Young Athletes Endurance Training
Endurance training and young athletes is an often-misunderstood topic. On one hand, there are strength coaches who tend to disregard developmentally sound elements of endurance training in lieu of producing stronger and faster young athletes via strength and power type exercises exclusively. On the other hand, there are over-zealous coaches and trainers who equate endurance to long distance/duration activities, often with little regard for the athlete’s stage of development, ability or current level of conditioning.
Endurance can be defined quite simply as one’s ability to withstand fatigue or the ability to control the functional aptitude of movement while experiencing external stress. The latter definition lends itself well to the concept of athletic development and training young athletes. As I have stated many times in both print and lecture, when working with youngsters, the key ingredient to producing a successful training program is the ability to recognize that quality of execution is profoundly more important than quantity. Having said that, I still see coaches, trainers and parents opting for more difficult training sessions that include high volume or high intensity activities rather than concerning themselves with how correctly the exercise is being performed. Poor execution results in habitual patterns that are difficult to break and could result in injury. With respect to endurance training, proper mechanics are often compromised for higher volumes or intensities and this is very much a mistake.
One thing to consider is that the term ‘endurance’ has application to varying lengths and types of effort:
• Long slow distances – efforts of limited intensity but high distance or time
• Speed – efforts typically lasting 15 – 45 seconds with high levels of intensity but obviously limited time or distance
• Muscular – the ability to sustain a muscular contraction for a prolonged period of time
There are several factors to consider with respect to the development of endurance in young athletes: