ATLANTA – May 18, 2017 - School will soon be out for the summer, but high school runners who want to get ahead for the upcoming cross country season in the fall have some homework to do. Olympian and Atlanta Track Club Coach Amy Begley shares her top 10 tips to prepare student athletes for a season of success.
1. Diversify as an athlete. Try different sports to make you a better overall athlete. Experiment with a variety of distances to increase your range. No athlete is only one “thing.”
2. Do form drills. (And do them correctly.) Form drills keep you sharp and help prevent injuries.
3. Work on flexibility. Exercises like dynamic stretching and hurdle drills can aid in flexibility.
4. Focus on speed and power. Things like sprint work and plyometrics will help in these areas.
5. Be balanced. I like to encourage what I call “pre-hab” exercises such as heel raises, toe raises and runner stands. These exercises sort out muscle imbalances, prevent injury and make your body healthier.
6. Develop strong feet. Consider running barefoot for a few miles each week in the summer or winter months. Running barefoot on a safe surface (without glass, debris, etc.) will help make your feet and ankles stronger before you put on your spikes for the season.
7. Take rest days. Younger high school athletes need 1-2 days off per week. As you get into the latter half of high school, you can take one day off per week or one day as a cross-training day with a day off every other week. Cross-training allows you to gain fitness while giving your body a break from the pounding of running. You can also run on a soft surface like grass, a trail, etc.
8. Build good nutrition habits. Eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Make sure you eat junk food only in moderation.
9. Practice hydrating and fueling. Figure out your plan to be hydrated and fueled for races. I recommend starting your hydration the night before with drinks that have electrolytes, such as Powerade, and continuing this until two hours before your race. At that point, switch to drinking water. You should also experiment with foods prior to race day so you know what you can eat to fuel your performance without upsetting your stomach.
10. Be a lifelong learner. Whether its adding knowledge to your base of training like the tips above or scouting out what paces you need to run to be ready to face your competition, always be open to learning more about our sport. Atlanta Track Club is hosting a cross country camp July 23-28 at Berry College. We’d love to help you prepare for your best season yet! Registration is available here.
Amy Begley is a coach with Atlanta Track Club, the second largest running organization in the United States. She competed in the 2008 Olympic Games in the 10,000m and placed sixth in the 2009 IAAF World Championships in the same distance with a personal best 31:13, making her the eighth-fastest American woman in history. Her 5,000m personal best is 14:56. Begley finished her professional career with six national titles.