Structuring the 14-Workout Week in High School Cross Country (2023)

By Jeff Arbogast on January 08, 2015


Fitting in the most work possible in a week's period is a daunting task for even the most experienced coach. Questions such as how much training, what type of training, and what order the training is given always seem to conflict, particularly when the added complexities of a meet or two are thrown into the mix. Then combine the variables of early-season, mid-season and late-season philosophies of training and peaking, and you get a serious number of factors that make planning a workout week an incredibly difficult task, particularly if you are trying to get the most out of each workout.

Planning a 14-workout week requires a deliberate attempt by the coach to preventanywasted effort from creeping into a program. Each workout must have its purpose; and although the workouts follow the "hard-easy" approach, that approach is modified throughout the week so that different energy systems may be used to optimal effectiveness. So, an athlete may proceed through the week developing racing strength throughspeed, resistance and endurance-basedtraining, getting the most "bang for the buck."

After sampling the programs and workouts provided in this clinic setting, it is expected that the individual coach will take thephilosophyof the training and adapt it to his or her own personal situations.

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The initial problem in construction of an effective training week for a distance runner is the definition of what training goals are necessary. These training goals will differ from coach to coach, but for this discussion will include threeprincipal elements:


In addition to inclusion of the three principal elements, a coach should be aware of the need to prepare workouts in a microcycle within a "hard-easy" system, allowing the athlete to gain some measure of recovery before that principal element is taxed again. The coachcanbend the hard-easy training rules occasionally in a serious microcycleas long as the workouts do not repeat the same principal element in an intense manner. In other words, workouts can be back to back in hard intensity within one microcycle as long as the principal elements change focus.

Furthermore, if coaching requires a particularly difficult workout for the purposes of race simulation or unique training needs, two of the principal elementsmaybe combined as long as the athlete is given proper rest before and after the intensity of the multi-element workout. Sample workouts that demonstrate multi-element design include:

A short, fast fartlek over rolling hilly terrain(speed, resistance)
A long, recovery-paced grass/beach/sandy/hilly run(endurance, resistance)
A set of 8x800m at 1.5x rest and 100% 5k race pace(speed, endurance)

To further prevent the onset of injury, it is wise to construct workouts in a 3-1 pattern of hard-easy microcycles, allowing one week of reduced intensity following three weeks of dynamic and serious training. Build this into your training by viewing the training season (macrocycle) from the final competitive effort backwards, placing reduced-intensity weeks (rest) appropriately. The fresh legs and perceived-effort the athlete feels will keep his or her mentally and physically able to increase workloads after a period during which the body can more deeply recover.

To recap training requirements:

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  1. General workout planning should use the "hard-easy" training cycles.
  2. Speed, EnduranceandResistanceare the three principal elements of training.
  3. Back-to-back workouts may be intense, but sufficient recovery must be given before and after the back-to-back sessions.
  4. Back-to-back intense workouts should never include more than two of the principal training elements.
  5. Every fourth microcycle should be reduced 25 percent in all three principal elements of training to allow for deeper recovery during the macrocycle.


By following training requirements, the coach has a framework under which he or she can structure the week according to:

  1. Competitive (racing) dmands.
  2. Unique training needs of the team or individual.
  3. Long-range training goals.

As we look at the following sample sets of workouts, the individual coach will need to always evaluate the structure according to the individual needs of the team. In many circumstances, conference or regional meets have no bearing upon the outcome of a championship and are used primarily for practice. In other cases, the conference meets are used solely to determine a conference or region champion. In other cases, regional or state qualifying may be done through conference meets. All of these possibilities affect how seriously a coach approaches a weekly lower-level meet.

It is ideal if the coach is able to structure the workout week so that the conference meets are used as a training situation, allowing the athlete to put race plans to the test, experiment with strategies and sample harder pacing requirements. Those conferences that use duals and tri-meets as scored elements of a championship season obviously place more competitive stress on the athlete and require careful and individual planning on the part of the coach.

These notes will evaluate three potential situations (out of many possibilities) involving structuring the 14-workout week: no competition, one competition and two competitions.

Microcycle with No Competitive Effort

Monday AMEasy 3-4 and circuit weights.(Base)
Monday PMLong track speedwork.(Speed-Endurance)
Tuesday AMEasy 3-4 recovery.(Recovery)
Tuesday PMEasy-Medium 4-5 fartlek.(Base)
Wednesday AM Easy 3-4 and circuit weights. (Base)
Wednesday PMHard 5-6 in hills.(Endurance-Resistance)
Thursday AMEasy 3-4 recovery.(Recovery)
Thursday PMEasy 3-5 fartlek.(Base-Recovery)
Friday AMEasy 3-4 and circuit weights.(Base)
Friday PMGrass intervals.(Speed)
Saturday AMEasy 2-3 recovery.(Base-Recovery)
Saturday PMHard 5-7 in hills.(Endurance-Resistance)
Sunday AMOptional 3-4 recovery.(Base-Recovery)
Sunday PMRest.(Recovery)


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Mileage totals for this microcycle are from 45-58.

The hard-easy schedule is maintained with M-W-F being the primary hard days, followed by a long run on Saturday. The Friday-Saturday back-to-back sessions have one recovery run placed between and the easiest day of the week following. Depending upon local culture, the Sunday runs may be eliminated altogether if necessary.

Speed and resistance are both emphasized twice during the week, and endurance is a principal training goal three times during the microcycle.

Microcycle with One Competitive Effort

Monday AMEasy 3-4 and circuit weights.(Base)
Monday PMHard 5-7 in hills.(Endurance-Resistance)
Tuesday AMEasy 3.(Base-Recovery)
Tuesday PMRace.(Speed-Endurance)
Wednesday AMEasy 3-4 and circuit weights.(Base-Recovery)
Wednesday PMEasy 4-5 fartlek.(Recovery)
Thursday AMEasy 3.(Base-Recovery)
Thursday PMGrass intervals.(Speed-Resistance)
Friday AMEasy 3-4 and circuit weights.(Base-Recovery)
Friday PMEasy 3-4 fartlek or light stepdown.(Base)
Saturday AMHard 5-6 power run in hills.(Endurance-Resistance)


Saturday AMShort speedwork on the track.(Speed-Endurance)
Saturday PMEasy 2-3.(Recovery)
Sunday AMEasy 3-4.(Base-Recovery)
Sunday PMRest.(Recovery)


Mileage totals for the microcycle are 44-56, including one race.

The athlete reaches Monday well rested from the Saturday afternoon and Sunday of easy work. Monday's hill work needs to be adjusted depending upon the level of the meet on Tuesday and the individual athlete. From Tuesday through Thursday, the microcycle includes 48 hours (three workouts) without principal training elements as we have done two strong workouts on Monday and Tuesday. Thursday's grass intervals should be done with some quick overspeed phase. Saturday, the morning run is at the discretion of the coach depending upon whether the team or individual is more in need of resistance or a second shorter speed workout for leg speed.

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This microcycle allows three workouts to push endurance, three to use a speed component, and two to three using resistance.

Microcycle with Two Competitive Efforts

Monday AMEasy 2-3 and circuit weights.(Base)
Monday PMMedium 5-7 fartlek on hills.(Endurance-Resistance)
Tuesday AMEasy 3-4.(Base-Recovery)
Tuesday PMRace.(Speed-Endurance)
Wednesday AMEasy 2-3 and circuit weights.(Base-Recovery)
Wednesday PMEasy 4-5 fartlek or light stepdown.(Base-Recovery)
Thursday AMEasy 3-4.(Base)
Thursday PMShort speedwork on track.(Speed)
Friday AMEasy 2-3 and circuit weights.(Base-Recovery)
Friday PMEasy 4-5 fartlek.(Base-Recovery)
Saturday AMRace.(Speed-Endurance)
Saturday PMEasy 2-3.(Recovery)
Sunday AMRest.(Recovery)
Sunday PMEasy 3-4.(Base)


Mileage drops to 39-45 per microcycle.

Sunday again preps the athlete for a rested beginning to the week. The Monday fartlek can be as hard as the coach feels will not damage the ability to race on Tuesday. After Tuesday, the next intensive work is Thursday with short leg speed work, done precisely between the two racing efforts during the microcycle. 48 hours remain prior to the race on Saturday.

The addition of a second race does not allow for an extensive amount of work on resistance, endurance or speed. Both races are included as speed-oriented.


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Workout structuring is a function of creativity, exercise physiology and experience as it relates to the individual needs of the program and the athlete. Although it is almost impossible to "can" workouts and give them to a coach, the basic understanding of what types of effort and what types of workload are tolerated by an athlete will allow an individualized approach to succeed.

Each coach must take the understanding of what training can be completed and apply that to the performance schedule of the program. We are all fortunate if we do not have extreme requirements in local and regional competitions as they most certainly curtail the types of training that will benefit the athlete in the long run. Longer periods of several microcycles without competitive interruption are the best way for an athlete to improve.

