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Strong arms keep you in the race at the end.
Upper-body workouts aren't as important for cross-country runners in high school as, say, for folks trying to pass the pushups requirement to enter Delta Force. Still, you do need a strong upper body. Powerful arms give you punch to maintain the arm motion at the end of a race that keeps you moving and helps produce speed.
Warm-Up and Frequency
You should be warmed up from a 20- to 30-minute run before doing your strength work. Gonzaga University coach Pat Tyson, author of вЂњCoaching Cross Country Successfully,вЂќ advises following an easy run -- five mornings a week, Monday through Friday -- with pushups, yoga-style stretches and core work including planks.
вЂњMany distance running programs do not have access to weight rooms or they are clogged with other athletes,вЂќ Tyson notes. вЂњTo simplify and still get some upper-body work in we often do a series of pushups after doing stretching and core. It creates a nice closure to the session.вЂќ
The Pushup Program
Previously a legendary high school coach in Spokane, Wash., Tyson considers pushups a simple yet effective path to upper-body strength. Your goal is a total of 50 pushups, starting with 20 at a steady pace. After a pause of up to 30 seconds, complete 15 more at a slower pace and rest again. Perform 10 more in slow motion and pause. Finish with five final pushups, holding the position at the top and bottom of every rep, Tyson suggests. He says the mix of steady pushups with slow ones helps build strength and adds variety to workouts.
вЂњI like mixing up the pushups instead of just doing 50 or 100 or whatever,вЂќ Tyson explains. вЂњIt keeps the athletes guessing on how many. Creating a mix of steady pushups with some slow ones really builds added strength and adds variety in strength training. Kids love it and hate it. In the end they say they love it,вЂќ he jokes.
In preseason and the off-season, away from the rigors of competition, you can take a more rigorous approach to improving your upper-body strength with traditional work in the weight room. Tyson advises three sets of 10 reps of dips, bench presses, French dumbbell curls and the military press. Flow from one station to the next without waiting.
The time demands of racing during a high school season, often two races per week, also make it hard to add the weight room to the mix. Thus the pushup routine works well during the racing season, Tyson explains. вЂњOff-season creates more flexibility,вЂќ he says. вЂњThus we can often, two to three times per week, get in the weight room. I like Monday-Wednesday-Friday sessions after a recovery run.вЂќ Tyson reserves Tuesday and Thursday for pushup days, as they are the harder days for workouts in the вЂњOregon System,вЂќ described in вЂњCoaching Cross Country Successfully,вЂќ that he uses for training cross country runners.