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TRAINING FOR CROSS COUNTRY FOR SCHOOL STUDENTS
Canberra is a runner's paradise. It has more trees, more forest and parkland, more cycle paths and lake side running than just about any other city in the world. It also has clear blue skies, little pollution, a climate much milder than that experienced by Americans or Europeans, and all the splendour of the seasons. It is quite common for the runner in Canberra to come across kangaroos and rabbits, while the occasional echnida and fox are not unknown.
Canberra has also developed into the running capital of Australia, with not just the Australian Institute of Sport, but more runners per head of population than any other city in Australia.
It is thus a very exciting time to be a runner in Canberra - in track and field, in road running, in fun running and in cross country. Taking part in the inter-schools cross country competitions at Lake Ginninderra, Stromlo Forest and Fadden Pines, or ACT Cross Country Club Saturday afternoon events, is a great way of sharing in this excitement.
This training guide is aimed at both the beginner and the more experienced school student who wishes to participate in cross country and fun runs and attempts to provide basic information on a wide range of topics. The runner or teacher seeking further advice will find that coaches and experienced distance runners in athletic clubs are only too happy to help.
2. WHY RUN?
All the sports available to you are good to take part in. The person who enjoys running should have a go at a wide range of sports while still at school - basketball, football, tennis, swimming, netball, cricket, hockey, skiing and so on all have a great deal to offer. They keep you physically fit, help you relax and forget about school work and any problems, teach you the rules and the skills of the sport, help you make more friends, teach you to try hard not just for your own sake but to help your team try to win, and give you more confidence in yourself as a person.
All of these can be of great benefit to you in your long term development as a runner. Although running may seem very much an individual sport, in fact most of the top runners in Australia today train very much like football or basketball teams. They get together in groups a few times a week, sometimes even every day, to train together, help each other, tell jokes, socialise, have a good time. Even in races they often work together to help each other run as fast as possible. Learning to be part of a team can help you get much more enjoyment out of your running, especially as you get older.
Distance running as a sport, or as a way of getting fit for other sports, has a great deal to offer. It is:
* simple - all you need is a pair of shoes and you can head out the front door and down the street.
* efficient in use of time - going for a run can give you maximum training benefits in only a short period of time. You have to keep going for much longer in nearly every other sport to get the same benefits as you would from, say, a 10-15 minute run. It can be easy to fit in a 10 to 15 minute run while studying for an exam but not so easy to take 1 to 2 hours off for a team game.
* inexpensive - running is one of the least expensive sports. See Chapter 7 on gear to wear.
* convenient - while it is wonderful to run in Stromlo Forest or Black Mountain Reserve, you can do most of your runs from home. See Chapter 8 on where to run.
* aerobic - it makes you puff and makes your heart beat faster while you are running. This conditions your heart, lungs and oxygen transport system in your body. The way the body provides energy for you to run is:
i. air is breathed into the lungs;
ii. the lungs absorb oxygen from the air into the bloodstream;
iii. the heart pumps the blood with the oxygen through the veins out to the muscles. Iron in the red blood cells acts like a magnet for the oxygen;
iv. the oxygen has a chemical reaction with stored sugars in the muscles;
v. this chemical reaction releases energy to make the muscles contract. The fitter you get, the greater the amount of oxygen you can take in, and the faster you can run before you start to puff. It also means that it will take longer before you get tired when you are playing football, tennis, or another game. It makes a lot of sense to include running in your training for most other sports.
Heart disease is the biggest killer of people in Australia and doctors advise that one of the ways to help reduce the chances of heart disease is to do some kind of aerobic exercise for at lest 15 minutes 3 or more times each week. Running, cycling, swimming and brisk walking are among the best aerobic exercises.
* makes you feel good - as you get fit, you usually start feeling better than just healthy, you start feeling really good.
