The cross-country season is fast approaching and as a triathlete you may well be wondering if it’s something you should be taking part in. Being outdoors in a natural environment allegedly reduces stress levels, so there’s your answer, what could be better than a stress free winter?! Set yourself the goal of competing in a few cross-country races this winter.
Cross-country is the challenge of running at a range of different speeds over demanding and varied terrain. The great thing about training for cross-country is that there are many benefits from training on softer surfaces. Sticking to the grass and mud can help to prevent injury, strengthen your feet and ankles and give you a mental break from the monotony of pounding the streets. A cross-country runner has to make constant adjustments in balance and the placement of their feet as the ground is uneven and soft. Core strength will help keep you upright on those slippery slopes so a strong athlete will find the going a bit easier – a good incentive to maintain conditioning throughout the winter.
Most cross-country races are between 8-12k for men and 5-8k for women. Include an assortment of sessions into your training, ranging anything from hill repeats to tempo runs over a variety of different terrain. Be adventurous and create your own training course putting in up hills, down hills, twists and turns. The great thing about these sessions is that you can run them on grass, mud, dirt trails, almost anywhere off-road or off-track.
Cross-country races are rarely exact measured distances and they never feature mile or kilometre markers as with road races, therefore runners need to learn to judge their pace for themselves. Accurate pace and effort judgement is a great quality to have and is a skill that you can transfer to triathlon in all 3 disciplines. It teaches you to battle against your competitors instead of running purely by your watch. Take in the liberation of not clock watching and instead take in the natural beauty of your surroundings.
You do not have to be an elite athlete to enter cross-country races. Most counties have their own cross-country league, although you might need to belong to a running club to take part. Membership of running clubs aren’t expensive and my local club is only £35 for the year. This is an absolute bargain compared to triathlon race entry fees.
So come on, get your spikes or off road run shoes on and let’s get mucky!