How to Get Better at Cross Country Running: A Helpful Guide for Beginners

How to Get Better at Cross Country Running

How to get better at cross country running? That is every runner’s question.

It is a typical human attitude to aspire to be the best in everything we do.

However, cross country running is not as simple as racing on a flat, even surface since you focus on your speed.

It’s a running competition with other racers while navigating different terrains and focusing on your rhythm.

What Do You Do in Cross Country?

Some people usually ask, “What do you do in cross country?” It’s a long-distance race run on open-air courses and natural terrain.

This athletic sport usually happens during autumn and winter under various weather conditions.

How to Get Better at Cross Country Running

Cross country racers must possess commitment, endurance, and speed to become better at this sport.

If you want to be the best, you have to train hard and practice regularly.

Cross country training uses similar basic protocols as those running on road races or track meets.

These athletes do all kinds of training runs like tempo, maintenance, recovery, long and short intervals.

In cross country running, these exercises are mixed with different course changes like terrain and elevation that resembles the actual racecourse.

That is how you will learn to distribute the required fixed effort level to finish the race without losing your focus.

Some racers would even visit the race site before the competition and try to simulate it during training.

How do I train myself to run longer distances

Cross Country Training Guidelines

Here are some guidelines on how to improve in this sport.

  • Train Before Cross Country Season Starts

Training for the cross country race should be a slow but steady process.

Your body needs to adapt to the activity as you slowly build your speed and endurance.

  • Set a Running Goal as Your Training Guide

Set a realistic goal and use it as motivation during training. Achieving the target within your set timeline will also show your improvement.

  • Include Tempo Runs in Your Training

Tempo runs are usually challenging but not tiresome.

It’s one way of building your endurance while your body learns how to deal with fast tempo on long-distance runs.

  • Try Interval Running

Interval training helps improve your running speed.

Try running fast for a specific distance, jog, or walk to breathe, recover, and then run again.

  • Improve Your Speed Through Fartleks

Fartlek means speed play in Swedish, which is setting various paces as you run from 30 to 45 minutes.

This practice will prepare you for the varying paces in cross country races.

  • Do Long Runs

Long runs typically last for 60 to 90 minutes at a slower pace than your usual speed.

It’s another way of practicing your endurance as you slow-run non-stop for at least an hour.

  • Let Your Body Recover

Allow your body to recover by doing easy runs a day after intense training.

Run at a slow speed for 30 minutes, or you can take a full day’s rest.

  • Increase Training Time

Extend your training time as the cross country season nears. It’s another way to develop your speed and stamina.

How can I increase my cross country speed

Cross Country Running Tips

To perform better during the race, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Footwear Choice

Cross country running requires you to wear running shoes with the correct grip.

Invest in cross country spikes to ensure that you can handle different terrains.

Be ready with a selection of spikes on hand from 9mm to 15mm for different terrains.

  • Check Out the Course

Arrive at the venue way before the race itself so that you can check out the course.

You can prepare the correct gear and correctly strategize if you know how the racecourse looks like.

  • Be Start Line Smart

If you are not assigned a designated spot on the starting line, make sure to look for one that will help you maneuver the course easily.

  • Get Ready for a Fast Start

Some cross country races start fast and out of control.

Your body should be ready with that kind of scenario.

Doing a fast start must be part of your training, so you are physically and mentally prepared.

  • Do Specific Training

One reason why you’re training is in preparation for the race. The event must be replicated during your training sessions.

Having all the essential details about the race and course allows you to do specific training.

  • Secure Your Shoes

Cross Country Training Guidelines

There will be times during the race that losing a shoe is inevitable. To make sure it will not happen, secure it by wrapping it with a durable tape around your foot after lacing.

  • Know When to Warm Up

Know when you need to warm up and when to reserve your energy.

If you are racing on challenging terrain, it is better to forego warming up.

However, if the terrain is slippery and wet, you can warm up on the road or tarmac.

  • Focus on Effort

In cross country racing, speed is not very important.

Racers should focus on how much effort they need to exert to handle the course and finish the race.

  • Work the Hills

Use the hills to your advantage. Learn how to go downhill without slowing down.

How much do you run in cross country practice

Cross Country Training FAQs

1. How can I increase my cross country speed?

We say that cross country running is more on effort and endurance.

Some runners want to finish faster; thus, they ask, “How can I increase my cross country speed?

If that is the case, you should also train for speed in addition to your routine of fartlek, interval, and tempo practice.

2. How do I train myself to run longer distances?

All runners, especially new ones, want to increase their running distance. What you need to do is to take it slow.

It takes time and a lot of patience to prevent fatigue and overuse injuries. Make sure to set small, realistic goals.

3. How much do you run in cross country practice?

There is no specific distance when training for cross country races. For beginners, running at two to four miles a day is enough.

Start increasing the distance by ten percent after several weeks but ensure that you don’t exceed six miles a day to prevent burnouts.

Training for Cross Country

Overall, well-planned training is the best way on how to get better at cross country running.

Apart from applying our cross country running tips and guidelines, you must also consider other factors, including how long a cross country race is and what are the right gear items to wear.

6 thoughts on “How to Get Better at Cross Country Running: A Helpful Guide for Beginners”

  1. My co-worker did a cross country running when she was in college, and boy, I have to say that she was fit! I only made a couple of marathons and some trail running, and I thought that was hard. Thanks for sharing these tips. I have to work on my endurance and stamina mostly. The process is very similar to when I am training for a marathon. I don’t know why cross country sounds so intimidating.

    One problem that I have with training is inflammation; what do you take.

    • Hello, Nuttanee, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Great to hear about your benefit of the article too.

      You ask about the inflammation. As people are very different and it can be many reasons for injuries and similarities, I have the policy that I always recommend to ask doctors.

      But even so, we have here two articles which could help you if you have similar problems. You can see it here and here.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you with anything else or if you have any questions.

  2. Hi there, this is timely information to have as I have a history of running races (and winning them), but due to a broken bone most exercise has been hard to complete. I think it could be helpful to approach this current attempt at cross country running as a complete beginner. Thanks for the tips to help me get back to this great hobby and sport!

    • Hello, Aly, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Great to hear about your benefit of the article too.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you with anything else or if you have any questions.

  3. Last year my husband did a cross country running, and that was his first one. But he did work hard to achieve that. I have run in many races but never thought about doing cross country.
    After having two kids, I think I have lost my stamina and endurance. But your article was very inspiring to get back to build endurance for maybe marathon for now, and in a couple of years, I may be able to join my husband for cross country.

    • Hello, Pranali, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you with anything else or if you have any questions.


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