I've been running over 25 years. This includes eight years of varsity track, cross country running and coaching. First, make sure you're in shape before you show up for the first day of practice. Otherwise the first two weeks will be very challenging. While it's expected everyone needs to train, most coaches will assume you ran all summer. When asked, everyone will say they did too (whether it's true or not). Since the first meet usually comes up very fast, this determines what the first workouts will be like.

At the college level, you would train 5-6 days a week then have one day off (usually Sunday or the day after a competition).  The day before a competition is also very light (in most cases that would be Friday). In practice, you typically run distances close to those in an average race.  For example, if races are 8K (about 5 miles), this would range from slightly less to about twice that distance (4 - 12 miles or 7- 19 kilometers). Traditionally, cross country gets it's name because you're training and competing on unpaved surfaces (like trails in the woods). However you will also run on tracks, paved surfaces, grass fields and dirt.

Nationwide, most cross country teams run an average of 40 to 45 miles (64 to 72 kilometers) per week.  It's also not uncommon to have two workouts in the same day (such as a morning and afternoon run) to break up training. In many cases, this is more effective than running the total distance all at once.

It's not always about how far you run. While some workouts focus on increasing your endurance through long runs, many are designed to increase your speed, build strength, and improve your ability to run hills.  When doing interval training (also referred to as "speed work") you'll run shorter distances but it's much harder. For example, you might only four miles, but run each mile separately at a very fast pace with a short rest in between. Later in the season, you often find the easiest workouts are basic long distance runs.

Finally, depending on your location, most workouts will include a mixture of hills and flat ground (like "rolling hills"). Downhill running is just as important as running uphill.  Many cross country teams do specific hill workouts once a week by finding and training on a steep hill (we use to use a closed ski area). By the middle of the season, both training and competition becomes a normal routine.