* almost anyone can improve - in sprinting, you are largely born with the speed you have. Training can only improve your speed a little. This is because there are two kinds of muscle fibres in the body - "fast twitch" muscle fibres and "slow twitch" muscle fibres. Really good sprinters have a lot of fast twitch fibres while top marathon runners have a lot of slow twitch fibres.
In distance running, just about anyone who is prepared to run regularly will keep on improving for many years after they start, providing they train sensibly.
How do you tell whether you have more fast twitch fibres or more slow twitch fibres?
(i) If you can run fast over short distances, have good coordination, and are very good at football, cricket, hockey or another ball sport, then you have lots of fast twitch muscle fibres.
(ii) If you come last in sprint races, are not as well coordinated as your friends and not as good at football, cricket and such sports, that does not mean that you cannot be good at any sport! Far from it! In fact it probably means that you have lots of slow twitch muscle fibres and have the potential to be a really good long distance runner, cyclist, or swimmer. But you have got to work at it to get there! At present the fast twitch fibre runner will probably be much better than you in cross country races because he or she is very fit from playing lots of sport. However, if you keep on running regularly, you will continue to improve and it quite often happens that in a few years' time you can run much faster than some of the runners who are better than you now. When Robert de Castella started running, he used to finish fortieth and fiftieth in school cross country races but he improved year by year until ten years later he was the number one distance runner in the world.
Not everyone can be a de Castella, but anyone who tries can improve to an extent which gives enormous personal satisfaction and enjoyment.
3. PRINCIPLES OF TRAINING
i. Get used to short and easy runs first before trying longer or harder runs. As a starting point the beginner should get used to regularly running 5 to 10 minutes over 1 or 2 kilometres before trying longer runs.
ii. Run relaxed. Feel relaxed in training; don't strain to keep up with too fast a pace. As fitness comes, try running hills strongly but while still feeling relaxed. Running "relaxed" does not mean running very slowly.
iii. Weekly "long" runs. These will vary according to age, strength and students' time commitments, and will be up to twice the distance of usual runs. For example, the student who normally runs 2 or 3 kms during work-outs during the week might do a long run of 5 or 6 kms. Someone who regularly runs 8km might run from 12 to 16 kms. Ideally the weekly long run should be done in an interesting and stimulating environment such as Stromlo Forest. See Chapter 8 on where to run. There are many interesting places to do a long run scattered throughout Canberra. The time conscious student may be best suited to choosing areas close to home.
iv. Balanced program. A well balanced program includes:
- longer runs
- recovery runs
- quick sustained efforts over short distances.
It can be very beneficial if these short distance sustained efforts are done over a hill circuit. Hill circuits are ideal for developing sustained speed. Each effort up a hill raises the pulse rate, works the front upper leg muscles quite hard, and gets you up on your toes, pumping your arms and extending your ankles through a full range of motion. The running action and degree of stress on the body is in fact very similar to when you are trying to sprint or accelerate over flat ground.
Striding out downhill activates the fast twitch fibres and helps develop leg speed.
v. Rest before racing. If you are tired, then you not only cannot race as well as you should, you are also far more likely to injure yourself. Giving the body too much work leads to breakdown. Have a rest or just go for only a light jog the day before racing.
vi. Hard day/easy day - overload/recovery. When you work the body a bit harder than normal(eg a "long" run or a faster run), if you let it recover by one or two days of easy training or rest, then it adapts to the harder training and becomes a bit stronger. This is an improvement in fitness. If you do not have enough recovery, you may not have any improvement and you may become injured.