Look at the types of workouts provided, but more importantly, look at the method used in their formulation. Evaluate principal training goals ofyourprogram,yourcompetitive schedules,yourlong-range goals, and then scheduleyourworkouts in order not to waste a minute!


How many miles a week should high school cross country run? ›

Follow this program exactly as it is written and you will average between 35 and 45 miles a week, enough for most high school cross country runners. If you feel you need more miles, discuss your plans with your coach before proceeding. More important than the number of miles run is the quality of those miles.

How many days a week should a cross country runner run? ›

Most non-elite runners run five to six days a week. In general, a rest day is important to reduce injury risk, but more experienced or competitive runners may run every day or at least cross train on all non-running days.

How do I create a cross country training plan? ›

For your recovery intervals, go at an easy pace, which means a slow jog or walking:
  1. Warm up: 5-minute easy jog including 1–3 30-second accelerations (strides)
  2. Run: 30-second sprint at 5K pace.
  3. Recover: 1 minute at an easy pace.
  4. Repeat: Do the run/recover cycle for a total of 20 minutes.
  5. Cooldown: 5-minute easy jog.
Jul 4, 2021

How do you train for cross country running in high school? ›

And try to run most long runs as a gentle progression, meaning that you run comfortably for the first 70 percent of the distance, then gradually squeeze down the pace in the last couple of miles. You should end every long run in the summer feeling like you could have run at least one more mile at that same pace.

How many miles should a 14 year old run a week? ›

Running Recommendations

Experts recommend that weekly training distances not exceed twice the maximum competition distance. Therefore, middle school kids should only be running up to 12.8 miles per week, if they are planning to run in a 10K race. Kids up to age 14 should only run three times per week.

How many miles a week do elite high school runners run? ›

The typical weekly mileage for average runners training for the 5k is 15-25 miles. More competitive runners will run more. Elite runners will have a volume closer to 70-80 miles per week.

How do you structure a running week? ›

Space the hardest days evenly apart.

Rather than spacing them just a day apart (for example, a workout on Thursday and a long run on Saturday—leaving four easy days until the next workout), it's best to schedule them with about equal recovery. A Tuesday/Saturday schedule works great for a faster workout and a long run.

How often should cross country runners lift? ›

Runners should aim to complete 2-3 strength training sessions per week for their legs. If you want to finish every run with pushups and pull ups like Bill Rodgers, you're more than welcome, but lifting weights to strengthen our legs works best when we allow our muscles at least one day to recover from the strain.

How many miles should a 15 year old run a week? ›

For a high schooler, sometimes they can run about between 4-5 miles a week to make it easy for them to not get burnt out before college. Also, one of the days should be a workout day and most students might not be runners a lot, which can be hard for them during the type of weather in which they are running in.

What is an example of a cross training schedule? ›

A balanced, weekly cross-training program might look like this:
  • Aerobic exercise: Three times a week for at least 30 minutes. ...
  • Strength training: Twice a week (not consecutive days) for at least 30 minutes, working each major muscle group. ...
  • Flexibility exercise: Every day for at least 5 to 10 minutes.

How do you get in shape for cross country fast? ›

Long runs, tempo work, and long and short intervals interspersed with maintenance and recovery runs are the basic building blocks of training. For cross country, however, you'll need to incorporate terrain, elevation, and course changes that mimic what you'll encounter on race day.

What is the best diet for high school cross country runners? ›

Foods for Runners and Joggers
  • Fruit and vegetables for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Lean protein such as fish, poultry, beans, lentils and tofu.
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts.
  • Healthy carbohydrates such as rice, whole grain breads/pastas and oatmeal.

How many miles do you run in high school XC? ›

High school cross country races are typically 5k (3.1 miles), though some might be shorter, such as 4k, or involve some random distance close to 3 miles based on the course layout where the race is run.

Is cross country the hardest high school sport? ›

Cross country athletes are often less visible than other athletes as they compete, but their training is among the most physically and mentally of challenging of all high school and collegiate sports.

How many miles do you usually run in cross country? ›

Cross-Country Race Distances

US college distances: In the United States, cross-country runners race on courses of varying lengths—usually between eight kilometers (a little under five miles) and ten kilometers (a little over six miles) for men and five kilometers to six kilometers (a little under four miles) for women.

How many miles do boys run in cross country? ›

Every state offers cross country as a high school sport for boys and girls. Over 440,000 high school students compete in cross country each year, making it the sixth-most popular sport for girls, and seventh most popular for boys. High school students typically race on 3 mi (4.8 km) or 5 km (3.1 mi) courses.


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