A Day In The Life Of A Cross Country Coach

As some of you may know, I coach cross country at a community college in New Jersey. I love it. I love seeing the athletes improve as the season goes on, and seeing how hard they work. This year I’m grateful to 1) finally have a full men’s team and 2) have a committed, motivated team. 


Some seasons (and if you’re a coach you might know this), you get student-athletes who are on the team but not giving it their all. They complain or just seem blah to be there…and I wonder, “Why are you even here?” lol. But this year our team is solid, and our men’s team has a good chance of making it to Nationals as a team. We’ve had runners qualify for Nationals every year I’ve coached, but as individuals. We’ll see what happens!

Last weekend, we had a meet out in Harrisburg, PA. It was pretty low-key but a good chance for them to see where their fitness level is at. It was the first 8K race of the season for the men (the first meet was a 5K). 

I decided to do a little vlog to capture the day and show a day in my coaching life :)

This Friday, we race the Paul Short Invitational, which I’m super pumped about. It is a pretty big meet, and I plan to do another vlog for that one too.

For us, race days usually go like this:

  • Get on the bus and get there about 1-1.5 hours before start time
  • Get to location and set up in our spot. Hang out for a bit.
  • About 30-40 minutes before start time, I send them out for a warm up. We’ll start with drills like A skip, B skip, high knees, butt kicks, cariocas, side skips and more, then they will go on a 10-15 minute easy jog, then come back for more dynamic drills and stretching.
  • Head to the start area with about 10 min. to go and start doing strides.
  • They run, I run around and try to catch them at certain points to give them splits or simply motivation.
  • Afterwards, they go for a 10 min. cooldown jog and then we stretch.

Let me know what you think of the vlog! I want to do more videos again…future topics might be:

  • My dynamic warmup routine before runs
  • Tips for getting faster at the 5K
  • Quad/glute workout for runners
  • My go-to stretching routine

Any of those sound interesting? Or do you have an idea for a video? Let me know in the comments!

Do you have a set routine before runs? Are you superstitious about anything before races?


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What I Learned From My XC Team: Part 2

Last year, I wrote up a few things I learned from my cross country team and my first season coaching. Now, our second season is about to come to a close. We have our last meet on Sunday, which is our Region Championship meet. If any runners place top 7, they qualify for the National meet. I am hoping at least 2 will but we will see!

When working with students, you learn new things every day, whether it’s new “slang” or new ways to look at life in general. So today I wanted to talk a bit about what I learned this season from them.

If you're a runner, check out these 5 tips from college cross country runners!

Don’t Complain

This was my number one lesson. I think that people don’t realize how much they complain…and when you complain a lot, people get annoyed. If you have a goal, do the work in getting there, and don’t complain about how hard workouts are. I know I will use this tactic in my own life next time I think about complaining about something. Nagging pains? Sure. But complaining and asking to do less reps of a workout? “Come on bro.”

I think complaining is just a natural thing we do to make conversation…such as, “omg it’s so hot out,” “omg it’s so cold out,” “omg this workout is hard!” But after a while, the people you complain you will start getting tired of it, trust me. Just do the work – get it done. You’ll be proud of yourself when you finish a tough workout and push through.

Be Competitive

One of my runners is very competitive, and competitive with himself in practice. He has a great attitude and works hard every day. Now I’m not saying to make every practice a race, but I’ll give him times he needs to hit, and he will push himself hard to hit those times, as opposed to having an “I can’t” mentality. I’ll give him a pace, he will say oh WOW! but then push himself to get it done. We can all do this on our runs and workouts. You will surprise yourself by how you can push yourself. Sometimes my own running coach, Marc, gives me workouts and paces where I really doubt myself. Yet somehow it gets done. Compete with yourself and work to make yourself better every day.

Be Cocky

One of my runners said to me yesterday, “I don’t care if you’re cocky and confident, but just don’t act like people need to bow down to you.” Very true. He is very confident in his abilities, but also supportive of everyone else. There is nothing wrong with being cocky – in fact, it might even pump you up before races! Tell yourself that you’re fast, strong, faster than your competition…change your frame of mind. I love this quote by Ronda Rousey that relates to this:

Some people like to call me cocky or arrogant, but I just think, “How dare you assume I should think less of myself.”

So true, right??

Talent Doesn’t Matter, Attitude Does

This is something new I’ve learned this season. Of course every coach wants a team of all-stars, but we know that everyone has different skill levels. What I learned this year was this: Look, I don’t care if you run a 20 min. 5K or a 30 min. 5K. If you show up to practice every day, and work hard, THAT is what matters and makes an impression on me. Do not complain to me about your race times after a meet when you’re not putting in the effort every practice.

Don’t Judge By Running Form

The first day of practice, this student shows up and I took one look at him and thought he’d be an average runner. His form was not your typical running form. Well, guess what, he is the number one runner on our team and making improvements every race. If you saw him run, you would be surprised too! So I guess the age old adage don’t judge a book by the cover is true in most senses ;)

Overall, it was a great XC season and I am proud of what they have accomplished. I am crossing my fingers some of them qualify at the Region Championships – they really deserve it!