A balanced program therefore consists of "hard" days and "easy" days. The "easy" days will normally be rest days for younger runners (under 14 years old) and beginners.
vii. Enjoy your running. Enjoy all the good things about running - the fresh air, the trees, the scenery, the feeling of fitness, the friends you make, the excitement of fun runs and races, seeing yourself improve. Train to increase your fitness and improve your race times. Do not make beating other people your main reason for running - this just puts pressure on yourself. Whether you have done your best to run as fast as possible in the race is what counts - not where you come in the race. Rob de Castella started off his running career in high school by placing around abut 60th in his interschool cross country races and he did not gain school selection until he was in Year 11.
viii. Variety. A key to enjoyment is variety. Do not run the same course or the same distance all the time. Many runners find a 20 minute run from home and then do that same run every day. If possible, try and find a few different runs and rotate your training around them. Wherever possible try a run in different surroundings. For example, on a trip to the coast have a run on the beach. Some of the most enjoyable runs you can do are those in which you explore a new area. An interesting way to do a run is to proceed in a new direction away from home and when half the time you have planned for the run has gone by, turn around and go back the same way. Other ways of varying your runs are by doing longer runs, shorter runs, runs with friends, hilly runs, faster runs, slower runs, runs in forest, runs in parkland etc.
ix. Listen to your body. If something starts to hurt in one of your feet, or legs, or knees, or hips or back, while you are training or racing, it is your body telling you that something is wrong and you should stop and get treatment, not try to run through it.
Try and get some cold water or ice on the injury as quickly as possible. For example, if you twist your ankle in a race at the schools cross country, take off your shoe and sock and put your foot in the lake water. The cold water will stop the swelling. If you have to wait till you get home, get something cold out of the freezer, such as a plastic bag of frozen peas, and stick it over the injury for a few minutes. Wrap the injured area in a bandage and rest it by sitting down and having the injured leg resting on another chair. Then take a day or two (or more if needed) to give the injury a chance to heal.
Physiotherapists call this treatment R.I.C.E. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. It helps fix muscle and tendon strains.
For more serious injuries, there are sports medicine clinics at Weedon Close, Belconnen; McKay Gardens, Turner; and John James Hospital, Deakin. There are also several sports podiatrists specialising in foot problems, and physiotherapy clinics which look after sports injuries.
It is advisable to spend a few minutes after each run, while you are still warmed up, doing a few stretching exercises. It also essential to incorporate stretching exercises into your warm-up routine before racing or speed training. These can help in the following ways:
i. maintain flexibility. A muscle is like a rubber band. The more flexible a rubber band is, the further you can stretch it and the greater the speed and power when you release it from the stretch. This assists in the speed of movement of contractions of your leg muscles and hence helps your speed.
ii. prevent injuries. If you do a few stretches after you warm up for a race, you are much less likely to pull any muscles during the race. As you run more and more and your leg muscles become stronger, they also tend to become a bit tighter as well. Stretching keeps them flexible and less likely to tear.
iii. flush waste products into the bloodstream and speed up recovery. When you run hard, a waste product called lactic acid is formed in the muscles. Going for a warm down jog and spending a few minutes stretching can help flush the lactic acid into the bloodstream where it is carried away.
Some simple stretches are:
A. leaning against a wall, stretching one leg at a time. This stretches the calf and hamstring muscles in the back of the leg.
B. one leg up on a support, bending forwards towards the toes. This stretches the hamstring muscles.
C. standing on one leg, pulling foot of other leg up towards buttock. This stretches the thigh muscles in the front of the leg.
NOTE: Each stretch must be done gently and slowly. Stretch the muscle and count to six slowly, holding the muscle in a position where it is not hurting but you can feel the stretch. Then release it slowly and relax the muscle. Repeat a few times only. Do not spend too much time on stretching. A few minutes after each run is plenty. It is easy to overdo it and hurt yourself.
4. EXAMPLES OF TRAINING PROGRAMS FOR CROSS COUNTRY
These examples are guides only for each age group. Talk to a coach about planning your program. Also see Chapter 5 about fitting in with other sports.
A. 9 Years and Younger
In this age group students will be getting plenty of exercise at play, in other sports and in cycling or walking to and from school. Some studies have shown that children running around while playing games cover as much as 10kms. There is no need to do any training for a 1km Saturday cross country race. It is also more desirable that any running be part of games or other sports.
