Since we often have new athletes—including parents of younger athletes—joining the group, I thought I would explain some of the basic principles that I use to design the training schedules for individual athletes or the group as a whole. Once the principles are set out, it becomes easier to to understand how to select particular training sessions and then put these together as an overall plan for the year.
The major aims of the group are for all athletes to enjoy training, racing and to fulfil their potential as an athlete.
This is a mixed group with a considerable number of senior and junior athletes. The principles of our training are the same for junior and senior athletes but the volume and intensity of training changes depending on the age and experience of the athlete and the time of year.
Middle distance and endurance running requires long-term commitment and development. However talented a young athlete, long-term development—with year on year sustainable development—is the major focus of our training so that an athlete can fulfil their potential as a senior and, hopefully, make running a life-time commitment enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and socialising with friends they have trained with over many years.
In particular, with young athletes, it is important to be PATIENT. Young athletes develop at different rates, physically, mentally and socially. Worrying about rankings—as in the powerof10 rankings—and chasing after impressive times can be detrimental to the long-term development of an athlete. Success in competition or UK rankings is important but only if an athlete is physically and mentally mature enough to achieve such success. The obsession with short-term gains invariably leads to long-term injuries, burn out and rejection of the sport. Progress needs to be carefully controlled and sustainable over many years.
My most important guiding principal is to remember that these are CHILDREN—not fully mature adults—and the primary emphasis in these years has to be on ENJOYMENT.
Athletes in our group have had considerable success at national and international level. Some athletes have progressed from U13 level to represent Great Britain at junior and senior level at European and World cross country and track championships. This has been achieved by sustainable development over many years.
In the next post, I will explain how we organise our training and racing year so that athletes and parents can understand how the athletics year fits together and which races we target at different times of the year.