How to Prepare for a Cross Country Race
Is your student athlete getting ready for his first race of the season? Like anything else in life, if you want to do well, you must be prepared. Use these guidelines to help your athlete run a competive race.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
Allow Time to Train for the Race
In order to increase endurance and reduce the risk of injury, all runners train for the event. Even athlete's bodies need a base to build from. Many injuries in beginning runners are caused by running too much, too fast. A good rule is not to increase a running distance by more than ten percent a week. For example, middle school cross country runners could start training at 0.5 miles three times a week and increase it by 0.25 miles per week.
Make sure your child is following a coach's training plan. This will help determine the recommended distances to run as well as what exercises to do to strengthen muscles. Toe walks and heel walks are excellent exercises to prevent the common ailment of shin splints in runners. Planks are also good exercises to strengthen the core of a beginning runner.
Have a Race Strategy
Talk with your runner about his race strategy. Make sure he can explain what his coach has instructed him to do and why. Here are some basics you can go over with your runner:
Be familiar with the course. Most races have a "walk through" before the start of the race. Encourage your runner to pay attention during this time as some courses have multiple turns. Also, you do not want your runner to be disqualified if he cuts corners which are identified on the "walk-through."
Pace yourself. Remind your runner not go out too hard and quickly burn out. She should run with her teammates as a pack. Follow the coach's strategy.
Plan where to make your move. Using a running watch and course landmarks can help a runner determine where to increase their speed, but still allowing enough energy to finish strong. Remind your runner to run across the finish line; not stopping at the line.
Visualize your race. Runners should be mentally prepared by seeing themselves run the race and cross the finish line.
One of the biggest factors a new runner faces is learning how and when to hydrate. If a runner is dehydrated, he will lose speed, strength, energy and the ability to make good decisions. In addition the risk of injury is increased. According to Runner's World, "As little as 2% dehydration will have a negative effect on your race performance."
Just how much fluid do we need? Everyday you should drink half your weight in ounces, plus another eight ounces for every 15 minutes of exercise. For example, if your runner weighs 120 pounds, he should drink 60 ounces of fluid everyday. That is roughly seven 8oz. glasses of water a day as a base.
In addition, both you and your runner should know the signs of dehydration. Tell your runner if she is feeling thirsty, she is already dehydrated. If your runner has a headache, fatigued, nausea, has dry mouth, chills, clammy skin or cramps she needs to hydrate. If a runner becomes too dehydrated if can lead to dizziness and heat stroke.
Fruits are Good Sources of Fluids Too
Parents can also help their runner stay hydrated by having them eat fruits as a part of their daily diet. Cantaloupe, peaches and strawberries all contain electrolytes and water. Watermelon, kiwi and oranges are great choices for water and vitamin C. Cut them up in advance so they are ready for an afternoon snack. Fruit smoothies are popular breakfast choices and an excellent way to boost your runner's fruit intake.
When and How Much Should you Hydrate?
When to Hydrate
Half your weight in ounces plus 8oz. per 15 minutes of exercise
2-3 hours before running
17-10 oz. combination of water and sports drink
30 minutes before a race
8-10 oz of water or sports drink
After race or practice
24 oz. combo of water and sports drink for every pound of body weight lost during exercise
Break in Running Shoes
Take your time to research which running shoe is best for your athlete. Let a trained salesperson in a running specialty store help you as they generally will have so much more running knowledge than someone at a regular sporting good store. Depending on what type of races your athlete will be running, you may need running shoes and spikes. Once you select your purchase, gradually break in your shoes. Follow a coach's advice on when to wear running spikes. They are lighter shoes, but also have very little support.
Support Your Athlete
Running cross country is hard work. It differs from other sports because there is no instant gratification of a goal being scored, grabbing a rebound or making a good pass. You have to be in it for the long haul because it requires so much training and conditioning. Your runner may run a great race, but may not come in first. Though cross country is a team sport, runners must keep pushing themselves for a new personal record. This is how a cross country runner can best measure his achievement.