If you’re looking at getting into cross-country running, then you might not know exactly where to start. You might easily fall into one of a number of pitfalls along the way. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges posed by a cross-country course which even experienced runners might find themselves tripping over.
Get onto an uneven surface
One of the biggest difficulties runners occur when making the transition to cross country is the surface. Mud, grass, sand and gravel place an entirely different strain on your limbs to the surface of a running track. You’ll need, therefore, to immerse yourself in the stimulus – train on a variety of surfaces.
Don’t measure pace
In track racing, pace is everything. If you’re keeping an even pace, then you’ll be running efficiently and effectively. This isn’t so on a cross-country track, because each mile will be different to the last. You’ll therefore need to gauge how much effort you’re putting in, and run according to that. Try to catch the people in front of you, rather than running toward any pace goal.
When you’re trying to build your aerobic capacity, interval training is just as effective in cross country as it is on a track. Alternate a minute of serious effort with a minute of light jogging for twenty or so minutes. Vary things as much as possible, stressing your lungs out so that they come back stronger and more capacious next time. Over time, this will improve your general fitness – making you a better runner.
Surge after turns
After performing a tight turn, there’s a tendency among amateur runners to slow down a little bit, and lose momentum. Make a conscious effort to avoid falling into this trap; once you’ve completed a turn, be sure to keep your legs pumping.
Don’t slack at the top of a hill
The same temptation often also kicks in when you reach the top of a hill. The same rule applies; don’t be tempted to take your foot off the pedal once you cross the summit – you should be doing the opposite, powering through into the next flat or downhill session. There’s a useful adage among experienced cross-country runners: don’t try to run to the top of the hill, try to run over the top of a hill.
Get the right shoes
Your choice of footwear will have an enormous impact on your ability to run – particularly on treacherous or uneven surfaces. Slipping might cause you to suffer an injury. But it’s a general loss of grip which is just as troubling, as your efforts won’t translate as efficiently into forward motion. Be sure to invest in a set of different cross-country running spikes, and switch between them depending on the condition of the course you’re about to conquer.
Protect your car
Cross country running is a messy business. It demands a great deal of running through extremely muddy terrain. When you get back to your car, the chances are that a great deal of the mud that was on your boots will find its way into your upholstery. If you’ve invested in a boot liner, however, you’ll have protection against this sort of thing – and you’ll have no need to bother with plastic bags and other such devices. The best boot liners are those which are built specifically for a given sort of boot. You’ll find Audi, Ford and Volkswagon boot liner specialists active on the internet – so whatever make of car you’re driving, you’ll be covered for a car boot liner.
Train with a partner
In order to spur yourself on to even greater levels of performance, a partner is an essential part of any running regime. They’ll provide you with the impetus you need to get out of bed on a cold winter’s morning and strap on your running shoes. Moreover, they’ll push you to finish each race with a bang. It’s also helpful to have someone to look at your technique while you’re running – you might be making mistakes that you don’t know about, and correcting them might be the key to unlocking new levels of performance.
Cross country running, to be sure, is an exhausting activity. It’s something that’s likely to tax your body and your mind almost to breaking point. But it’s also something that’s extremely rewarding. Everything time you push through a new barrier, you’ll have a sense of satisfaction which other pastimes and hobbies have tremendous difficulty replicating. If you’re in the middle of a race or training session, try to remember that you’re doing this for fun!