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Training kids hard or not?

Answered By Mick Grant & John Molvar


I am a youth track coach. We train three times a week in the summer. The kids range in age from 9yrs to 14yrs old. The problem is that some of the parents feel the kids should train more at a young age if they want to be state champions. Are there any articles about how often and how much young kids should run. How intense should the sessions be. Parent feel that if their kid trains hard enough, they will eventually be able to run faster then the other kids. Can you increase a child's speed before his or hers muscles are fully developed? Thanks, Coach Rick


Dear Coach, Thank you for helping the kids. You are doing a really good thing. It sounds like you have good instincts. The first thing I'd say is that fun should be your guide. If it isn't fun, you might be going down the wrong road. It sounds like you have a fun group and are being pressured into something you feel may not be fun. I'd rather have my kids excel at age 18, 20 and beyond because they developed a good foundation as a youth athlete, than pushing for results early on and have the child quit. The next step is developing your kids over time. Clearly, a 14-year-old should be training more than a 9 year old. A 14-year-old getting ready for high school cross country should be working towards 20-25-30 miles per week, depending on the individual. Regarding speed, it is wise to work on speed. We do one day per week or two with speed, which I describe as 6 x 40 meters sprints. We also do a lot of relay handoffs, which is a speed workout. I think relays, of any distance, helps develop speed and team chemistry. Relays are very important. There are many books out that discuss training, physiology, etc. I have many books, and just use the things from each book that suit my philosophy. I do think you can develop speed and strength with young kids, have fun with it and prepare your young athletes for future success. We have many articles about helping young kids train while minimizing injury risk on the kidsrunning website. Here are a few links from my club website which you may find helpful. finishlynx.com/elite/lynxlinks.htm Best wishes, Coach Mick and John

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