Cross Country Philosophy

By Daniel C. Gruber

The cross country season is about to begin and it is a perfect time for a coach to reflect upon his/her philosophy. Without a basic core of beliefs, values, and goals a coach cannot be totally effective. I always use the end of the season to write a brief critique of my coaching and how I handled the runners under my tutelage. I often jot down ideas that relate to each of my runners. I then spend the off season thinking and planning. I might make a rough schedule of training, but I donít make up workouts until the week before they are scheduled to do the workout. This way I am able to adjust to the athletes rather than adjust the athletes to my workouts.

Doing this "philosophical research" has led me to certain rules or concepts. If one is around distance running long enough one can see consistent positive traits exhibited by some coaches and negative traits displayed by other coaches.

Here are a few of the things I have learned and adopted into my approach to training high school runners:

Be true to your self and your runners. Enjoy the experience because distance runners are probably the most enjoyable group of young people with whom to work. Find something positive about every race for every athlete.

I have always felt that a runner should be set up on a four-year plan. I donít train a freshman the same way I train a senior. I try to use a year-by-year progression for the athlete. I feel we, as coaches, have an obligation to lay the groundwork for a lifetime of running. Here are examples of how I would structure a typical mid-season workout week:

Typical Workout Week Ė Midseason (Varsity/Senior)

Monday: 2 miles warm up, 4 miles of intervals and recovery (ie., 6 X800m with 400m jog), 2 miles warm down.

Tuesday: 6-8 miles, 8 X 100m strides.

Wednesday: 4 miles, 8 X 200m hills, 2 miles.

Thursday: 8 miles (either rolling hills or with 1 mile of the run "hard").

Friday: 4 miles easy.

Saturday: Race.

Sunday: 8-10 miles.

Total: approximately 50-52 miles.

Typical Workout Week Ė Midseason (Freshman/Sophomore)

Monday: 2 miles warm up, 2 miles of intervals and recovery (ie., 3 X 800m with 400m jog), 1 mile warm down.

Tuesday: 4 miles, 4 X 100m strides.

Wednesday: 2 miles, 4 X 200m hills, 1 mile.

Thursday: 4 miles.

Friday: 2-3 miles easy.

Saturday: Race.

Sunday: Off.

Total: approximately 24-25 miles.