Cross Country Training: A Comprehensive Guide with 6 Highly Effective Workouts

Photo of author

Introduction: Training for Cross Country Running

Cross country running is a demanding sport that requires a combination of speed, endurance, and mental toughness. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned runner, having a well-structured training plan is crucial to improving your performance and achieving your goals. In this article, we will explore various workouts that can help you train effectively for cross country running.

Workout 1: Interval Training for Speed and Endurance

Interval training is a highly effective workout for improving both speed and endurance. This type of training involves alternating between periods of high-intensity running and active recovery. By pushing your body to its limits during the high-intensity intervals, you improve your anaerobic capacity, which is essential for cross country racing.

Here’s an example of an interval training workout:

  1. Warm up with a 10-minute jog followed by dynamic stretches.
  2. Run at a fast pace for 2 minutes, aiming to maintain a challenging intensity.
  3. Recover by jogging or walking for 1 minute.
  4. Repeat the high-intensity interval followed by the recovery period for a total of 5 to 8 cycles.
  5. Cool down with a 10-minute jog and static stretches.

Interval training can be performed on a track or any flat surface. As you progress, you can increase the duration and intensity of the high-intensity intervals to continually challenge your body.

Workout 2: Hill Repeats for Strength and Stamina

Hill repeats are an excellent workout for building both strength and stamina, two crucial elements for success in cross country running. Running uphill forces your muscles to work harder, enhancing your leg strength and overall power. Additionally, these workouts improve your cardiovascular system by increasing your heart rate and oxygen uptake.

To perform hill repeats:

  1. Find a hill with a moderate to steep incline.
  2. Warm up with a 10-minute jog and dynamic stretches.
  3. Run up the hill at a challenging but sustainable pace, focusing on maintaining good form.
  4. Jog or walk back down the hill to recover.
  5. Repeat the uphill run for a total of 5 to 8 cycles.
  6. Cool down with a 10-minute jog and static stretches.

As you become more comfortable with hill repeats, you can increase the number of repetitions or the intensity of the uphill run by finding steeper hills.

Workout 3: Tempo Runs to Enhance Race Pace

Tempo runs are an essential workout for improving your race pace in cross country running. These runs involve maintaining a comfortably hard pace for an extended period. By running at or slightly above your lactate threshold, you train your body to sustain a faster pace for longer periods, resulting in improved race performance.

To perform a tempo run:

  1. Warm up with a 10-minute jog and dynamic stretches.
  2. Start running at a pace that feels comfortably hard, just below your maximum effort.
  3. Maintain this pace for a continuous period of 20 to 40 minutes.
  4. Cool down with a 10-minute jog and static stretches.

Tempo runs can be performed on flat terrain or on a track. Gradually increase the duration of the tempo run as your fitness improves.

Workout 4: Long Runs for Building Endurance

Endurance is a key component of cross country running, and long runs are an effective way to build this essential attribute. These runs are typically performed at a slow, steady pace and aim to increase your aerobic capacity and improve your body’s ability to utilize fat as a fuel source.

To perform a long run:

  1. Start with a comfortable warm-up jog and dynamic stretches.
  2. Choose a distance or time duration suitable for your current fitness level.
  3. Run at an easy pace, focusing on maintaining a conversational effort throughout the duration.
  4. Gradually increase the distance or duration of your long runs over time.
  5. Cool down with a 10-minute jog and static stretches.

Long runs should be performed at least once a week, with the distance or time gradually increased as you progress.

Workout 5: Fartlek Training for Speed Variation

Fartlek training, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a versatile and enjoyable workout that involves alternating between various intensities and speeds. This type of training helps improve your ability to adapt and respond to changes in race conditions, making it highly relevant to cross country running.

To perform a fartlek workout:

  1. Begin with a warm-up jog and dynamic stretches.
  2. Start running at an easy pace, and after a few minutes, pick up the intensity for a short burst.
  3. Return to an easy pace for recovery.
  4. Repeat this pattern throughout your run, varying the duration and intensity of the bursts as desired.
  5. Cool down with a 10-minute jog and static stretches.

Fartlek training can be performed on any terrain, allowing you to incorporate elements such as hills or trails to further challenge yourself.

In conclusion, cross country running requires a well-rounded training approach that focuses on speed, endurance, strength, and stamina. Incorporating these six effective workouts into your training plan can help you improve your performance and reach your full potential in this demanding sport. Remember to always listen to your body, gradually progress the intensity and duration of your workouts, and prioritize rest and recovery to prevent injury and promote optimal performance.


Q: How often should I train for cross country running?

A: It is recommended to train for cross country running three to six times per week, depending on your fitness level and goals.

Q: Should I do strength training for cross country running?

A: Yes, incorporating strength training into your cross country training plan can help improve your overall performance and reduce the risk of injuries.

Q: How long should my long runs be for cross country training?

A: The distance or duration of your long runs will depend on your current fitness level, but aim to gradually increase them over time. Start with 30 minutes to an hour and progress from there.

Q: Can I do interval training on a treadmill?

A: Yes, interval training can be performed on a treadmill as long as you adjust the speed and incline accordingly to achieve the desired intensity.

Q: What should I eat before a cross country race?

A: It is essential to fuel your body with easily digestible carbohydrates and some protein before a race. Examples include a banana with peanut butter, oatmeal with berries, or a whole wheat toast with eggs.

Q: How can I prevent injuries in cross country running?

A: To prevent injuries, it is crucial to warm up properly before every run, wear appropriate running shoes, gradually increase your training volume, and listen to your body for any signs of overtraining or pain.

Q: Can I do cross training activities for cross country running?

A: Yes, cross training activities such as swimming, cycling, or strength training can complement your running workouts and help improve overall fitness and prevent overuse injuries.

Leave a Comment