B. 10 to 13 Years
Participation in other sports and types of exercise is quite high for 10 to 13 year olds. However, an introduction to training can be made with two 10 to 20 minute runs in addition to the Saturday cross country race.
Example 1. Saturday: race
Monday: 10 to 20 mins
Wednesday: 10 to 20 mins
Example 2. Saturday: race
Monday: 10 to 20 mins
Thursday: 10 to 20 mins
Some students may wish to run for 10 to 15 minutes most days of the week. There is no harm in this other than that after a few years the student may become fed up with running and give it up altogether. It is best to do less than you feel capable of and maintain a high level of interest and enthusiasm than it is to do "a lot" and become dissatisfied.
However, one reason African runners are so good is that they walk/jog up to 10kms to and from school every day. In Canberra many of the ACT's best junior distance runners have been cycling to and from school every day from their primary days and have built up a substantial endurance base from this.
C. 14 to 17 Years
Ideally a 20 minute run every day can be done.
Group runs a couple of times a week can begin with 25 to 30 minutes at the start of the cross country season and progress to 35 to 50 minute runs. These runs should be run relaxed, and, as fitness comes, hills can be run strongly or hill bouncing and stride-out sessions incorporated. Three training runs a week are recommended as a good basic approach for beginners.
Study commitments in the last week before exams and during the period of the exams themselves can be quite high. Maintenance training of 15 to 20 minute runs both ensure fitness will be maintained and assist study by providing a physical outlet for the mental stress involved.
On race days a 15 minute jog when you get up in the morning before you go out to the race can help your performance. This jog leaves your muscles warmed up and feeling loose and you will not need to do much more warming up before the start.
D. Experienced 14 to 17 year olds
Runners who have been running for a few years and are aiming for ACT teams and competition at national championships should get a coach and plan a much more structured training cycle over two six month cycles a year. An example of this is a six month cycle for the winter months:
Phase 1: rest for 2-3 weeks at the end of March at the end of the track season
Phase 2: build endurance base during April, May and the first half of June. This includes easing back into regular training in April and then having longer runs of 30-50 mins on Tuesday and Thursday, a long run on Sunday of 35-60 mins, shorter faster runs of 2-5 kms on Wednesdays and Saturday, and rest days/short jogs on Mondays and Fridays.
Phase 3: Hill training from mid-June to mid-July, with one or two hill training sessions a week, a race or short fast run, a mid-week longer run (30-50 mins) and Sunday long run (40 mins-70mins), with Monday and Friday being rest days/light jogs.
Phase 4: Speed training/fine tuning during the second half of July and August leading up to the Australian Cross Country Championships. This can include one or two sessions of repetitions of 200m-400m on a track, on a forest trail or on a hill, plus selected racing every couple of weeks, maintaining the long Sunday run and a mid-week run of 35-50 minutes, with Mondays and Fridays still being rest days/light jogs.
Phase 5: Rest. This is actually Phase 1 for a repeat of the cycle during the track season.
This kind of structured approach maximises the probability of running well in the end of season championships. Coaches can develop modifications of this program for the track and field season. Some coaches also work on a 12 month cycle instead, with a much longer rest period between seasons.
In following such a program, it is important to have the advice of a coach because of the modifications which have to be made to fit in other sports, recovery from hard races, illnesses, and minor injuries, mid-week school championships and other factors which impact on the program. The most important thing is avoidance of illness and injury.
5. FITTING IN WITH OTHER COMMITMENTS
You will get the most enjoyment from your running if the running does not become a conflict with other commitments such as other sports, family, friends and school work. It will obviously be very helpful if parents and family are interested and supportive in a positive way. Some parents will only encourage their child if they feel that he or she is a "winner" or appears to be "successful". A chat with a coach or club official can sometimes help by explaining that long term success is best achieved by enjoyment in training and racing and not be being too concerned about placing or winning.
