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Esperanza Cross Country Program

Article By: Rich Medellin
Esperanza High School

At Esperanza, we start with an aerobic base building mileage phase in the early part of the season and slowly progress into peak shape by use of aerobic threshold runs, tempo runs and anaerobic intervals.

The training involves long aerobic runs, difficult anaerobic intervals, and Olympic free-weight training. Luckily, we have had a great deal of success with our athletes which has had a "snowballing" effect on the team. Once the athletes see the effects of the trianing then they too are convinced and willing to "pay the price" to become successful. Said in another say: "Success breeds success."

All the workouts will increase in length and intensity except for the recovery runs which are always run at an easy pace approximately 75% of the maximum heart rate, but can be as long as an hour in length. When running intervals, I like to use a specific amount of time instead of distance to determine the length of the hard interval sessions during the early part of the season.

Sundays are always a day of rest and recuperation and no running is done. During the championship part of the season it is not unusual for the team to take an extra day (Wednesday) of rest in the middle of the week before an important cross country meet.

Weight sessions consist of four basic Olympic style lifts. Bench Press, Front Squats, Lunges and Power Cleans. The Power Cleans are done on a platform with bumper plates of various weights. Usually beginners start with light-weight plastic bumper plates which can be as light as 5 pounds, until the correct form is learned. We feel that the weight lifting is both physically and mentally a psychological advantage for our athletes, in a race. The weight sessions were developed by our shot and discus coach Bill Pendleton who has had great success with the throws in our track and field program.


In the early season the emphases is on long, slow mileage. Most of the mileage is done at 70 to 75% of the maximum heart rate. Once again, the early season is only a base-building period. I like to give the athletes a day of alternative exercise or cross-training for the purpose of variety. Exercises could consist of a bike ride, swimming or a run in the pool. A typical week in July would consist of:


Monday: 50 mins. @ 75% MHR Weights--3 sets of 10  
Tuesday: Swim for 30 mins.    
Wednesday: 2 miles warm-up 2 mins. hard
@ 85% MHR
2 mins. easy @ 70% MHR (continue for 4 miles) One mile warm-down
Thursday: 20 mins. @ 70% MHR    
Friday: 30 mins. @ 75% MHR Weights--2 sets of 10  
Saturday: 55 mins. @ 75% MHR    

Notice we start with 2 minutes of hard running (On) and 2 minutes of easy running (Off). This will increase as the season progresses, ultimately covering up to 7 minutes On and 7 minutes Off of hard running.


In the mid-season the emphasis switches to Mile Repeats, which is our "bread and butter." It is very typical that we do these repeats at the park on terrain of undulating hills. I have measured out mile segments at the park for this workout. Just like everything else we do, we would progress or adapt into more intervals or longer intervals as the season continues. It is possible to increase the intervals up to a mile and a quarter. (If the athlete is capable!) The recovery phase of the workout is until the athlete heart rate is at or below 120 beats per minute, then the next interval begins. A typical week in September would look like this:


Monday: 2.5 mile warm-up 2 x Mile
@ 90% to 95% MHR
2 x 1320
@ 90% to 95% MHR
2 sets of 10
Tuesday: 4 miles
@ 70% MHR
Wednesday: 3 miles easy 5 x 100m strides Weights--2 sets of 8  
Thursday: 20 mins.
@ 70% MHR
*Friday: Meet Day      
Saturday: 60-70 mins.
@ 75% MHR
Usually run in very hilly terrain  

*If we have a meet on Saturday, Friday would be 3 miles easy.



During the end of the season, the emphasis is two-fold--rest and speed! In order for the athlete to perform at his/her best, they must be totally rested, mentally and physically. The mileage in this phase of the season is minimal, approximately 18-20 miles per week.s The speed work can be done on the track or on grass, whichever is available. A week in this part of the season would look similar to this:


Monday: 30 mins.
@ 75%
2 sets of 8
Tuesday: 2 miles
@ race pace
2 x 400m
faster than race pace
300m faster than race pace 1 mile warm-down
Wednesday: 40 mins.
@ 70% MHR
2 sets of 8
Thursday: 2 miles
3 x 400m 2 miles easy warm-downs  
Friday: 30 mins.
@ 75% MHR
2 sets of 10
Saturday: 3 miles easy 5 x 100m    

Patience, determination and a willingness to do the hard work will pay off.

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