Running exercises are going to take a lot out of an athlete, especially when that athlete is a cross country runner. Cross country runners devote their lives to learning how to run over long distances and over many different kinds of terrains with ease. To be at the top of the field in cross country running you need to have perfect running technique as well as a lot of strength and elasticity in your muscles and a very large work ethic. The former tends to spring from the latter and for this reason every single successful cross country runner in history has been a person that has not been afraid of hard work. In general athletes really need to put their time in to be successful and in cross country running especially you really need to spend hours perfecting your technique. Keep in mind that cross country running is going to be over a long distance and every little mistake you make in your technique will add up until the end of the race where all of your mistakes will determine how far away you are from your best finishing time.
Cross country training is not generally practiced by people that run long distance races, such as in a marathon. The reason for this is that long distance races are still run over a long track or paved surface whereas cross country races are going to be over a diverse amount of terrain. This can end up being disadvantageous to train on because of the differences in the hardness of the ground and can actually serve to be detrimental to the technique of the long distance runner. Cross country running instead is used by people who run cross country races or additionally to add an cardiovascular exercise into their workout regimen. Some athletes simply detest machines like treadmills and for these athletes cross country training can be an excellent way for them to get the workout they need and enjoy doing it as well.
One of the biggest points regarding cross country technique is that the terrain is often softer and at times can also be slippery so to compensate for this the athlete must alter their stride to make it shorter or else risk skidding along when their foot hits a soft or wet patch and potentially injuring themselves. Because of the nature of the ground there is less elasticity in the collision between your foot and the ground and therefore this translates into the fact that you need a higher leg speed and therefore stronger leg muscles.
Another consideration the athlete needs to make in the transition from hard surface running to cross country running is the energy conservation principles. Collisions between the athlete’s foot and the ground in hard surface running are more elastic in nature and therefore more energy is conserved; the same does not hold true for cross country running. To make up for this the cross country runner needs to incorporate into their running technique a slightly more bent over stance at the knees as well as at the ankles and the angle at which the foot hits the ground. Basically this all serves to say that the athlete needs to work a lot harder to make each stride efficient in cross country running and this requires additional ability in both strength and endurance training for the lower part of the athlete’s body.
One final consideration that the cross country runner needs to make is altering their technique slightly away from optimal form in order to compensate for the terrain that they are crossing. During runs across hard surfaces the toes should always be pointing directly forward in the direction that the athlete is moving but during cross country running it may be prudent on very slippery surfaces to keep the toes pointed outwards very slightly. This serves to provide more stability and in some cases can be the difference between an athlete getting through their run without incident and an athlete taking a severe fall.