School is over and summer is finally here! Of course, this means a few months to work on your tan, splurge a little, and relax. However, when it comes to the world of long distance running, summer is a crucial time to prepare for the Cross Country season ahead. Without your teammates there to help, championship season in November far away, and so many delicious boardwalk desserts like fried Oreos; where do I find my strong?
(*in the summer a jump in the pool can count as bathing, right?)
Prepare your goals
After the last race of my track season, I always take two full weeks off of running. After the first week, I begin to start a phase of “active rest” where I go on hikes, or swim, or generally just enjoy the summer by being outside. I also begin to miss running! However, an important part of those two weeks is considering my goals. I always end my off period by writing out a very simple goal sheet. On top, I write;
“This year I will: … (insert your goal here)”
Underneath, I write out three things I will need to do to make sure that goal happens. I then write three things that might get in the way of that goal. Additionally, I write down one thing I learned from the previous year to prepare me. Last, I write down one sacrifice to ensure that my goal becomes a reality; and I stick to it! This is a great way to prepare individually as well as with your teammates. For example, my cross country team wrote out a goal sheet to get to NXN and kept it up in our locker room all year!
Prepare your mind
When preparing for a cross country season, the summer is the best time to prepare mentally and physically for races. While heat and humidity do not sound like ideal ways to prepare for snow and cold, in reality teaching the body and mind to react well to any kind of weather prepares you. It isn’t the variable itself; it is how you wire your body and heart to prepare for whatever is thrown at you!
Prepare your body
The summer also does give you time to relax – and that is worth remembering! The chance to be able to catch up on lots of sleep and a nap here and there is a perfect way to prepare your body for the miles you intend to log. An Italian ice can help to hydrate you on hot days. A run on the boardwalk with teammates you do not get to see much until September is a lovely way to start a fun day. Additionally, waking up and getting a run in allows you to get the work done, forget about it, and have fun (while also beating some of the heat!). These things are important to remember, because it keeps running fun, but also prevents injuries from popping up during high mileage weeks!
Of course, sounding completely nonchalant would be a lie. Cross country takes dedication and hard work. It takes long runs in 90 degree heat. It takes running up hills and burning in your quads and calves. However, I always consider summer and indoor track similarly; a time to work hard without needing to think too much. You get the privilege to put a lot of base training miles in, try new things, get a little sore. Do not stress about the faster workouts; they will come with time. I have been summer training and preparing for cross country for a decade now. I run because I love it and the summer is a time when we get to enjoy and splurge on running (okay… and the occasional fried oreo or ice cream too). So get out there and get ready!