(for detailed explanation of implementing the system, get your copy of Coach, Run, Win at


In this cross-country training system, each individual athlete is provided with appropriate paces, distances and numbers of repeats or intervals based on their own stage of development. That stage is determined by data collection usually adjusted weekly. The basic unit of comparison is time of effort in a workout

Example: an athlete doing 5x 1000 tempo intervals in 5 min each is doing 25 min of individual    appropriate work. It is basically EQUAL to an athlete doing 4×6 min or 7×3:30 minutes.

Rationale for grouping

To have athletes of varying physical abilities and development do the same exact paces and same number of intervals or repeats is very detrimental to EVERYONE. It could be too slow for top runners or way too fast or too long for slower runners. In another article on this site, I will detail how to assign individuals to groups based on my adaptation of the VDOT system used by Dr. Jack Daniels

PHASES OF TRAINING in Cross Country Training System

There are four phases in this cross-country training system. Each has different emphasis with certain workouts taking prominence over others during each phase. As a result, some workouts will be featured in several of the phases.

  1. Base Phase- emphasis on long runs and mileage buildup- 8 weeks- The purpose is to build more mitochondria cells that transport oxygen and blood to muscles.  More miles and long runs result in more of this energy transport system
  1. Strength Phase- Tempo and hill work with the beginnings of some speed development -6 weeks-The long run becomes secondary though still used. The purpose is to increase the Anaerobic or Lactate Threshold which is the speed and effort at which you are just on the edge of being out of breath. This is the most crucial workout for the 3 mile /5k distance but it is built on top of the long run and mileage buildup.
  1. Speed work- race pace and under race pace speed work like repeat 800’s or 400’s- 5 weeks – The purpose is to increase ability to sustain race pace speed. The long run is reduced to medium long run.

4. Peaking and Tapering-2-3 weeks of decrease in mileage with increase in intensity. The purpose is to                maximize the ability to race and recover during championship season.


  1. Long runs and Recovery Runs -talking or aerobic paces-1:30 to 2 min over 3-mile race pace 65-75% of Max. These lead to more endurance
  2. Tempo runs-typically 1000’s at 82-87% of Max about 24-30 sec slower than 3-mile race pace. Tempo 1000’s is done with short rests of 1-1:30 to prevent full recovery. This leads to more stamina
  3. Speed Development-flying 40’s and Speed Ladder, trains form, muscles to running and racing under race pace without taxing Aerobic system. Done at 92-100% of Max at 400–1600-meter race paces
  1. Traditional Race Pace repeats of intervals—ex 6×800, 10×400- done at 3-mile race or just under pace with equal to more rest to allow near full or full recovery. This will lead to faster racing times. See the following table for distance, time and pace


  1. In Base phase virtually 100% is at Aerobic pace
  2. In Strength phase 80-85 % of miles is aerobic, 8-10% is Tempo, 2-3% is speed development. Example: for 35 mile a week runner 28-30 is aerobic 1-2 is speed development and 2-4 is Tempo
  3. In Speed phase Speed is 10-15%, Speed Development 2-3% Tempo 2-3% Aerobic 70-75%
  4. In Peaking and Tapering 65-70% aerobic 15-20% speed 4-6 % speed development

Designing Workout Plans to Develop Each Individuals Capabilities in the Cross-Country Training System

  1. Collect data on each athlete from early summer distance and long runs, find average per mile pace
  2. Use the VDOT chart called “training paces on one page” (adapted from Dr. Jack Daniels, Running Formula) assign VDOT number to athlete
  3. Use the VDOT number to give range of pace for each workout
  4. Record details of workouts for each athlete to monitor and adjust assigned VDOT and paces frequently
  5. The result is that everyone does the workout that maximizes their individual development and success
  6. Additional resources Pre-Summer Workouts

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