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Syracuse cross country head coach Brien Bell said there’s one word to describe the team’s base training method before championship season starts at the end of October: mileage.
The base training method is a popular long distance program designed to increase endurance and aerobic capacity, train the central nervous system for more efficient communication pathways between the brain and muscles and improve strength to smooth the transition to higher-intensity workouts later in the year, according to Strength Running. The Orange have used the training plan since Bell joined the program in 2005, helping the Orange win the 2015 NCAA Championships.
The program includes sets of multi-mile runs, spanning up to 18 miles and two runs a day with distance and intensity varying from runner to runner. Syracuse’s women runners average around 60 miles per week, and the men average 85 miles per week, Bell said.
About a month into the season, the team runs seven days a week including two high-intensity workouts, doubles throughout the week and a long run on Saturdays. In the final last month of the season, the team cuts back on volume, instead using races to improve fitness.
But with the races occurring during the season, Syracuse uses those races as workouts that are supplemented with a “hard workout” every 10-12 days, Bell said. These workouts include more explosive running exercises like track repetitions, incline work on Sweet Road, core work and other muscle-strengthening exercises, senior Amanda Vestri said.
“We’ve done about 10% more mileage than we probably expected to run at this point in the season.” Bell said
Bell will only know if the training paid off in November, when the NCAA Championships occur, he said. This year, the Orange hope to make their 13th straight appearance — tied for the fifth-longest streak in the country — at the championship race, Bell said.
Graduate student Joe Dragon, who is now in his sixth season at SU, is confident that the training will get him into shape for every race.
“At my age, it’s easy to trust and lean into the training because I’m so familiar with it,” Dragon said. “I know exactly what I need to do and how I should feel on Sept. 29 because I’ve done this so many times.”
Dragon’s base was around 100 miles per week throughout the entire summer — one of the heaviest bases on the team. He said that Syracuse expects to be at its fittest later in the season. The base mileage starts with a foundation and if the foundation is strong, the peak will be high, Dragon said.
Vestri, who has finished in the top-two in both of her races thus far, credits her 70 to 77 mile weekly base to her keeping healthy and fit to begin the season.
“Being consistent and staying injury-free has been really great, so I’m just looking to continue that path forward,” Vestri said.