Fitting in with other sports can be quite easy, simply by going for a training run on the days when there is no training or competition for the other sport. Running is also a year round sport with track in the summer, cross country in the winter and fun runs in between. Hence if you are unable to compete in some running events because of another sport, you can miss them and compete in others at the end of the season of your sport.
Fitting in with school work usually means cutting down on training at exam time. Some students at colleges also fit in their running by using a free period or lunch break to do a run from school. If you have to study late on occasions and lose sleep, it is also wise to cut down on training the next day as you may become so fatigued that you get sick. If you are really tired from a few late nights in a row, a nap after school to catch up on sleep will probably do more good than a training run. If you get in that situation, it is worth thinking about your overall use of your free time, and perhaps cutting down on television watching or similar things which are taking up your spare time.
6. MENTAL APPROACH
Races are runs you should look forward to contesting. They let you find out whether you are improving; they give you the excitement of running as fast as you can over a course; they are a meeting place where you can talk to your friends and make friends; they are a different place to run; they give you a good feeling inside because you have pushed yourself hard; they give you special memories of close battles with friends, personal best times or unusual weather.
To enjoy racing, do not worry beforehand about how you are going to run. Think instead of the running techniques to use to run as fast as possible for the run. The first thing to do is have a warm-up jog. When you are sitting down, 70 per cent of your blood supply is being used to digest your last meal. When you warm-up, that blood is redirected to the muscles so that it can carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. If you charge off without warming up, you also risk tearing a muscle.
Before the race starts, you should also find out (if you do not know already) where the course goes and where it finishes, so that you will be able to plan how to pace yourself during the run. If you have a chance of winning, you should ideally go for a jog over as much of the course as possible, find out how well it is marked, whether there are course marshals and whether there are any points where you could go off course. On the starting line listen carefully to any instructions given by a race official.
A good guideline to how fast you should start is that you should be able to finish at least as fast as you started. Working this out will be a result of experimenting. One week start off quite quickly, at another at a moderate pace while yet again at a slower pace. See how these affect your overall performance. Did you run faster or slower than normal? The most efficient way is to start off at a pace where you are running strongly but still feeling relaxed enough so that you are not struggling to keep up.
After half way, to maintain that pace you will be consciously making an effort to work hard, to push yourself and to race the other runners near you. A good way to help you do this is to try to catch the next runner ahead of you, and then, when you have done so, try to catch the next one again.
As you approach the finish, pick up extra speed by running up on your toes and pumping your arms hard. The legs will follow through.
After you finish, congratulate the other runners finishing just ahead and behind you and go for a warm-down jog. The warm-down jog helps you get rid of some waste products in the muscles caused by the race.
Some suggestions on how to approach your training are:
* enjoy your training by:
- having a balanced program
- running with friends
- doing some of your runs in interesting places such as Stromlo Forest
- regular racing
- fitting in with other commitments
- not doing too much
- having variety
* save your racing for races. During training, run at a good pace but while still feeling relaxed.
* don't run by yourself all the time. Enjoy the company of friends in a group run.
* think - "what is this run today doing to help me run well in my next race?" When you begin thinking this way then you will make decisions such as "I had a hard run yesterday, today should be a recovery run."
* encourage your friends at training sessions. "Hey Bill, you had a great run last Saturday". They will in turn encourage you. It makes you feel good when someone notices that you are improving or running well. Take an interest in how the other runners in your age group are going. Welcome newcomers.
* keep a training diary. An old exercise book will do. Note down what you did in training each day, how you felt, whether you were sore at all. Record your race times, and lap times and kilometre if available. Take your resting pulse (before you get out of bed in the morning) every week or two. This should drop as you get fitter. If it goes up, it may mean you are too tired, or have a virus, and you should have a rest or take it easy in training.
