At some time in their primary school career, your child will be expected to enter their school cross country. It can be a traumatic event for some kids, whilst others can’t wait till they’re old enough to get amongst it!
Make sure the experience is a great one for your kids, which will leave them wanting to do more. Use these tips on how to prepare for your school cross country.
Start to talk to them about the cross country in very general terms. Simply looking over the school calendar for the term and happening to notice when the cross country is on, is enough just to plant the seed initially.
Do some exercise yourself. Make exercise just something that your family does, not a big deal
Get your child familiar with the course of their school cross country. If you don’t know where they run, ask the school, or ask us. We know a lot of the courses used by local schools. Walk over the course with your child so that they know what to expect.
If you can’t go over the actual course, get your child to at least walk over the distance of the race. Don’t say something like, “it’s like running from here to the shops and back”. That can seem an awfully long way to kids. Much better to travel over the distance on foot with them.
If they are happy to do some training, go for a run with them, or get them running with friends. Try to get them to run slowly with you. Most kids will take off at the rate of knots and be puffed out after a couple of hundred metres. You don’t want this to happen on the day of the event. They will definitely go too fast at the start of their school cross country if they don’t practice running slowly before hand. Try to teach them ‘Jogging’ pace, or ‘No Puffing’ pace. They’ll still go too hard, but it should pull them back a bit.
Practice racing. Nothing makes you better at something than practice. Even if they don’t practice in a formal situation, get them racing against you or against their brothers and sisters, or friends. Remind them to slow down at the start so they have enough puff left at the end.
Whilst your child will feel great about themselves if they run the whole distance without stopping, try not to let them get so worked up about the event that they see themselves as a failure if they don’t make the distance.
Prepare them for what to do if they do feel too puffed to continue. Walking for even 20 metres can be just enough time to recover and pick up to a jogging pace again. Make sure they know this is ok.
Some kids take naturally to distance running, and absolutely love it from the start. If your kid’s one of those, here’s a few tips.
Go in fun runs with them
Time them doing laps around the local oval
Emphasise the fun aspect of running
Let them decide how much running they want to do. Don’t force them to train if they don’t want to, but do use gentle reminders and encouragement.
Practice cross country racing, even if in an informal setting.
Do some running with them, or organise for them to train with friends
Encourage your child not to be too outcome focused. Placing well in a cross country race is awesome, and your child should be proud of themselves. Remember to acknowledge the effort as well as the achievement though. At some point, every child, no matter how good they are, will be beaten, and if it’s been all about performance from the start, it can be terribly deflating, especially for those who are a bit fragile. Looking in the mirror and honestly being able to say you’ve done your best can go a long way to easing the disappointment
Awesome Kids Running Training Groups run on weekday afternoons on Sydney’s North Shore and Northern Beaches. Find out more
Cross Country Races run on Sundays in February and March. More info
Imagine if you could exercise for only 4 minutes, and receive the same health benefits as you would from spending hours in the gym, on a bike, running, swimming, jumping….Every few months there seems to be another headline promising health benefits from very short periods of exercise, so what’s it all about?
The exercise protocol is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), where you do short bursts of very intense exercise from anywhere between 1 and 4 times a week. HIIT increases insulin sensitivity and VO2 max (an indicator of cardiovascular health), and it really doesn’t take much time to do it at all. With HIIT your cardiovascular health will be better, your insulin sensitivity will improve reducing the risk of diabetes, so you’re likely to live longer.
Is it just me, or is there something weird about wanting to improve your health to live longer, so that you can sit around on your bum doing nothing?
Before we look at HIIT more closely, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of exercise.
Improve your mental health by reducing anxiety and alleviating depression
Improve your balance (important as you age, if you can stay upright, you’re far less likely to facture a hip!)
Improve or maintain bone strength (after a certain age, you stop laying down bone, but exercising can help you keep more of what you have)
Improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes
Improve your posture
Improve the range of movement of your joints, keeping you supple
Improve your musculo-skeletal strength
Improve you VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen you can take up in a minute, considered to be a good indicator of cardiovascular health
Satisfy a need for making and achieving goals
Improve self esteem
Be an outlet for letting off steam in a socially acceptable manner
Satisfy our desire for competition
Increase insulin sensitivity
Make you more able to perform your daily tasks such as hanging out the washing and carrying the shopping
The list is looking pretty long, and it’s certainly not exhaustive. Any three minute exercise regime which can cover all that lot has got to be something pretty special!
