T Nation

Lifting Before XC Meet?


Been working with a kid who runs cross country for about a year now.

He started with Starting Strength, and when that stopped progressing very fast, we switched to a different 3x/week template using the 5/3/1 progression method. I actually used part of it from a template Wendler provided in one of his articles on here…something like a “Letter to My Younger Self” or something like that. So day 1 is squat and bench, day 2 is power clean and deadlift, and day 3 is front squat and press. I didn’t follow what he said exactly for assistance movements, but all assistance movements are bodyweight (chinups, back extensions, GHR’s, etc.)

Anyway, so he’s been lifting for about a year, and has been very consistent. About 3 days a week pretty much every week for almost a year. Doesn’t really experience any soreness or extreme fatigue, but is making size and strength gains which I believe says what he’s doign is working, at least for now.

He runs cross country in the fall, and track in the spring. This fall, our time to train together is going to be limited, due to my work schedule and his school/practice schedule, so we don’t have a whole lot of options as to when we meet. All summer long, he had practice 6 days a week, and would lift 3 of those 6 days, and never noticed a decrease in performance with running or lifting. The past 3 weeks, he’s been running twice a day 5 days a week, and lifting 3 out of the 5 running days as well. Still hasn’t noticed any dropopff in performance.

Just wondering what the verdict would be on continuing to lift when he has a meet during the season, which just started. He’d lift around 6am and then run several (like 4-10) hours later. He’s not an amazing runner in the first place, and doesn’t plan on it. (Not that he doesn’t work hard - there’s just some older guys who are really good.) So he’s not the kind of guy who’s expected to win or anything. It just seems like he’s built up a pretty high work capacity and hasn’t really been affected by much at this point.

What do you think? Would it be stupid to lift the day of a meet? Say even if it was just 2 main lifts, and no assistance work or anything unnecessary included?


Regardless of whether he is an amazing runner, I don’t know of any amazing runners or athletes in general that lift the day of a meet/run/event/game/match etc., and I think with a 3-days-a-week program it should be really easy to adjust his lifting schedule to avoid the morning of a meet.


I wasn’t competitive at all on my XC, and in retrospect, if I had access to a gym before school on a meet day, I’d lift.

If he values putting in gym time over a better time at a meet, that’s his call as an athlete.

A good option I’d suggest is to have him do a 2x a week split - Squat Bench on on day, and Deadlift OHP the other. But again, that would be his call as an athlete and yours as a trainer.

But because it seems like he values gym time over his time/placing in a meet, I’d say go for it. It’s better in the long run.


I was a pretty competitive XC runner (15:3x) who now lifts and I train my son who also runs XC. While your trainee may not feel like the lifting affects his ability to run it absolutely does. I think this is intuitive; a heavy work out the day of a meet (or even the day before) is going to tax your abilities to perform even if that work out is strictly upper body.

If I were his coach or team mates I’d be pissed. It doesn’t matter that he’s not going to win, XC is a sport where the team total is determined by the first 5 finishers from each team. Your trainee coming in 30th place instead of 25th because he’s not recovering properly can be the difference between the team going to state or not. Also, an injury can sideline him from what is already a relatively short season.

In my state, the first meet is in early September and State is the first weekend in November. Let him concentrate on his running now and pick back up in 2 months. That doesn’t mean he can’t lift at all, but focus on work that’s going to supplement his running, not compete with it. Keep his core and posterior chain strong without crushing it with BB squats and DLs.

Lower body:
Single leg DLs
Cossack squats
Glute bridges
Reverse hyper

Focus on core stability not endless flexion eg:
Stir the pot on a stability ball
Palloff Press
Ab wheel rollouts

Upper body:
Band pull aparts
Pull ups


I’m aware of how XC works - I ran it for a few years.

The school/team he runs for is very relaxed, and one of the least competitive teams I think you’d ever see. Nobody is getting very close to 1st place, and no one cares to.

Anyway, I like your idea - posterior chain and core work to keep him strong without the admittedly yes, draining, effects of squats and deadlifts.

What do you think of back extensions? Just noticed they weren’t on your list. And Cossack squats - I don’t do those besides for warmups occasionally - how would you program those? And how about pushups for the upper body? I like those for the added stability work. And “pulls/rows”…inverted rows? Anything else?

Thanks for the answer - sounds like you have experience and knowledge. What’s your son’s training looks like in-season, if you don’t mind?


I work full time (often in the evenings or at 4am) and he’s in school/practice from 8am-5pm, so it really does cut into our time together.