7. GEAR TO WEAR
a. Shoes. Shoes are your most important item of gear. Don't buy really cheap supermarket shoes. These usually have cheap hard plastic or rubber soles which do not bend, are heavy to wear, do not support the arch of your foot, and do not give you enough cushioning. Make sure that your shoes pass the "bend test". You should be able to grab each end of the shoe and bend the sole quite easily. This means the rubber is sufficiently flexible and will give you enough cushioning.
There are several recognised brands - Asics, Reebok, Nike, Etonic, Adidas, Dunlop, New Balance, Saucony, Tiger, Puma, Laser.
Shoes in any of these brands should be okay. The most expensive shoes are not necessarily better than the cheaper shoes. Many of the more expensive ones are designed for 80kg marathon runners who need a lot of support to aborb the constant pounding.
For cross country racing the best shoes to get, if you can afford them, are ones with a waffle sole as the waffle studs grip the grass and stop you slipping.
When you have had your training shoes for a long while, you will notice a lot of wear in certain spots on the sole, especially the side of the heel. This can cause injuries because the excess wear means that when you put each foot down it starts to roll to one side a little. You should either get a new pair of shoes or repair your shoes with shoe glue to build up the worn down area or replacing the worn down area with a piece of rubber. This can be done fairly cheaply by a boot maker. If you start to get pain in any of your joints, check out the wear on your shoes.
b. Singlet. The body cools itself by perspiring. There is a much better cooling effect if you wear a singlet when raining than if you wear a t-shirt.
c. Gloves. Keep your hands warm with a pair of gloves or mittens when running in the middle of winter. A beanie or ear muffs can help keep your ears warm if necessary.
d. Shorts. Buy a light pair of cotton shorts that fit comfortably and do not rub against the inside of your legs when running. If rubbing becomes a problem, put some vaseline on your legs before running.
e. Tracksuits. There are many fairly cheap tracksuits on sale for under $40. These can be just as good as the flashy $80 to $120 models. A tracksuit is good to have for doing your warm-up jog and for putting on to keep you warm straight after you finish.
f. Socks. Thin cotton socks are better for racing in than thick polyester ones. Some runners do not bother with socks at all - however their shoes usually stink!
g. Running spikes. These are good to have if you plan to run track races up to 1500m long. However you can run on the AIS track in a light pair of running shoes and you can run bare foot on grass tracks.
h. Change of gear. Always bring a spare set of dry gear to races and to training sessions away from home. You never know when you are going to get caught in a shower. Do not stand around in sweaty gear after a run. Change into a dry t-shirt. As soon as you cool down, a sweaty or wet t-shirt can give you a chill.
8. WHERE TO RUN
Do not run on concrete footpaths. They will give you sore legs. Do not run regularly on cycle paths or bitumen roads. They also will give you sore legs. Avoid running on cycle paths which are not perfectly flat. There are not too many cycle paths like this around. Cycle paths which have a camber or slope can cause knee, hip and back injuries. Do not run long distances on beaches for the same reason because the slope can cause injuries.
You are growing fairly quickly. While you are growing quickly the joints are not as strong as they could be. They are very susceptible to shock and too much stress. Therefore it is important to avoid training on hard surfaces or doing too much in training.
The best surface to run on is a soft dirt trail or dirt road. Fortunately Canberra has many of these. In fact nearly every suburb has a horse trail or other dirt trail on its border or in local parkland.
Canberra also has many local parks where you can run on grass. You can also run around the streets on grass on nature strips, although these often have potholes and uneven surfaces which are not good and should be avoided.
