If this were a game of word association, cross country would surface a painful history of muddy high school PE kits, contentious gym teaches and lashes of rain. Juvenile gym neurosis is no reason to not try cross country once again. It’s the complete challenge of the road, the elements and the mind that makes it an all-encompassing running discipline for the ultimate challenge. But for this very reason, it can be a very daunting challenge to undertake. Starting cross country running might seem a tall order but, with our tips, we’ll make you question why you haven’t done it sooner.
Here’s our top tips on how to get started with cross country running:
Take your time with cross country running
When you take your first steps into cross country running it’s important to take your time. A mile over the mud is much more tiring than that over the tarmac. It’s demanding more of your body that it wouldn’t be used to if up until now you’ve only been a strict road runner. If you get home and a 5-mile session took an extra 25 minutes, don’t be discouraged.
Join a cross country running club
Joining a local cross country running club is a great way to get into any discipline of running. Running with a group of friends helps ease any doubts or apprehensions you might have about getting your run on. Running with a group or training partner can also make the run feel easier letting you focus more on your technique, learn from experienced members or just mingle.
Use running apps
The app store is full of great running apps. Not only are they a great way to monitor your runs, distances, splits and other useful information compiled during your run, but it’s a great place to share advice, routes and provide a competitive edge.
Proceed with caution! Don’t get too caught up with the numbers. The information is there for you to look back over and plan how to better yourself but remember, your body is your best feed of information. Take care and listen to what your body is telling you. This is far more useful than knowing the energy you waste with every stride when you’re just finding your feet and starting cross country running.
Know that cross country running is not about the speed
Once you’ve become more accustomed to cross country running you can begin to take more notice of your times. When you’re starting cross country running, it’s not all about your split times and average pace. As a cross-country runner, you need to be honest to yourself but tactful too. Keeping a gauge of your effort rather than speed is much more effective when you’re starting out. If you think you can give an extra 5% up that hill then do it, if you’re out of gas and want to cruise but your road running doppelganger is telling you to give it 100%, ignore your evil twin. Listen to your body but make conservative decisions on how much to give, how hard to go and when to breathe easy.