High Intensity Interval Training Protocols
HIIT is nothing new, however recent research on this type of exercise is showing some very interesting results, namely, it can improve cardiovascular fitness and increase insulin sensitivity more than some other forms of exercise can.
The Tabata Method
Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata observed the Japanese speed skating team in the early nineties, and noticed that short bursts of brutally hard exercise seemed to be at least as effective as hours of moderate training.
Having spent some time myself in a sport which required this type of training, I certainly agree it was the shorter, harder interval training we did in the latter part of our season, which really sharpened our fitness, and cut down our body fat. We looked forward each year to reaping the benefits of this kind of training, but we didn’t relish having to leave our hearts in the bottom of a surfboat!
There’s no way we could have done this type of training without doing a lot of work to get our bodies ready to handle this. It was the long, less intense rows over winter which allowed us to do the high intensity interval training. Without the build up, the risk of injury would have been too high. Nor could we have had the boat moving as fast. You simply can’t develop efficiency in a sport (including running and speed skating) without spending a fair amount of time focusing on how you do it. So HIIT is great, but as a stand alone training regime, I don’t think it stacks up.
The experiment Tabata conducted took a group of moderately trained students who performed and hour of steady cardiovascular exercise on a stationary bike five times a week. Another group did a 10 minute warm up on the bike and followed with 4 minutes of 20 secs of really hard cycling and 10 seconds rest, four times a week, plus one 30 minute session of steady exercise with two minute intervals.
The results showed large differences in the anaerobic capacity and VO2 max of the two groups. (VO2 max is considered to be an indicator of cardiovascular health) The high intensity group increased their anaerobic capacity by 28%, and their VO2 max by 15%, whilst the control group, who trained for 5 hours each week improved their VO2 max by only 10%, and saw no increase in their anaerobic capacity.
The thing is, you wouldn’t actually expect the steady state group to improve their VO2 max much as they weren’t doing VO2 max specific training, nor training aimed at increasing their anaerobic capacity. It would have been interesting to compare the HIT group with a group who were doing traditional VO2 max training rather than an hour of slower paced riding.
Michael Mosley’s “The Truth About Exercise”
You may have seen the BBC documentary, “The Truth About Exercise”, which had presenter Michael Mosley doing one exercise session a week, within which he did 3 bouts of “all out, leave nothing in the tank” pedalling on a stationary bike for 20 secs, followed by a couple of mins recovery. Add to this, a warm up and a cool down. You can see a good description of the experiment here.
The most interesting result of Mosley’s training was that it greatly increased his insulin sensitivity. Another point made by the program was that his VO2 max, did not improve at all. The researchers said they could predict that as his genes showed that no matter how much exercise he did his “aerobic exercise was unlikely to improve to the same extent as someone whose genes resemble those of an Olympic gold medalist” (you’re kidding me).
Again, you wouldn’t expect this type of training to improve his VO2 max. I’d like to see them put Mosley through a program of specific VO2 max training, and see if he would respond.
So are the claims in the popular media too good to be true?
In a word, YES.
For a start, it’s not just four minutes of exercise, or three minutes, or whatever protocol it is that you’re following. You definitely need to spend some time warming up and cooling down and stretching, so your four minutes will stretch out to 15 -20 minutes pretty quickly.
For this type of exercise to be as effective as the research would suggest, you need to go hard, I mean really hard. Even though your total high intensity time is less than three minutes, it’s going to hurt, and a lot of people simply aren’t up for that. I could see myself doing it again if I was competing at a high level in a sport, but I’m not sure I’d like to do it again just for the fun of it.
You risk injury if you go hard at this type of training too soon. For maximum benefit you need to do some longer less intense stuff to build your body to a point where you can go very very hard.
You will get some benefits from HIIT by performing a less intense protocol such as that which Michael Mosley followed, and that has to be a good thing .
So what is the best type of exercise?
