Runners are a special group of people. They're focused, motivated and put together a little differently from other people. They don't mind hard work and working toward goals that are well into the future.
Beyond putting in the work, it's important to understand what is needed to support their healthy progression in this sport.
EQUIPMENT & GEAR
Team logo shirts and competition uniforms (singlets and shorts) will be available for purchase for all athletes through our uniform supplier. Uniform ordering information will be distributed at the beginning of the season.
Athletes need to wear good quality shoes designed for running. They have sturdy heel counters, good mid-sole cushioning, forefoot flexibility and correct sizing.
Spikes, Racing Flats, XC Flats
Many of our runners have a special lightweight shoe that they use only for running races. Specially designed shoes will help you perform better.
Wear clothing that is light and flexible. Stay away from all cotton. Come to practice with a sweatshirt and/or sweatpants for the end of the workout.
Water and Recovery Drink
Runners should always come to practice with water. And a good recovery drink for the end of the workout is desirable. Chocolate milk is a favorite.
During the XC season, we start loosing daylight quickly. We always have an adult runner in the front and back of the group but we HIGHLY recommend reflective gear for keeping the kids safe.
Insure that your runner is getting 600 units of Vitamin D and 1300mg of Calcium daily in his(her) diet and/or supplements. Achieving these targets will likely require supplements.
If your runner has any of the risks for iron deficiency or has started their menstrual cycle, start a once daily (women's) vitamin with iron. Get their ferritin checked annually.
Check their height and weight at home at least every other month. Discuss any rapid growth or weight loss with their coach. Weight loss in youth runners is always a concern that needs to be addressed.
Medical evidence has become more and more clear that most runners do not get enough Vitamin D and Calcium in their diets for maximal bone health. In youth this leads to less bone deposition and a higher risk of injury especially stress fractures.
These effects have significant carry over into adulthood, especially for peri-pubescent girls. To be clear: your runner's future bone health and lifelong risk of osteoporosis, hip and spine fractures is determined by the bone they are building today. The recommended "dose" of Vitamin D is 600 units daily.
Additionally starting menstruation late and/or any missed menstrual cycles are big risks for current stress fractures and osteoporosis in the future and need to be taken seriously and discussed with their doctor and/or coach. Careful attention to adequate nutrition (weight loss is always a concern in youth runners) and adequate recovery (sleep, stress reduction, nutrition again) need to be given to these.
A second big risk to runners is iron deficiency. Iron is involved in nearly all of the oxygen transporting and utilization reactions from the lungs to the muscles and mitochondria. Without adequate iron stores we can't utilize oxygen fully, our adaptation to hard training is incomplete or absent. Without enough iron we're not getting the benefits of training. Iron stores should be checked annually in most runners and twice per year in anyone with risks for low iron.
Doctors need to check a ferritin level which reflects total body iron stores. A normal hemoglobin and hematocrit is not enough to insure proper iron stores for a runner (and many doctors don't know this). Runners lose iron through sweat and possibly through "foot strike hemolysis" (we smash red blood cells with our feet). Low iron is especially more likely in:
Vegetarians or those who eat limited meat products
During times of rapid growth where our intake can't match the body's demand for more
After menstruation starts when there are significant additional losses.
Unless a youth runner is significantly overweight when they begin a running program any weight loss raises big concerns for:
Inadequate nutrition--their bodies may not be able to recover from the stress of running and adapt to training. They may not have the energy they need to train.
Eating disorders--unfortunately common in both female and male runners, eating disorders are a serious medical problem with long term life consequences. They need to be addressed by medical professionals specializing in their treatment. They can be life threatening.
Please spend a few minutes to think these three big issues through and take action for your child's benefit and safety. Based on the best medical evidence most of our runners should be on Vitamin D, Calcium and Iron supplements. We should monitor their weight and growth regularly at home.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
There are a lot of things you can do to become a better runner. Running is obviously critical but you'll improve faster if you take care the "little things." These include:
Be consistent coming to practice and don't be afraid to push yourself! Come to practice hydrated and fueled up!
Focus on doing your dynamics and stretches well. Doing them well instead of just going through the motions makes a difference in your strength and running efficiency. You'll run faster and more comfortably.
If you have an injury ice, stretch and use the foam roller as you've been instructed. You've got to be regular here. Make sure your shoes aren't worn out. Communicate with your coaches--we need to adjust your workouts and may be able to give additional tips and exercises to help you recover! It's better to cut back a little now to head off an injury than cut back a lot later when you're really injured.
Get good nights of sleep regularly. Sleep is when our bodies respond to the stress of training and become stronger. Don't undo all of your hard work by staying up late and skipping sleep!
Eat well! If training is planting the seed and sleep is when the plants grow, food is the critical fertilizer that supports growth. Food is your fuel and the building blocks of the stronger and faster bodies we're building. Eat a little before practice and a good meal after practice to help with recovery. Stay hydrated--especially before and after practice.
Give your coaches feedback! We need to know your goals and how you're feeling to adjust a workout or a season plan.
Keep a positive attitude! Believe in yourself and your abilities. Take a long term perspective on your running. Race results should not influence your view of who you are as a person.