XC Training System

Cross Country Training Schedule PDF – “No Prior Training” Athletes

One of the biggest – and maybe the biggest – concerns for cross country coaches is “How am I going to keep the new athletes injury-free?” We all know that shin splints, tight IT-bands and Achilles tendons, and tight hamstrings can all be a problem for new athletes. 

I put this group of athletes – who either didn’t run track or haven't done a sport prior to joining the cross country team – into the “No Prior Training” plan. 

Before I explain this plan, make sure you read the first article - Cross Country Training Schedule PDF – Five Weeks of Training for Varsity Runners – as everything that follows builds on those principles. 

How The “No Prior Training” Plan Will Help You 

  • It will keep your kids injury-free, so long as you follow the plan and so long as they show up to practice most days this summer. 
  • Because they’ll stay injury-free, they’ll race well this fall. And that’s the goal – for them to be able to race all the races, and see improvement! 
  • This plan will save you time as it – along with the training plan I’ve already shared – allows all your athletes to do the same warm-up and post-run work and follow the same progression of strides. The only difference is that this group will run less.  

Before we go on... 

Be honest that any training stimuli – even doing other sports like pick-up basketball or swimming – are going to build their aerobic engine, because they have little or no aerobic fitness. This is good news for you as their training doesn't need to be as complex in the opening weeks of the summer for them to see huge improvements in their first season of XC. 

This also means you need to be patient with this training. 

You need to make practice fun and you simply need to get in all four components of the training day. The running will be minimal to start, as we need to be cautious with the volume of training.  

What do I mean by volume? 

Volume and Volume vs. Mileage 

We’re going to talk about the volume of training and not mileage with all our athletes this summer, but especially this group. 

The volume of training – from the distance covered when they’re skipping in the warm-up, to the meters covered when they run strides, to the number of exercises in the post-run strength and mobility they’ll do – is what we care about.  

Again, our athlete is going to gain aerobic fitness in the warm-up. When their heart rate is elevated with the post-run work, they’ll be gaining fitness. They’ll gain fitness when they do strides. Yes, there is another component to the training day – the running – but that’s just one of the four components. 

The PDF you’re about to download has very safe progressions of all this work. When you look at the fact that on the first day of practice, they’re only running five minutes, and doing strides, you might not think that’s enough work. 

But when you look at the volume of that day in minutes you’ll see that it’s plenty of training... 

  • 20 minutes to teach the warm-up (it’ll take just 13 minutes once they learn it) 
  • 5 minutes of running 
  • 6-8 minutes for the strides 
  • 12-15 minutes for post run work (which will take less time when they learn it) 

On the first day they’ll be doing 43-48 minutes of activity. 

If anything, this might be too much work.

Let's not worry about mileage this summer, and instead look at (a) the volume of training they’re doing that includes all activities and (b) the minutes they’re running each week. Later this summer, you can have them run certain distances for their long run. And after the cross country season, they may want to get a GPS watch and track their mileage.  

But trust me on this: we want to measure the volume of all aspects of their training and be conservative with their running volume if we want them to stay injury-free. 

Free "No Prior Training" PDF 

You can download the first five weeks of training for the No Prior Training group here

XC Training Essentials

You can get the XC Essentials Training. You’ll get access to: 

  • Daily training for six different levels of runners, including training for kids with “no prior training” who are just coming out for the team. 
  • Warm-up video that you can watch on your phone 
  • Post-run routines for each training day, with video examples of each exercise 
  • Concise video explaining how each of the 15 points in Consistency Is Key apply to summer training 
  • Progression of Strides PDF 
  • PDF of this article and the Comprehensive Cross Country Training Plan 

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This is the same content – for free – including training plans and training videos, that’s in the XC Training System. 

“I have coached for 25 years, and have tried to stay current on training and coaching methodology throughout my career.  

I can confidently say the XCTS is the best value and input I've received in my coaching career and was effective both as far as results and injury prevention.  

My 25 runner freshman program was 100% on the "no prior training" XCTS plan and for the first time in my coaching career no athlete was injured during the entire season!!!  

The top runner set the school record for the 3K and 5K and the team overall did well by historical standards.  

The training system for my varsity was greatly influenced by the XCTS. The 16:09 team average at our Divisional meet was the fastest in school history and every member of our team had a PR at Divisional or States. Injuries were much less frequent.  

Overall, the team was in the trainer's room less and was highly competitive in the most competitive division in the state of MA.” - Seth Kirby 

"The XC Training System is a game-changer" - Liz Schaffer

Check out the XC Training System (XCTS)