Can you relate to any of these? What do you think about complaining? After this season, I feel like I’ll never complain again :)


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Running Tips: What I Learned From My XC Team

My cross-country season ended in October, and somehow I haven’t written a post about it yet…well here it is!

As some of you may know, this year was my first season coaching the XC team at the community college I work at. I loved it and am so excited for next season to start. I had a group of hard working students who really showed me what it means to be passionate about running. I learned a few things from them that I wanted to share with you. Perhaps it will inspire you as well!

Running Tips
Commit. 100%. No brainer right? Well, I know that I haven’t committed 100% to my running. I know I have more to give, especially if I want better results. My students showed up to practice every day and worked hard. They pushed their limits and committed to the team. Even though we didn’t have a full team, and couldn’t compete as a team, they were all there each day and pushed each other. Despite having school work, exams, jobs, being tired, etc. they showed up and put in the work. I can certainly take that lesson and apply it to my own life.

Even if you’re a beginner, don’t doubt yourself. I have a couple of runners who had never ran competitively before. One who had never really ran period! And you know what, they were just as committed as those who ran throughout high school. They hung in with the other runners and worked just as hard. Don’t doubt yourself as a runner just because “you just started.” We’re all runners no matter what level. We can all relate to the pain, the daily grind, the muscle fatigue. These students weren’t afraid to ask the others questions about how to get stronger and faster (harder, better, faster, stronger? lol). If you’re just starting out, learn from other runners – don’t be afraid to ask questions! We’re a friendly bunch who love to talk about running…amiright? :)

Strength train. You know what my team loved (and wanted) to do that other teams didn’t? Lift. Other coaches were shocked when I told them my team would ASK me to go to the weight room after practice to lift. You should be doing this too! I know that lifting can fall to the wayside when you’re training for an event…it’s happened to me plenty of times (and I’m paying for it today because I’m SO SORE from Monday’s workout still). You’re passionate about running and getting faster; be just as passionate about strength training to get you even faster.

Don’t be afraid of the rain. Like me :) My runners had no issue running in the rain…some even liked it! As Coach Marc would always say…it’s just water. I just hate my shoes getting wet! But when you have to get the miles in, you gotta do what you gotta do. They ran rain or shine, and we only postponed practice once due to weather because it was lightning out. I’m going to take my own advice and do more running outside this month/winter…yes it’s cold but I need to buck up (and layer up) and just do it!

Know when to stop. One of my runners had a knee and hip issue that would crop up every once in a while. I remember specifically one day we were doing a track workout. He loved “Track Tuesdays” and would always push himself. But after the first rep, his hip got really tight and he could barely walk. I knew that he wanted to continue, but he said, “Coach I’m going to sit out a few reps and stretch.” How many times have you wanted to keep going despite your body saying no? There is a fine line between a little muscle fatigue and injury. If something is bothering you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Stop the run or workout, stretch, foam roll, and if it doesn’t go away call it a day. Would you rather miss a few miles or a whole season?

My team was awesome…such a great group of students to kick off my inaugural season. I can only hope to continue it next season!

Do you run outside no matter what? How do you motivate yourself to do that?

Did you run XC in middle school/high school/college?


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My First XC Practice (as a coach)

Some of you may or may not know this, but I will be coaching the men’s and women’s Cross Country team at a community college in New Jersey this fall. It’s our inaugural season and I’m so excited for it…and nervous!

We had our first practice on Tuesday and I was really anxious the night before. Would they respect me as a coach? Like me? What workout should I have them do? What if I suck as a coach?? All of these things were running through my mind.

We started practice at 8 am and I finally decided what I was going to have them do: 400 meter repeats.

They had said they’d been practicing over the summer so I wanted to see where they were at. They actually did very well and I’m excited to see what this season holds. I gave them time based on the top 10 times at last year’s region meet (big meet of the season), and they were running a bit below those averages – so I think that’s a good sign, right?!

We only have two men and two women right now, but I think that once the semester starts and more students are on campus that a few more will join. I like our little group and I could tell they are passionate about running. One of the girls is running the Philly Marathon and the Runner’s World Half Marathon hat trick challenge (5k, 10, half marathon) – I was like “good for you!”

That first practice made me feel more comfortable in the coaching role, and also reminded me why I love what I do.

I went back to grad school to get my Master’s in Student Affairs. I knew that I wanted to work within a university, and this job working within a community college has been perfect for me. I love what I do and I love working with students on a regular basis – even if they do initially ask if I’m a student when they first meet me :)

We actually have our second practice this morning! We’ll be doing an easy 3-4 miles and then some lifting. That’s another thing one of the girls said, “Can we please lift too, I love lifting.” That’s my kind of team!

Fellow coaches & those who have been coached – please leave me any tips you have or workout ideas…and comments about what makes a good coach – thank  you!


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