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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.

 shelby greany


Make sure you don't over do it!
There is no problem in increasing mileage and being ready to take the next step but make sure you gradually move up to running more and don't just throw your body into running what it's not used to. I would also make sure you take your recovery days and really make sure you recover. Everyone thinks the faster their runs are, the better, but if you don't give your body the chance after a hard run or a hard workout to recover, you won't benefit as much as you would if you took your easy day easy. In high school my easy days and easy miles were between 7:45 pace and 8 min. Not every run should feel hard!

Get enough sleep!
With it being summer, everyone has all these plans and things to do at night, which is fine, but if you're going to stay up really late, make sure you can sleep in the next morning. If you have to wake up early certain mornings, then make sure you plan ahead and allow yourself to go home earlier so you can get enough sleep.

Avoid overdoing the junk food
It’s okay to have more junk food or eat a little unhealthier than you do in season, but if you don't have any junk food during the season don't eat junk food everyday during the summer. It will eventually take a toll on your body, and you wont be able to train at the level you could if you limited the amount of junk food.


...be afraid to do other things
When I was younger I didn't do anything other than run. Now, I love to play tennis with my dad and walk my dog with my mom. I would always say that I couldn't do other sports or anything else that was physically taxing because I had running. On days that I have easy runs I'm no longer afraid to play other sports and do other activities. Changing it up overall strengthens your muscles and improves your movement.

 kayla hale


Take a break!
This is most definitely the part of summer training I always dreaded! It's hard to end track season feeling in great shape and then take 10 days off! I always did it (while complaining about it) but my coach was right...it is so important. Last summer, a few bad post-season races got me mentally down, and my body was in dire need of a break. I struggled through a few more weeks of running before going to Europe on vacation with my mom. That 10-12 days off from running was what I needed to just rest my body (and my mind). By the time I got back, I was looking forward to running and able to start summer training rejuvenated and with the right mindset (going to Europe worked for me, so maybe you can try to use your need for time off to your advantage!) :)

Base mileage
Every summer, the main goal should be to get in a good base for the season. For my team, and me, this has always meant lots of easy mileage and "speed" workouts that include tempo runs, fartlek runs and floaters. There is no need to do track repeats in the summer when you want to be using that kind of speed a few months down the road. Summer mileage is fun if you find people to run with; it can be a very social event. I run with some of my best friends every day! :)

This is something I am really just learning this summer, but I wish I had been better about it in years past. I'm one of the most inflexible people I know, but I’m starting to see that taking the time to stretch can really make a difference. As distance runners, we strain our bodies and expect a lot out of them. It only makes sense to do our part to take care of them.


Run with the weight of other people's expectations
Don't forget why you run!  If you are getting up every morning spending the time and effort, it should be something that brings you joy. I know from experience that when you put too much pressure on yourself and worry about what others expect of you, the joy of running disappears and you usually don't run as well. Like they say, "Run happy.”  :)

Best of luck in 2009!

 amanda winslow


Weight Training
Some high school runners are afraid of lifting weights these days. I see it all the time, girls especially, who think lifting will hurt them or make them bulk up and gain weight. For me, lifting was a huge part of my success in high school, and most importantly, lifting year-round. Even if you cannot get to a gym in the summer, there are plenty of other body-weight exercises you can do at home that could make a huge difference when your season starts.
Core Work
Just like weight training, I strongly believe this plays a huge part in training. If you want to get faster you have basically two options: Run faster OR Work on the other things (besides the actual running). My friends and I got in the habit of doing 500-1000 reps of core work each day. That could sound crazy at first but after you work your way up it eventually becomes quite manageable. Just be sure to work the lower and upper abs, oblique muscles and back muscles!
Understand the Summer Base
Every program for high school cross country starts in basically the same way: building up a base of mileage.  The problem is, a lot of inexperienced runners don't understand the purpose of the base. A common misunderstanding is that higher mileage is automatically better. However, for some runners that will lead straight to injury. My best advice is to build up mileage slowly rather than too fast, and take a day off when you first feel a sign of injury. Other runners will put in the mileage, but it is not QUALITY, really just a little more than jogging. If all goes well, you can bump up your mileage from last summer, but also consider bumping up pace.  (Example: Bump 8 min pace to 7-7:30)


Run in the middle of the day
You'll feel so much better in the morning when it’s cool. Unless you're like Trevor Dunbar and from Alaska, it probably doesn't matter!
Photos: Shelby Greany by John Dye; Kayla Hale and Amanda Winslow by Pat Davey