I agree with what everyone else says: lifting on the day of a meet is not a good choice. Also, you say he is not a great XC runner. Well, he’d be a lot better if he wasn’t lifting on the day of a race. It is also disrespectful to his coach and the team.

If he wants to lift, then quit XC and just run when he feels like it on the side. If he wants to be part of the XC team, then don’t lift on the days of meets.

Last thing: as he looks back on this time in his life, will he say “Gee, I’m really glad I got those lifts in on the days I had a race.” Or will he say “I wish I would have focused on my sport during that very brief window of my life where I competed with a team.”

He’ll have the rest of his life to lift, but only a very short time to compete with a team. It doesn’t matter at all that he’s not that great; it only matters that he committed himself to be part of this team.


He’d been running for 3 years. Just started lifting a year ago. Has never been great - just enjoys it.

And he’s never lifted on the day of a meet yet. His coach and teammates are aware he does, and don’t care. Like I said, it is an extremely relaxed, uncompetitive team.

Just looking for an example of why or why not, or like one user helpfully gave, some examples of what else to do. Not talking about how it’d be disrespectful to a coach and what’d he’d look back on in 40 years. Not that I don’t care about that, but this is all his decision. He’s aware of what he’s doing.


How old is he?


He’s 17


Being an older role model and a lifting coach, I think you should decide what you want and not assume that a 17 year old athlete will automatically know when enough is enough. Relaxed or not I don’t really see the reason in taxing the CNS on the day of a long competition.


Think of it the other way around. If you were training an athlete to compete in powerlifting meets, and found out he was meeting a running coach who was having him do training runs the morning of his powerlifting meet, would you buy the “It doesn’t affect his lifts” BS?

As the adult, tell him to focus on his sport if he wants to stay on the team, and you’ll train him in the off season.


If he’s not a top 5 finisher on his team he has no business prioritizing XC.


Back extensions are fine, my list wasn’t meant to be exhaustive.

The emphasis on pulling motions is meant to try and correct so much of the forward head posture seen in runners (and 17 year old boys).

Below is an example of my son’s workout. Those who have Wendler’s book may recognize the general framework as having come from him.

Band pull-aparts 5 x 25 working up to sets of 50 over time.

Cable rows 5 x 10 alternating with weighted Cossack squats 5 x 10 (or side lunges) with the DB held in the hands.

Incline DB press 5 x 10 alternating with single leg DLs 5 x 10 (each side).


Because he has XC 5 days a week plus AM practice 2 days a week my goal is to get him in and out of the weight room in 40 minutes.

There’s nothing magic about the above exercises, sets, and reps. But the idea is to support his running rather than target those muscles he’s already using.

In case the above isn’t clear, it looks like this:

Cable row
Cossack squat
Cable row
Cossack squat
Cable row
Cossack squat
Cable row
Cossack squat
Cable row
Cossack squat

Inc DB
Right leg single leg DL
Left leg single leg DL
Inc DB
Right leg single leg DL
Left leg single leg DL
Inc DB
Right leg single leg DL
Left leg single leg DL
Inc DB
Right leg single leg DL
Left leg single leg DL
Inc DB
Right leg single leg DL
Left leg single leg DL



I am 19, btw. Not that the excludes me from being a role model, but just so you’re aware I’m not a 45 year old with decades of wisdom and experience under my belt.

There’s very few resources (facilities or people) to go to where we live, in case you recommend he goes to someone more experienced. I’ve just been lifting for a few years so he asked for help, with us both recognizing I am far, far, from being an expert.

Anyway, I do appreciate your take on this, and I’ll follow your advice. This is why I asked - because I’m not that experienced so the advice really helps.


Good way to look at it - thanks


I commend you on your responses and attitude in this thread. I didn’t realize you were only 19 and not much older than the XC runner himself, and you are quite mature to respond and consider advice the way you have. I’m sure you’ll find a solution that will work out. Best of luck to you.




Thanks - that’s helpful.

I’ll look at it and think of what we can do. His lower body is much stronger than his upper body, so I may give some extra attention to pushups, inverted rows, and chinups. We only have a few dumbbells to work with, so bodyweight movements will be easier to work with.

He spent some time when he first began doing a lot of hip thrusts, back extensions, GHR’s, and reverse hypers so that he could be strong enough to properly squat/deadlift, and his times seemed to do well, so I’ll probably just go back to what we were doing and work with that.

Does your son do things like squats, deadlifts, etc. in the off-season?


I think it’s awesome that you’re getting so involved with younger people’s training at such an early age. I think a lot of this will be trial and error and getting feedback from the kids. Seeing if they enjoy it, seeing if they’re getting stronger, and seeing if they’re improving in whatever sport they enjoy.