I was a strength coach at Columbus Academy about 12-15 years ago.  I was doing my darndest to get as many sports into the weight room as possible.  I just felt that each team could reap the benefits.

Not every sport head coach agreed.  Which isn’t too far-fetched.  Some coaches are old school and just don’t want to waste their time in the weight room when they could be spending time developing the skill of their sport.

Cross country typically is one of those sports.

There was one particular time when I did get the cross country team into the weight room.  I don’t know exactly what I said to the head coach to get him to agree to bring his team in there after practice, but he did.

And there they stood.  About 20 or so skinny boys and girls staring at this weight room like it was Neo and the Matrix.  Not exactly sure what they were doing in the room, who I was, and what these bars and things were for.

The team did one workout with me and I never saw them in the weight room again.  Not shocking, but do you really know a lot of high school cross country runners that lift weights and do plyometrics?


Every distance runner that I have worked with who has gone on to the collegiate level has been put on a strength and speed program.  In fact, their program doesn’t look too different from a sprinter’s workout program.  Just maybe less volume.

Cross country runners lift for the same reason any other athlete does – it makes them better at their sport.  The college runners lift and workout year round.  They have to.

You have cross country in the fall.  Then that leads right into indoor season relatively soon.  That rolls right into outdoor season.  There isn’t much downtime for these runners, but here are the biggest reasons they lift:

  • Because there isn’t much of an off-season, they need to lift to recover.  The stronger they are and the better in shape they are, the quicker they can bounce back from hard practices.

  • It makes them faster.  Not directly faster, but indirectly.  Meaning, they still have to do their running workouts, but the stronger and more powerful they are, the more efficient they are with each leg stride.  It doesn’t take as much to generate the same speed, thus they can go faster longer.  Make sense?  If not, throw me a question in the comment’s box.

  • Plyometrics and lifting help with the cross country runner’s burst, acceleration as they are sprinting towards the finish line, and help with power for uphill running.

Like I said, sprinters do a very similar workout, but maybe a little more volume and a little more direct emphasis for exploding out of the blocks.

The research is out there.  You would be a fool not to start encorporating strength work and plyometrics and even sprint work into your program.  Just because your coach didn’t do it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be good for you.

Times are a changing.  Get on that train and start getting some strength so that you can shave not just seconds, but minutes off of your time!

Photo courtesy of Steven Pisano on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenpisano/