One of the key aspects of being a successful, competitive runner is consistency. You have to be comfortable getting into a routine. Once running has become a part of your lifestyle you can feel free to change it up. Until then, run at the same time every single workout you run. Many successful athletes eat at the same times daily, hydrate on a regular basis and do not fluctuate their sleep schedules. Ever. Am I saying you need to go to these extremes as a high school athlete? Not necessarily, but you can definitely learn and incorporate many of these practices into your training and benefit immensely.
There are 3 things to consider to get the most from your training program. Start with the basics. Prepare your body for the rigors of training.
1. Hydration. Every morning wake up and drink a 12 ounce glass of water. This is especially true if you will be running in the morning. 30 minutes prior to your workout make sure your have at least an additional 12 ounces of water. During your workout make sure you are staying properly hydrated throughout. Make sure you have a refillable water bottle as it will be your best friend...handy whenever you need to have fresh water available. Be mindful of routinely drinking water to replenish whatever you lost through sweat.
2. Fuel up. Your body cannot perform without the proper macronutrients. Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats are the building blocks our bodies need. None of these can be singled out as bad...The proportions of each should be balanced to the athletes individual needs though. The timing of this fuel is also vital. Plan on having a recovery snack or small meal immediately after a hard workout. This should definitely include some carbohydrate and protein for the replenishment of glucose and aid in the rebuilding of stressed muscle tissue. A good example might simply be a plain bagel with peanut butter (along with a tall glass of water).
3. Recovery. The adaptation of our bodies to the stress of the workout takes rest. In order for our bodies to rebuild itself, it cannot be under a constant state of stress. Recovery will vary per athlete, but I want to focus on sleep. During sleep, an athlete's body is slowly rebuilding itself, regenerating energy stores (glycogen, red blood cells, etc), as well as rebuilding micro-tears in muscle fibers. If you are getting enough restful sleep, you are depriving you body of that rebuilding time, and will never reach your full potential. How much sleep is enough? For a high school athlete, I would recommend 8 hours of sleep per night. What does that mean if you have to wake up at 6am to make it to 7am practice? Lights out at 10pm. Have to take out the trash or feed the dog before going to bed? Do it at 9pm. Plan ahead and make sleep a priority.
Do these 3 things consistently, and your body will be better prepared when you start to increase the volume and intensity required to have a successful XC season. I consider these 3 basics to be a solid foundation to grow stronger and faster. Hydrate. Fuel. Recovery.
These basics are the wax on/wax off, sand the floor, and paint the fence of the XC world. Without these, you cannot move onto the more intense work which will be required of your body later. You don't even realize at the time that they are so important, but these lessons all come together and help you reach your goal. If you have made it this far into the post, here is your reward: