Iowa cross country adapts training regimen to face unique challenges amid pandemic

Iowa women’s cross country head coach, Randy Hasenbank, details new training strategies to fit pandemic landscape.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa associate head coach Randy Hasenbank cheers on 3000m runners during the Hawkeye Invitational at the University of Iowa Recreation Building on Saturday, Jan 11, 2020.

Lauren Swanson, Sports Reporter

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Along with every other sport in the Big Ten this fall, Iowa cross country’s season was postponed on Aug. 11 due to the coronavirus. Although not much has changed drastically since then, the team faces a new workout regimen to follow.

“Fartlek intervals, long runs, general prep,” Iowa women’s cross-country head coach Randy Hasenbank said. “Focus on health. Everyone is different and requires a variety of different needs. More volume for some, and not as much volume for others. Less is always more.”

Since returning to campus, the team’s plans have been restricted, but Hasenbank has made a few adjustments to ensure his athletes are staying healthy and in shape.

“We started the season off with camp week, which is a week before classes started, then the shutdown happened,” Hasenbank said. “Now, we [have resumed] with group practice. There is value in both individual training and group training.”

The postponement of all Big Ten fall sports came as a shock to many, and it has made the life of college athletes and coaches, alike, extremely challenging. All coaches have had to come up with new, individualized routines in order to keep their athletes healthy, and engaged with the sport, despite the circumstances of COVID-19.

“There are parts that are like, ‘We can do this,’ but at the same time you need to respect the virus,” Hasenbank said. “Even without COVID-19 going on, you still need to be mindful of your health. We make alterations with the weather and heat and lightning every day. Everyone is experiencing this together. I love the fact it’s an outdoor sport. There are not many setbacks, and I love the fact I get to coach right now. We are fortunate enough to get to do an awful lot of what we usually do. For the most part, [the athletes] get to do what they love.”

Along with the coaches, the athletes are also facing hardships with the cancelation of the fall season.

“I was upset, albeit unsurprised, by the postponement of the fall cross country season,” freshman runner Kelli Tosic said. “However, it was completely the right decision to make. Although I miss racing and being around my teammates, my wants are far subordinate to the needs of our community and world. People are dying daily at the hands of illness, ignorance, and hatred, and it is our duty as human beings to place eradicating these diseases at the top of our priority list.”

Being a first-year student on campus at the University of Iowa is not easy, but having to juggle being a student-athlete doesn’t help ease much stress at all. With the added factor of the COVID-19 pandemic, the difficulty of being a freshman student-athlete has only been amplified.

“Being a freshman on the team this year has been extremely exciting,” Tosic said. “Meeting and training with new people who share the same passion for long-distance running allowed me to arrive at a big school and already have a small group of new friends.”