Key Cross Country Workouts
The Cruise Interval workout is a Stamina workout, meant to increase your lactate threshold pace. Cruise Intervals are like shorter and slightly more intense tempo intervals. They last three to eight minutes and the pace is between 0:25:00 and 0:45:00 race pace. Like tempo intervals, they are followed by short recovery jogs (30 seconds to 2 minutes). You'll probably find that it's easy to run too fast on these. The tendency is to treat them like regular long intervals. However, keep it under control and work on a smooth, fast rhythm. Control in training is key to improvement.
Challenging your ability to keep running improves your endurance and is a cornerstone of distance training. While there are debates on just how long and fast your long run should be, the general recommendation is that you keep your heart rate around 70% of maximum. The appropriate pace is between 7:30-9:45 pace with the runs lasting at least an hour. They are slow runs with the challenge of simply running a steady pace for the entire duration of the run. Keep the effort easy and resist the temptation to increase the pace just to get home sooner. Give the body time to really feel the stimulus of a long run. It will reward you with greater endurance adaptations that will serve you well in later workouts and races.
The run is very slow. The correct pace is your heart rate must stay below 65% of maximum (though it's okay for it to reach around 70% by the end of the run). Believe me, you'll find it difficult to run this slow at first, but you must. If you want to improve and get more from your training you must keep the effort very, very light.
Recovery jogs should be used the day (or two) after a hard workout or race. The goal is simply to get the muscles warmed up and blood flowing to deliver essential rebuilding nutrients to the muscles. These jogs work out the tightness that occurs from hard running. These runs last only 15 to 45 minutes.
Hill training develops your ability to buffer lactic acid, strengthens the legs, practices leg turnover that matches common race distances like the 5K yet avoids the pounding that is associated with traditional speedwork. When hills are encountered during races, they pose no threat to you and you can run them better and more efficiently than other runners, both uphill and downhill.
Pickups, striders or stride outs. They are like the fast accelerations that you do right before a race. Strides work to improve your sprinting technique by teaching the legs to turn over quickly. It's really the neuromuscular system that we're trying to develop here which is why they are shorter than anaerobic capacity intervals. They last only 50-200m because unlike the anaerobic capacity intervals, we don't want lactic acid to build up during each stride. This inhibits the nervous system and interferes with the neuromuscular adaptations that we want. Not allowing for sufficient recovery after each stride is a common mistake. Take advantage of the longer recovery. It will allow you to put more effort into each stride which really helps develop your speed.
Note that this is not all-out sprinting. Run fast but always stay under control. These are quick efforts where you practice good form.
You can incorporate some strides or "pick-ups" during the middle of your run or at the end. To perform, run fast for 15 to 25 seconds.
Here's where we get to the fast stuff. These workouts are what most of us think of as "speedwork". They last between 400m and 2000m. The goal here is to spend time at your maximum aerobic capacity (or VO2max). Because the pace is faster, you must take a recovery jog of about half the distance of the repeat (or jog for the same duration as the faster running). These workouts allow you to maintain your speed over a longer period of time.