I have a problem. I am a middle school cross country runner and run 3.5 to 5 miles 6 days a week. My team just starts practice tommorow but we can only run about 4 miles a day no matter what. Also, we do homework(speedwork) once a week and I was informed that that is not a good way to train at my age. What do I do?
Hi Grace. Thanks for the question.
You're running a decent amount for a middle school athlete and my first recommendation to you is to ask your self the question, "Is this fun most days?" As long as the answer is yes, then you should continue to run 6 days a week, yet the reason I'm suggesting you ask yourself that question is that so many promising athletes run so much in middle school that they lose the desire to continue in high school. As long as it you're enjoying training, then no worries.In terms of the training, yes, it would make sense to ungulate the mileage a bit more than just 4 miles a day. But it's not the end of the world either, as long as there are different workouts and different types of runs. And in terms of speed work, it's a good thing to be running fast at a young age. Even all year long, one workout where you're running fast is a good thing to help you develop speed. Now, that being said, ideally you'd have a coach that differentiates between true speed development workouts and workouts that work on race pace (which most people call speed workouts, but should really be called race pace workouts). Oscillating between those two types of workouts can be done during the fall and that type of approach is best for your long term development.
Finally, remember this. You're going to gain aerobic fitness every year, as long as you stay healthy. But you have to work to gain speed. And speed - in both cross country and on the track - is important. So don't be scared of workouts that are much faster than cross country pace in the fall. They're great for your long term development, even if they might not be as specific as cross country pace workouts.
Keep enjoying your running Grace and thanks for the question.
*Coach Jay's advice is provided as general training information. Use at your own risk. Always consult with your own heath care provider for questions relating to your specific training and nutrition.