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A message from the Booster Club President

Posted Friday, September 17, 2010 by Jeff Stuart

What Can Cross Country Parents Do?

     Parents are an important part of a runner’s success.  We get them to practice, to meets, to the store to buy them their shoes.  We feed them, we nag them to get plenty of rest, and we sympathize with them about the coach’s hard practices.  But, most importantly, we love them and encourage them no matter how they perform.  Our support must be unconditional and unwavering because as teens they put so much pressure on themselves. I can suggest six things you can do to help your runner’s performance improve.


1)      Equipment:  Find the right shoes (and socks, and underwear, and blister band-aids and towels).  Stores like Big Peach Running Co. specialize in fitting your runner with the right shoes.  Their machines can evaluate your child’s foot strike and recommend both training and racing shoes for them in a matter of minutes.  Asking older runners which socks (or for girls, running bras) they use is also a good idea.  Getting your runner a duffel bag for their spikes, band-aids, poison ivy cream, extra socks, fresh shirt and towel will keep them prepared for most meets. Helping them anticipate problems will keep them from panicking right before the start of races.


2)      Nutrition:  Be prepared for your new runner to not be able to eat full meals. Most runners eat five small meals a day, with lots of fruits, vegetables, pasta, fish and salads.  Runners CAN eat anything they want.  The old saying is, “If the fire is hot enough, everything burns.”  But, that doesn’t mean they should eat anything. Steaks, burgers and proteins are fine, though I don’t recommend them the night before a race.  Stay away from sodas and carbonated beverages, french fries, candy and fried food, especially during the season.  Sports beans and protein bars are okay, but they are not substitutes for meals.  Runners should NOT try to cut weight when running.  They should eat what their body tells them it needs.  If they want to lose more weight, do more miles.


3)      Hydration:  They need to drink a lot of water, all the time, even on weekends.  Drink water during school if the teachers allow it.  Sports drinks are good.  Energy drinks are okay, but not too often, and never before a race.  Sugars and caffeine give you a surge of energy, but you can “bonk” in a race, which means bottoming out when the surge wears off.  My son has suddenly fixated on chocolate milk as his reward for a good workout.  Water is still the best.


4)      Stretching:  Try to get your runner to stretch when they get up in the morning.  Five minutes will really help A LOT.  Muscles and tendons have been tightening all night during sleep.  Any time is a good time to stretch, but especially on weekends if they are not running.  Encourage them to take a break from running and cross train instead.  Tennis, biking, swimming are all great.  Light weight lifting is okay, too.  I recommend family trail walking in the woods.

5)      Goal Setting:  Watch your runner’s progress.  Praise them for every little and big gain.  Show them you enjoy watching them compete against themselves and the clock.  Ask them what the coach wants their times to be and what they think they are capable of.  Steady progress lowering their times is more important than one great race followed by three slow races.  Encourage them to write down or graph their progress as a reminder to look at every day.  Running is as much mental effort as physical effort.  Focusing on goals takes their mind off the temporary pain of racing that last mile.  Give them twenty minutes after a race before you discuss how their performance.  Praise the effort before criticizing the results.


6)      Motivational Tools:  There are a few great books about running.  I would recommend them for runners who have been running for more than two years and are above fifteen years old.  They speak to running as a lifestyle and a lifelong attitude.  They are more for finding that edge to compete to win races against individuals.  Once a Runner by Jon L Parker is my favorite to understand what college age runners go through.  I recommend Runner’s World magazine, Track & Field magazine, and talking to all kinds of runners in the neighborhood for inspiration.  For movies, I recommend The Billy Mills Story, Miracle- the US Hockey team story, Hoosiers- the Basketball High School story, and Breaking Away- the college bike race story.  All family friendly, all about average people who inspire themselves to be better.  Runners have to find the spark inside themselves at the end of a race to win.  They have to learn to Run Without Fear.  But, we can prepare them as much as possible before they get on the starting line.




Jeff Stuart

Hillgrove CC Booster President

September 15, 2010


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