Running is among the easiest forms of exercise to get into. It’s something most of us have been doing since childhood – though many of us might be a little bit out of practice. Running can take place in almost any flat environment – but the most challenging and fun are usually out in the countryside, for the simple reason that the terrain is so varied. Soft, spongy grass will provide an entirely different surface to gravel, sand, mud or concrete – and thus your body will be exposed to a constantly-varying set of stimulus.
Ignore your mile-splits
In a more controlled running environment, the key is to develop an even pace. If all of your laps of a 400m racetrack are roughly the same time, then you’ll probably be running efficiently. This metric is largely meaningless in a cross-country environment, however, since every mile you cover will be slightly different to the last one. Indeed, the whole point of cross country is that your every stride is unpredictable – that way your legs are being constantly challenged, as is your mind. That’s what makes cross-country so much more fun.
Fortunately, we’ve access to other means of monitoring our effort. This comes in the form of a heart-rate monitor, which can be strapped to your wrist, reporting when you’re in the appropriate zone, when you need to step things up, and when you need to dial things back. A device like this one is something of a learning aid – once you’ve gathered enough experience at cross-country, you’ll be able to discard it, as you’ll have learned what the appropriate level of effort feels like.
Get the right shoes
If you’re going to specialise in a certain sort of running, then you’ll need to invest in shoes that’ll reflect it. Many of the trainers you’ll find down at your local sports shop will be general-purpose, or even adapted for track-racing.
For serious cross-country running, you’ll want to invest in a set of specialist cross-country spikes. These offer superior grip and traction to the ones that are designed for use on a track. If you’re going to be running over thick mud and other slippery surfaces, you’ll want to be able to do so without risking injury. Take a set of different spikes with you to each event, and you’ll be able to switch to a different length according to the demands of the course, in much the same way that a formula 1 team might decide to switch tyres when the track gets wet. Smaller spikes mean less grip – which might be desirable in dry conditions. Longer ones mean more – which is essential in wet ones.
Train with a partner
In order to push yourself as hard as you can go, you’ll want to train alongside a partner. Your partner should ideally be of a similar level of competence and commitment to you – if you’re left in the dust you’ll feel disheartened, and if you’re constantly pulling ahead you probably won’t find things easy.
On those frosty mornings when you’d rather do anything but strap on a pair of running shoes, the pressure of a partner pulling you along might be all that’s required to get you up and running – and if you’re neck and neck when you reach the end of your session, you might find that your competitive side spurs you to finish all the more strongly.
Protect your car
Since you’re going to be travelling back and forth between cross-country courses frequently, you’ll want to ensure that the back of your car is protected against muddy bootprints. After all, you don’t want to have to frequently valet your upholstery – and paying someone else to do it on your behalf will assuredly place a major strain on your finances. A boot protector is a great solution – it’s a device that’s designed to sit within your boot, acting like a pocket that’ll catch any stray pieces of dirt and grime. When the protector gets sufficiently dirty, you need only pull it out and put it in with the rest of your laundry.
The best car boot liners are made to measure for a given model of car. They’ll provide an exceptionally snug fit, and will be robust enough to resist almost any stress that might be thrown at them. If you’re the owner of a dog that needs to be walked through the countryside regularly, then a device such as this is an essential purchase. Whether you’re looking for an Audi, Ford or Vauxhall boot liner, you’ll find it from specialist online retailers.