Some of the great places to run around Canberra are as follows:
A. NORTH CANBERRA
* horse trails and tracks on foothills of Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura
* Majura pine forest
* dirt trails under pine trees up Northbourne Avenue at Downer and Watson
* trail behind Watson houses
* Wells Station Road
* Haig Park
* Dickson sportsfields and Southwell Park
* Central Basin, Lake Burley Griffin
* bush trails between the AIS track in Bruce, and O'Connor
* Grevillea Park
* Black Mountain nature reserve
* horsetrail on southern outskirts of Aranda, Cook, Weetangera, Hawker,
Higgins and Holt
* Lake Ginninderra
* dirt trails adjacent to William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive, Kuringa Drive and Drake Brockman Drive
C. SOUTH CANBERRA
* southern foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin
* Red Hill
* Dunrossil Drive area
* Scrivener Dam - Stromlo Forest
* Woden fitness track
* Curtin horsetrail
* foothills of Mt Taylor
* Yarralumla Woolshed area, including Stromlo Forest across causeway
* Long Gully pine plantation
E. WESTON CREEK
* Stromlo Forest
* trails behind Chapman and Duffy and adjacent to Warragamba Avenue and Dixon Drive at Duffy and Holder
* foothills of Mt Taylor
* trails on the fringes of the urban development
* Kambah playing fields
Runners need a diet high in complex carbohydrates to run well, because these supply the fuel for energy to the muscles.
Eat a balanced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and cereals, protein foods and dairy products, making sure that there is a high intake of the complex carbohydrates - the fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and cereals, rice and pasta. There is no need to take vitamin and mineral supplements if the runner is eating plenty of fruit and vegetables unless a doctor diagnoses a deficiency such as low iron levels.
Before racing on a Saturday morning, it is best to eat a light breakfast of fruit juice and cereal or toast with jam. Don't eat any fatty foods such as bacon or fried eggs, or a heavy meal such as steak and eggs.
Many runners also experience stomach problems or feel sick if they eat or drink any dairy products such as milk or yoghurt during the last few hours before racing. If this occurs, then avoid milk or milk products before running and eat light carbohydrates such as toast and jam, a muffin, a banana or a few biscuits, and drink water or cordial. However it is very important for bone growth that dairy products are a part of the diet. If allergic to dairy products, then other foods high in calcium should be eaten. These include soya bean products, other beans, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli.
Scientists have discovered that recovery from exercise sessions occurs more quickly if the runner ingests some carbohydrate within half an hour of exercising, either by drinking a high carbohydrate drink such as fruit juice, and/or by eating some fruit or other carbohydrate. On hot days, or after longer runs, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to replenish body fluids lost through perspiration.
10. JUST FOR THE GIRLS
Surveys have shown in the past that many girls at school are so concerned about their weight that they are on a diet to some degree. Girls and women often take up jogging in order to lose weight.
But what happens when you begin to run regularly? Body fat is burned up and, over a long period of time, is reduced from 20 to 30 per cent body weight to as little as 12 per cent. Flabby, weak muscles become stronger and more and more trim and taut. They do not become bigger apart from the normal growth that occurs through the teens.
As fat is burned up and your muscles become firmer and lose their flabbiness, you often actually put on weight - because muscle weighs more than fat. Many girls and women become upset about this and either give up running altogether or go on a diet.
So when you start running regularly, don't bother looking at scales and above all don't worry if your weight does go up a bit. You may not notice it yourself, but your friends will tell you that you are beginning to look in better shape.
Do not diet while running. Not only are you burning up more kilojoules by exercise but you are also growing and your body has to have enough food to cope with both needs. If you do not give it enough food, this is what happens:
i. you run down the stored sugar reserves in your muscles (these are called "glycogen").
ii. you will feel very tired, your legs will feel very heavy when you try to run, and you will not enjoy your running at all.
iii. your body will lose a lot of fluid because glycogen helps store water in the muscles and without the glycogen, this water will not be retained. This causes a loss in body weight of up to 5 kgs. However a soon as you start eating normally again this weight will go straight back on.
iv. your body will begin to feed not just on fat but on muscle tissue as well. Excessive weight loss from slimming too much can even cause death. Long before this though, going on a diet while running will usually result in you catching a bad cold or the flu because when your body is weak it is much more susceptible to viruses. The best foods for runners are fresh fruits and vegetables and cereals, and you should include plenty of these in your diet because they are broken down to the glycogen stored in your muscles. Avoid chocolate, cake and biscuits, lollies and other highly processed sweet foods because they are the foods which can lead to you gaining extra fat in the wrong places.
