The 2nd annual Maine Coach and Athlete Cross Country Clinic was on August 18th, 2008 at the University of Southern Maine. The clinic lasted for about 2 hours, although most of the speakers and coaches were available before and after the clinic for questions.

The clinic was sponsored by John Rogers of the Maine Running Company. The panel brought together some of the best local experts and some native-Mainer professional runners and their teammates to talk on various topics relating to a high school cross country athlete. This year’s clinic did not touch on the coaching aspect nearly as much as it did last year, and just about the entire clinic is relevant not only to high school cross country runners but also to anybody that enjoys getting out to train and race.

I took a lot of notes, so I am going to be splitting up them up into functional parts which will be published throughout the week.

Injury Prevention and Treatment

Starting the night off was a discussion from a physical therapist. His talk focused on 2 key areas, training consistency and common traits amongst injured runners. He only sees the injured athletes, so his advice is geared towards making sure that he never has to meet you.

The most important thing to training is that you have a consistent schedule year round and that you don’t take significant stretches of time off from getting at least some sort of exercise, preferably sport-specific such as running. Cross country is a short season that is only 8 to 10 weeks long, so if you take the Summer off from running then you aren’t going to have the conditioning that you need in order to get into shape to race during the season.

Be up front and honest with your coaches and trainers. Let them know what kind of conditioning you have when you show up for preseason to help them develop a training plan for you. If you tell them that you have gotten in all of your base training and they start having you do speed work, then you are more likely to get injured because your body isn’t ready for that level of stress. If you are injured, you won’t be able to compete or train. It is far better to let your coach know if you need some time to get conditioned so that you can still race well at the end of the season and avoid overtaxing your body too early.

If you do start to feel some aches and pains, then let the coach and your trainers know. They can help you assess whether you are coming down with an injury that can be prevented with some rest or whether your aches and pains are just a normal byproduct of your training.

The most important way to avoid injuries is to be consistent throughout the year. Mixing in some cross training in your off seasons can give you a needed break to recover from your track season and help you keep your fitness levels up. You will stay in shape and you’ll have some fun.

Some of the best cross training that you can do is strength training and core training. A strong core allows your muscles to pull off of a firm surface, which is analogous to running on a track. A weak core is inefficient and is more like running on a sandy beach at high tide.

You will still need to spend time running over the Summer. With a short cross country season, you don’t really have time to get all of your base training in during the season. Base training can take as long as 10 weeks.

If you do get hurt or injured, then let your coaches know as soon as you notice a problem. Your mentality (and that of your coach’s) should be to get back to your sport as soon as possible, but not at the expense of getting back safely. Spend your recovery time doing non-impact cross training such as the elliptical machine or pool running.

If you are injured, then chances are good that you have at least some of the following traits:

  1. You don’t like to stretch.
  2. You tend to have weaknesses in your butt or your hip, or weakness in your core.
  3. You suffer from a lack of flexibility.
  4. You don’t pay attention to things from the bottom up and have improper shoes.

He spends a lot of time teaching injured athletes about some basic concepts to help prevent them from coming back and having to use his services again.

The biggest thing you need to learn is the difference between dynamic and static stretching, and when they are appropriate to use. Before workouts, concentrate on dynamic stretching such as doing butt kicks, high knees, or high knee walks. Focus on your large muscles such as the hip flexors or your glutes to work on your balance, warm up your muscle tissues, and prepare your body for doing the workout.

After the workout, do static stretching during or immediately following your cool down within the first 10 minutes. You don’t need to try to stretch as far as possible; you’ll never actually stretch that much during a race. Just stretch out enough to feel the pull and hold it for a brief moment.

Another concept to embrace is using a foam roller or massage stick. These tools will allow you to get in deep and break down your muscle tissue between workouts, which can help affect the density of the tissue.