The best type of exercise is the exercise you will do, and I guess that’s what a lot of the hype surrounding HIT is about. From the point of view of public health, if people are attracted to exercising because they know that about 10 minutes a week can dramatically improve some aspects of their health, then that’s a good thing. If the alternative is sitting on a couch, for that ten minutes, then HIT is better than nothing. I just don’t get why you’d want to do that.
It gets back to finding something that you like. Could we start from the premise that people will like exercising, if only they find something they like, rather than assuming people don’t like to exercise? (and just quietly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that someone who leads a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t particularly like high intensity interval training, whether it be for four mins or four seconds-it’s not for everyone)
I love intense interval training, (though not extreme interval training any more) and I think that most people should be including some kind of more intense interval training in their overall weekly exercise program, but that won’t have you covered for all aspects of your fitness.
If you like to get out and run on your own to clear your head, do it.
If you like to swim, swim.
If you like to work out with other people, join a group.
If you’re training for a particular event and want to get the best out of your body, include a variety of different training methods, including interval training. Research the best types of training to achieve the results you want, or ask an expert.
Try something new, dancing, walking –and once a week find a hill and really go hard up and down it five or six times-, pole dancing, take up surfing. Think about the sorts of exercise you did as a kid. Find something that has similar aspects to the exercise you liked doing then.
To me, exercise is about enjoyment. Enjoying the process, the journey, not just the outcome. So, I’ll stick to my long slow runs, my long runs with a kick thrown in at the end, my resistance training, my high intensity training, my tempo runs.
No, I DON’T enjoy each and every bit of exercise I do, but I never fail to like how it makes me feel afterwards. How about you?
There’s a lot to be said for running mindlessly. There are times when you want to be able to put your shoes on, get out the door and just run, without having to think about anything in particular. There’s definitely a place for mindless running in your training program.
I had a mindless run the other morning. Didn’t really want to do it, but I knew twenty minutes wasn’t going to kill me, so I laced up the running shoes. It certainly wasn’t the day to be thinking about and experimenting with form though. It was a day to just let thoughts float in and out of my head, until I got into a space where my mind was clear. And that’s exactly how it went. After 18 minutes, I forgot how much I didn’t want to do it and started enjoying my run. So, I got a whole two minutes of enjoyment, but a whole day’s satisfaction for having done it, and a far more productive day to boot.
But….. if this is the way you run all the time, you’re missing out on the opportunity to maximise your training time. Whether your goal is to run faster, run further, run injury free, or some combination of those, you can’t spend all your time in la-la land and hope to improve to your full potential.
Tips For Running Mindfully
Pick one thing about your running which you would like to improve – it might be running up hill or running down hill, it might be trying not to overstride, it might be running at an even pace for your whole run, negative splitting your run, running at a very slow pace over a longer distance. There are heaps of things you can pick to concentrate on, but make sure you choose only one for that run, and be sure on what you want to achieve. Work on that one thing for a few weeks, until you feel you’ve nailed it.
Be patient. You’re not going to change your running overnight, but with frequent attention to detail, it will happen.
Experiment a little. Drawing on the knowledge and experience of others is a great starting point, but you need to work from this starting point to develop a technique that suits you. Only you can know what it feels like to be running in your shoes. Yes, take my ideas on board (and those of others) but check it all out for yourself.
Focus for short periods of time during your run. Don’t try to think about what you’re doing every single stride, or you’ll be mentally fatigued by the end of it. The exception here is when you’re pace is the focus –either racing, time trialling, or being sure you’re running easy.
Try running without gadgets. Run on how you feel from time to time, and when you do use a gadget, for pacing for example, be mindful of how you feel at that pace. Make a note of that in your training diary, so you can compare different training runs. Your records will be far more meaningful if you can compare how you felt on your runs. You might run a 55 min 10 km in a training run and feel like you could go on forever, whereas you might do the same run 6 weeks later in the same time, but feel like you’ve been hit by a bus at the end of it. This can give much more info about the effectiveness of your training program than your times alone.
Throw mindless running into the mix. Don’t be hell bent on always fixing and improving. Take some time to just get out there and let your thoughts drift off. Afterall, part of why we run is for the sheer joy of movement, and the mental lift we get as a result.
I’d love to hear about the types of things you focus on when you’re running, or whether you do at all.