With age-appropriate training, your future triathlete has their best years ahead of them
Photos by Javier Lobregat
Triathlon started out as an activity for adults but in recent years, the sport has grown to include age-appropriate events organized specifically for children. This sprung from the fact that coaches have learned from their past mistakes of training kids like young adults.
As a parent, it’s your job to make sure that whoever is training your future triathlete is mindful of the critical periods in their development. This is crucial to your child’s potential and longevity in the sport.
As fast as you can
Most traditional adult programs prioritize endurance in order to build a solid foundation for intense training. On the contrary, young athletes should focus more on speed rather than distance while they still can. Training sessions should be spent more on practicing skills and movements at race-specific speed or even faster.
Keep rides and runs short but sweet
Cycling and distance running are considered late-specialization sports. This means that while the basic movement skills for cycling and running can be taught at an early age, it is advisable for children to wait until after puberty before training for these sports.
Therefore, longer aerobic sessions for bike and run should not exceed 150 to 200 percent of their race distance, no more than once a week. As an example, if you signed up your nine-year-old to a kid’s triathlon that includes an 800-meter run, the longest run for the week should not be more than a mile or 1,600 meters.
Train your kid to be a water baby
Unlike cycling and running, swimming is an early-specialization sport. This makes it crucial for a future triathlete to master technical swimming skills before puberty in order to reach their maximum potential. It is best to keep triathlon programs for children water-based, with less biking and running.
When training for the 100-meter swim leg, let your child do a continuous swim set but still keep it within 150 to 200 percent of race distance, and as part of a longer workout that consists of shorter intervals, speed work, drills, and other strokes.
Make it fun
Just like adults, children gravitate towards activities they enjoy. If you want your child to love triathlon as much as you do, find creative ways to make workouts more like playing rather than training. Play Sharks and Minnows or tag in the pool and have them swim different strokes while chasing each other. Have them ride their bikes to the park then run to the playground. You might even be surprised to see them doing a flying or gliding mount and dismount without them knowing.