Training and Racing – Proceed with Caution
Do you have a teen or junior athlete itching to train harder and race further? Maybe aiming to race their first ironman or run their first marathon?
My girls aren’t quite that enthusiastic and I wasn’t really sure if that was a good or bad thing motivationally, but after reading a recent article “Fitness v Skill” in the latest Multisport Magazine, Victorian Issue #2 by Keiran Barry, National Talent Coach – Triathlon Australia, I am quietly relieved! This was an eye opener and something I never really thought about much as I haven’t had to thus far. This commentary relates to triathlon training and racing, but you can apply the principles to any sport with endurance distances.
In this article, Barry talks about his “growing unease” with teenage athletes overtraining, and older teenagers and those in their early twenties racing at distances they are not ready for (in his view):
• Many coaches overtrain teenage athletes with 5-6 hour rides and 20k or more long runs. This is unnecessary when only doing sprint distances (750m swim/20k ride/5km run).
• Coaches of the young athletes racing longer distances, are supporting and encouraging them to do so. These included a 15 year old in a 50k run, 17 year old wanting to race in 70.3’s (half Ironman) and 18 year olds racing in Ironman (3.8km swim/180km ride/42.195km run).
Barry highlights that:
• This increased workload can expose athletes to series risk of injury. Bones of athletes 18 years and under are still growing and muscles are still developing.
• Triathletes benefit from aerobic gains in each of the three disciplines, so do not require the same volume of training as an athlete in a single discipline.
• The focus at this age should be minimal volume and maximum efficiency, with improvement in technique and skills. Race skills should also be supported with strength and flexibility training.
• His recommendation is to be racing 6 years of ITU Olympic distance (1.5km swim/40km ride/10km run) before moving onto Ironman racing to ensure the athlete will be able to cope with the long course racing.
• There are always exceptions to the rules and athletes who are successful at a young age but the risks associated are higher and therefore not recommended.
• Triathlon Australia is currently reviewing its guidelines for junior athletes with regard to volume and intensity of training.
• If your athlete is constantly injured, tired or moody, this may be a sign to review training and racing commitments.
• A level of trust needs to be placed in your athlete’s coach but as parents, we are ultimately responsible for their health and wellbeing.
• Gaining an understanding of what is reasonable and appropriate may be sought through State and National sporting bodies and other experts in your particular sporting code.
• A good coach will discuss with you and your athlete their goals for the next season, training plans made as a result of the agreed plans, and will offer feedback and flexibility along the way.