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 Most high school runners know the groundwork for a great fall cross country season is laid in the summer months, but it can be hard to figure out what exactly makes a difference come autumn.  What are the summer secrets that propel some of the nation's best to the upper echelon of the high school ranks?  We decided to ask some of 2008's breakout stars-- now on their way to collegiate competiton--for 3 Summer Do's and 1 Don't which made a difference in their senior season - Compiled by Laura Magee

Want to be great in 2009?  You have to Get Great Now.

reed connor


Remember, nobody cares what you do!
Summer training is very important but summer training alone means absolutely nothing.  Regardless of how hard, or even how little you work, nobody cares until it is time to start racing.  No one will judge you by your summer training, only by your races.  Just keep summer in perspective; it's the work that's getting you ready to do work.

Develop your attitude!
The most important component of summer training, along with the actual running, is developing your attitude.  Each and every run should have a purpose and a certain drive behind it.  If you can run every run with a specific goal in mind, you will end up making summer training much easier and less monotonous.

The summer is for working hard, but it shouldn't take too much out of you.  Throwing in recovery days a few times a week is important in keeping both your legs and mind fresh.  The point is that when the summer is over you still have an entire season of practices and races ahead of you.


The worst thing anyone can do over the summer is overtrain.  Putting in the work and getting no results when the season comes is just stupid.  I knew a kid who wanted to do a be great runner.  In order to get tougher, over the summer he would dehydrate and starve himself.  He would squeeze in extra runs that weren't on the training plan and bike in sweats until he was so tired he couldn't ride anymore.  He did all of this in secret.  For summer and the first couple of races his plan was working, and he was running and racing very well.  When October rolled around he was complaining of "burn out".  The rest of our team ensured him that was not possible because we had only been doing real workouts for a couple of weeks.  The kid continued to run varsity but was doing a little worse each week.  After NTN the kid brought up our conversation about him being burnt out from earlier in the season and confessed to the team about his secret extra summer training.  Moral of the story: Don't overtrain, you will regret it.

mac fleet


Shoot for the moon!
Set yourself lofty goals: Make your goals something that you really have to work for, not just "I'll be happy if I PR."  Whether it's making your varsity team or trying to break four minutes, make goals that seem to be just out of your limits.  I hardly met any of the goals I set for my senior year, but I was content and could call the year a success.  People may call you arrogant or cocky for having big ambitions, but don't let it get to you, just train harder to prove them wrong.

Commit to the sport
If you really want to succeed at running, you must  strongly commit to a training program.  No ifs, ands, or buts...no excuses.  At the end of the season, it is often a few seconds or points that decide a team title or individual win.  You need to work every day, every week, every month for those last races that mean so much to all of us.  If you have to do it alone, do it.  If you can find people to run with, even better.  Don't be afraid to train with rivals, you can only benefit from running with people as good or better than you.  Do the long runs, get the tempos done, and make rest days slow.

Have fun!
This sport takes too much effort if you aren't having fun.  Get all of the local teams to run together on weekends.  Be proactive: Everyone has a facebook or myspace, start contacting each other.  Start some friendly rivalries, get together and head to the mountains for a week of training.  Get good enough so the NSSF pays for your travel to go to their meets (makes things a lot more enjoyable).  If you start to hate going to practice every day, take a step back to remember why you started running in the first place.  Keep your races fun, it's not the end of the world if you lose, or get second, everyone has bad races.


What not to do: the short list
Don't get stuck in the San Francisco airport for 11 hours the day before you attempt to break four minutes for a mile.  Don't eat an entire Subway footlong 30 minutes before your warm up at the state meet; your head may end up buried in a trash can for a few thousand spectators to see. Don't get stuck in the top floor stairwell of Minneapolis' tallest building, then run down all 60 flights of stairs the day before the Roy Griak Invitational.  And don't have that girls team climb up your bed-sheet-turned-into-a-rope from the parking lot to your second-story hotel room.

barak watson


Be consistent
Whether it is with running, weight training or core work, it is crucial to be consistent.  It really helps to have a workout schedule spread out over the few months of summer and to consistently get up each morning and accomplish what is laid out for that day.   It doesn’t help to sporadically have great periods of running only to slack off for a couple days or weeks, and then have another great week, then fall off again.  What is going to help the most is to consistently do the things you are supposed to do and keep that habit up for the entire summer.

Set a goal for each run
Don’t get up each morning, crank out some random distance at some random pace all summer long and call it good when you get to XC season.  Have a specific goal in mind for each run you do whether it be your easy runs, tempo runs, long runs, etc.  It is really easy in the middle of summer to slip into the habit of going for an easy run, and then just kind of shuffle along until you meet your assigned mileage or time for the day, and then get home and move on to the next thing, feeling relieved that you got your run done for the day.  Instead, figure out what pace you should be doing for each of your runs and run with the goal of hitting that pace while also understanding what you are trying to accomplish with that specific run.  If you are unsure about what pace you should be doing your runs at, either talk to your coach, or find a book that talks about it.  I have found Jack Daniels (the same training methods that German Fernandez and many other talented runners have used) to be very helpful with figuring out this kind of stuff.

Enjoy what you are doing
Running mile after mile after mile all summer long can easily become very tiresome and boring.  Focusing on enjoying my training was one of the biggest breakthroughs I made last summer and XC season.  It is easy to wake up and grudgingly get your run "out of the way," and wonder why on earth you choose to run instead of sleeping in and playing video games like ‘normal’ kids.  Instead, focus on the gift that you have to be able to move your legs.  Every day you wake up and are still able to run is a gift from God.  Enjoy that ability, and take advantage of it every day.  Enjoy the thought of what all your hard work is going to get you when XC season comes around.  Enjoy running with friends, enjoy anything and everything you can find in your running, and it will help immensely.


Over do!
As hard as it can be to get motivated to run during the summer, it is also possible to get ‘over motivated.’  Be careful not to make huge increases in your mileage too quickly, and to ‘push through’ nagging little injuries that you might have gotten as a result.  Even if you put in a gazillion miles over the summer and your training has been going phenomenally well, it won’t help one bit if you get to XC season injured and can’t run. 

Photos: Reed Connor by Robert Rosenberg; Mac Fleet by Curt Hawkinson; Barak Watson by John Dye