than going solo day after day. It’s a lot more motivating and the miles fly by with some company. Joining a Cross Country Camp is another fun way to knock out a week of sometimes boring training miles. There are days when you might need to go on your own, and that’s a good lesson in taking ownership of your goals.
- Develop your race day mindset. Envision your fall races: Who will you be running against? What do you want to do there? How do you want to feel? Are you someone who needs to get amped up or stay calm and centered before a race? One of my favorite tools is to pick a word to use as your mid race mantra. It can be simple, even a little silly, and should be empowering. For example, at an out and back road race I ran well at, I decided to stay with the leader at least until the turnaround point – a big task as she was an Olympic medalist and faster than me on paper! When we got to half way I felt okay and kept telling myself “turn and burn” home – which I’d heard someone else say earlier and it made me laugh. It helped me focus on driving home hard and not think any negative or fearful thoughts about getting passed or fading. I was focused forward and my thoughts were simple and positive.
Happy training out there this summer! Your future self will thank you for the miles you put in the bank this summer. I hope you’re all feeling stronger and faster than before in the Fall!