A common problem for girls and women from the early teens onwards is a deficiency in iron. This mean that your red blood cells will not be carrying as much oxygen as normal to the muscles and you will feel tired when running. Include iron-rich foods such as meat, liver, raisins and dark green vegetables in your diet. An iron supplement may be required.
It can be dangerous for girls to run alone in many of the parkland and forest areas of Canberra. This is where running with some friends is advisable. You can run with a group from school, run with a brother or father, or join a group training with an athletic club.
11. COMPETITION OPPORTUNITIES
A. Track running
School track carnivals and pre-season grass track athletics meets begin in September and competitions at the AIS Athletics Field start in October and go through to March.
The ACT High Schools Track and Field Championships are held in mid-November and Australian All Schools Track and Field Championships for Under 15, Under 17 and Under 19 age groups in mid-December. In late March, Australian Junior Track and Field Championships are held for the Under 14, Under 16 and Under 18 age groups.
Running middle distance races, sprint events and relays on the AIS track is quite exciting because you are also able to see a number of international stars compete in senior events each week.
If you run on the track during the summer, then you will be able to run much better in your cross country races in the winter. Similarly, runners who regularly run cross country in winter are able to go much better in track competition.
To run on the track, you have to join a club. If you are 12 years of age or over, then you should join a senior athletics for races at the AIS track in Bruce. If you are under 12 years of age, there are several little athletics centres which you can join.
Clubs provide training groups, coaching information, social activities and regular competition. You don't have to be a top athlete to join, just someone who enjoys running.
What clubs offer you essentially are the services you need to get the most enjoyment out of your running. In fact you miss out on a great deal if you do not belong to a club or group. A great deal of the fun you get from running is in sharing your experiences with other runners-being able to talk about the runs you have just done, the ones coming up, how each person's training is going, who is going to win the Olympic marathon and all sorts of other things about running and about life in general.
B. Fun Runs
There are many fun runs in Canberra and the local area during the year. These include:
ACT Athletics 4km fun run at each track and field interclub meet from October to February
January - Thredbo Round the Village 6 kms, Thredbo
April -Women and Girls Fun Run; Marathon Eve 5kms and 10kms
September - Canberra Times 10kms; Rye Park 8kms
October - Belconnen Community Fun Run, 8kms
November - Weston Creek 7kms
C. ACT Cross Country Club runs
From March through to September the ACT Cross Country Club has weekly races in Stromlo Forest and other places throughout Canberra. There is usually a short race of 3 to 5kms at 1.15pm on Saturday followed by a long race of 6 to 16kms at 2pm. There are also ACT Championships conducted by the club on behalf of the ACT Athletics Association. The Cross Country Championships have events for U14, U16, U18, U20 and open age groups. These are publicised in the Canberra Times, and the Canberra Runner magazine.
D. Schools Cross Country
Saturday morning schools cross country is offered for 5 year olds through to 18 year olds and parents at 9am from the first Saturday after Easter through to mid-August each year at three venues:
¥ McDermott Place, Lake Ginninderra
¥ Fadden Pines, Gowrie
¥ Stromlo Forest, cnr. Cotter and Uriarra Roads
E. Other runs
Once you leave school, there are weekly handicap runs at Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Ginninderra and Woden Offices organised by runners from various government departments.
Another popular past-time for runners in Canberra is orienteering and there are several clubs available with regular competition provided.
Major cross country competitions conducted by the ACT Secondary School Sports Association are:
May/June - Woden and Belconnen Zone Championships
July - ACT Championships, Yarralumla Woolshed
In mid-August national schools cross country championships are held in the Under 15, Under 17 and Under 20 Age groups, while early in September national Under 18, Under 20 and Open cross country championships are held.
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