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XC Project Training Programs

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Program Details

by Fred Doyle

What do we cover besides Running?

  • We include work with Hurdle Mobility, Kettlebells, Medicine Balls, Mini Bands and Plyometrics.

  • Additional information on race strategy, injury treatment and prevention, and good form running.

  • Usually 2-3 different activities are offered each day.

  • Variety of running workouts include pace selection (conversational, tempo and workout), whistle drill, hill running efficiency both uphill and downhill, circuit training, strides and glides, and progression runs.

Select each section below to learn about some of the supplemental conditioning work we do at the MVS XC program.

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Hurdle Mobility
Hurdle Mobility
To increase flexibility, balance, coordination, and agility, we incorporate various hurdle drills we refer to as Hurdle Mobility exercises.

These exercises help strengthen muscles in the hips, and increase mobility in the abductor and adductor muscle groups. They also help develop fluid movement in the hips, and help strengthen the muscles in the core and lower body.

By using a group of 10-15 exercises, you can stimulate the muscular system in a different way, allow for greater hip rotation, and loosen up the muscles in the lower back. This helps you become a smoother and more efficient runner. Track & Field and XC athletes have been implementing these exercises into their workout routine for the past 15 years.

Along with varying the exercises, additional stimulus can be provided by varying the exercise routine, adding more hurdles, and also by raising the hurdle height to the next level. To track progression, you can count the number of exercises and repetitions for each workout (for example, 12 exercises x 6 hurdles = 72). Begin with 2 days/week and increase to 3 to 4 during the year. These should be done year round.

These exercises can be done as a warm-up, warm down, or included in the actual workout. Nike Oregon Project runners will do a 15-20 minute session after a race to promote recovery and reduce muscle tightness and imbalances. By constantly changing up the routine you can challenge the system and avoid plateauing.

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Kettle Bells
Kettle Bells
The addition of kettlebell training to the runner's list of supplemental exercises has proven to be very beneficial. Kettlebells look like a cannonball with a handle attached and come in a variety of weights. They are easily transported, which makes them ideal for taking outdoors to wherever your team is training. They are great for circuit training, or incorporating as a stand alone exercise activity to assist in the development of core strength.

Kettlebells arrived in the US in the late 1990s. Pioneered here by Pavel Tsatsouline, nicknamed the Soviet Superman, who taught strength training to Russian KGB agents and special forces for the Russian military. Pavel proclaimed that kettlebell exercises allow for greater gains in muscle coordination and kinesthetic awareness. Using movements that incorporate lifting, pulling, pushing and reaching, he observed that more muscles and joints were involved in each kettlebell movement, including the "stabilizer" muscles in the core, hips and posterior chain. The dynamic and ballistic nature of the kettlebell exercises help build better balance, muscular endurance and general strength, and also help correct imbalances incurred during the repetitive movements in distance running. 

Track and XC coaches started using kettlebell training about 10 years ago. Originally they introduced this new training method to break up the monotony and lack of weight training facilities, but they quickly discovered that there were significant gains being made by their athletes in both core and muscular strength. This new training also triggered responses to different parts of the central nervous system, which also resulted in performance improvements. Other benefits showed gains in foot strength, and reduced injuries by working the smaller muscles and tendons, as well as a greater range of motion in the metatarsals. This helped improve running efficiency, and also decreased days lost in training due to injury. Strengthening the feet also gives a more powerful toe off resulting in faster times.

We integrate kettlebell workouts at least two times each week. The Kettlebell Swing is the foundation of the workout, and stimulates a variety of muscle groups. The number os Kettlebell Swings is one unit we use in measuring our workouts. Typically we begin each season with a baseline of 30 Kettlebell Swings/workout, and we progress by 5-10 each workout depending on the athlete's strength and ability. The movement required in the swings really stimulates the muscles used in the rotation of the spine, and promotes better muscle and joint mobility. It is also the Go To exercise for fat burning and for building healthier, fitter and ultimately faster runners. Over the course of a training month we may try to incorporate 10 kettlebell sessions, and in the immortal words of Pavel Tsatsouline "Repeat until Strong."

Sample Kettlebell Exercises
► Swings
► Deadlift to Press
► Side Plank & Press
► Torso Rotations
► Lunge & Press
► Squats
► Upright Row
► Farmers Walk
► Russian Twists
► Windmill

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Medicine Balls
Medicine Balls
While working at Nike I attended many of the Oregon Project gym workouts. Along with training at least 110 miles/week, the NOP athletes would spend another 2 hours doing supplemental gym-based activities designed to keep them healthier, stronger and more efficient. Along with observing the athletes in action, I was very fortunate that the coaches would share the content of their programs with me.

Medicine Ball workouts were a key component of their program. Well known strength coaches were brought in to supervise specific running-based workouts for the group.

The program consisted of full body movements to build core strength, flexibility, and improve their balance and coordination. The dynamic movements, with the additional weight and resistance of the Medicine Ball, helps improve the range of motion and reduce muscle imbalances created from the repetitive motion of rigorous distance training.

We feel that Medicine Balls in the 6-10 pound range work well for the high school and college distance runner. The weight is dependent on the size and strength of the individual athlete. For best results we like to vary the different exercises, and use "muscle confusion", so the body is continually challenged with different exercises and routines.

Favorite Medicine Ball exercises include various throws, jumps, squats, partner exercises and we have recently added a single leg balance component to strengthen the core, add power and improve balance of each athlete. This develops fitter, faster, stronger and healthier runners.

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Mini Bands are 2" wide elastic bands that can stretch to about twice their length. The MB helps with injury prevention by developing and increasing mobility, flexibility, and strengthening the smaller muscle groups and connectors. They also help with balance, coordination, and stability. By increasing the rotational balance and agility, the runners develop more fluid movements and are less susceptible to injury.

Exercises are done with the bands placed around the feet, ankles or slightly above the knees. All of these are done targeting specific muscle groups or areas needing additional strength or flexibility. Distance runners in particular need to stay ahead of imbalances in the hip flexors due to the repetitive motion of running. All runners should have their own Mini Band to use for injury prevention. They are great for travelers, and for your easy training days.

Recommended to use at least 3-4 days, but for higher mileage and injury prone runners more frequent usage would be better.

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Plyometrics are quick, powerful movements designed to increase muscular power and help develop the ability to change gears and improve the athletes finishing kick.

Many coaches feel that these help to groove your stride and provide more pop (power) when you push off. Many of these exercises are done with a cocked (flexed) foot, and trains the foot to explode more during the take/push off phase of the gait cycle. 

These can be used as a warm-up before races or hard workouts, since they get the muscles stimulated and the circulatory system flowing. They also aid in the development of core strength. Coach John Cook always referred to this development when he said his athletes really pop in their workouts or races.

Exercises such as bounding, hopping, jumping, planks with movement incorporated into them, and dynamic lunges are all excellent plyometric exercises to improve power and the ability to lift during the critical point in a race. Incorporating hurdles, mini hurdles, ropes and plyometric boxes also provides variety and different stimuli to strengthen gluteus muscles, hips, lower back and leg muscles for optimal performance.

Performing plyometric exercises 2-3 times each week is optimal. Our goal is to have the athletes perform 10-12 exercises/session and vary the exercises for each workout.