As we ramp up to the start of our Fall Youth Triathlon Team, I am putting the finishing touches on the progression our youth athletes will follow this year. Though some new workouts, it will rely on the same principles that have made our athletes successful year over year. People often ask how we have had such success…it really comes down to understanding the physiology of a youth athlete.
As a young child, our bodies do not operate the same as they will as an adult but rather spend 15-20 years developing. Because of this, we cannot expect our bodies to be trained the same as we will as an adult while developing.
Kids have a limited ability to store glycogen/carbohydrate (50-60% of adults) and develop aerobic endurance. Additionally, kids have less ability to consume oxygen maximally (VO2 Max) and are predominately made up of type-1 slow twitch fibers at birth. Because of these three factors (and more), we must approach youth endurance training very specifically.
Though kids cannot fully develop aerobic endurance or VO2 Max, the human body does have the ability to develop these for many years into the future. The development of VO2 Max takes great leaps forward at puberty and reaches its max at full maturity before declining with the coming years. The only thing that youth athletes can develop in great lengths at a young age is speed; and not doing so, will greatly limit an athlete’s future potential.
Speed has a critical period. We enter the world very limited here, and we either develop these muscle fibers of lose them. It is very hard to develop top end speed as a mature adult so we must elevate our max speed when young such that our decline later comes from the highest level possible. The onset of puberty should signal us to begin introducing VO2 Max work (above anaerobic threshold) into our young athlete’s training. Much like speed at a young age, VO2 Max has a critical period in the post puberty years during which time we can fully develop it and absolutely should. Aerobic endurance on the other hand can be developed for much of a person’s life. Spending too much time doing long slow workouts actually works against what a young athlete needs most, speed and VO2 Max work. Now, there should absolutely be aerobic work (sub threshold) in a young athlete’s training given that endurance races are largely aerobic but not at the same proportion as an adult.
Want to learn more and experience? Join us for an open house this Monday from 4-7pm at Endorphin Fitness, our free trial week Aug 21-25, or email us to inquire about online coaching or just chat.