Summer Training for Middle School Cross Country

Summer training is an opportunity to rebuild the aerobic base so important for distance runners and to prepare for cross country. After a long outdoor track season, and with the focus during the competition season on lower volume and higher intensity training, the aerobic base is depleted and needs to be rebuilt to sustain the cross country training in the fall. And I believe that fall cross country races are won in summer training.

This summer we spent ten days vacationing and visiting family in Switzerland, with a wonderful opportunity to run trails along rivers, through woods and up (and down) mountains. Lungs screaming and quads burning. And building our aerobic base.

With my 12 year old son, we keep summer training simple and focus on the following:

  • Run 5 days per week (2 days off) for a total of about 30 miles, 1 day of free weights, and 2-3 days of Taekwondo. Total summer mileage about 350 miles (9 weeks at about 30 miles and 1 week of 50 miles at Vermont’s Nike Green Mountain running camp).
  • Build the aerobic base. Emphasis on medium (6 mile) to long (8-10 miles) runs on trails at 8-8:30 min/mile pace. 3x medium run and 1x long run per week.
  • Increase the lactate threshold (separation of aerobic and anaerobic condition). Achieve through tempo and threshold runs (800 meters on track to 2-3 miles on trails). Pace varies from sub-6 min for 800/1200 on track to 6:30-6:45 on trails for longer distances. Informal summer XC races (usually run weekly) are an excellent opportunity for tempo runs, and attract many middle and high school (and even some college) runners.
  • Improve running strength and form. Repetitions (400-800 meters on track – with 1:3 breaks to stay aerobic), hill training (either hilly terrain or hill repetitions), barefoot strides in grass after medium runs, core exercises (using Swiss ball and medicine ball), and free weight sessions (low weight and high repetitions). Track repetitions 1x per week or every other week. Core and weights 1x per week.
  • Speed development. Follow medium run on trails with 6x 150-200 meters at 80-90% effort on track. 1x per week. Work on economic running form. We ran these after our weekly tempo runs to simulate speed late in a race.
  • Flexibility and injury prevention. Stretch 20-30 minutes before and after every run using Phil Wharton’s active isolated flexibility (AIF) exercises (with stretching rope and yoga mat).

I highly recommend Mick Grant’s and John Molvar’s “Youth and Teen Running Encyclopedia” as an expert guide for additional information.

Let me know how you trained this summer. Are you ready to run fast this fall? Leave a comment!



  1. […] Summer Training for Middle School Cross Country […]

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