What Is the Point In Teaching Your Child How To Run?
There is science to suggest that children don’t make the same physical adaptations to running training that adults (or even teenagers) do. This has led some to jump to the conclusion that there is no point in a child starting running at a young age, suggesting that those starting running at 16 will literally ‘catch up’.
Is this the case? What is the point of your child running at a young age then? Firstly, it’s important to note that the physical adaptations are physiological in nature. But the Kenyan running culture has children running a lot in their young years, so clearly we are missing something here. Remember that training is not just physiological, it’s also neurological. The neurological element comes from their running efficiency. The more they practise running well, the more efficiently they will run – Their technique will improve, and basically the easier running will feel. This is the skill element to running, and skills are top of the hierarchy of the global Long Term Athlete Development model across any sporting code.
But won’t running too much at a young age damage my child’s joints? It’s basically an urban myth. We live in an era where most kids simply don’t run enough. Obesity rates in kids are higher than ever. Kids are playing on iPads rather than playing in the parks. Naturally when a kid is running, something is going to appear wrong with that. Cathy Fieseler, a practicing sports physician on the board of directors of the American Medical Athletic Association assures that "You'll find no data that kids will tear up ligaments, destroy cartilage or damage growth plates with high mileage. You don't need to put a top limit on it."
It’s all about your child becoming a professional runner in his adult years, right? Nobody should be planning to be a professional runner 10 years in advance. Instead we should look to use running as a means to better our lives. A child should look to excel in the sport now. That will give them confidence and pride that will change their personalities for the better. They will associate with like-minded, healthy friends. They may even achieve a scholarship into a school that their parent may otherwise not have been able to afford, all because of their running achievements. If you had 10 years of your best performances in you, would you rather have them from 10-20 yrs old or from 18-28 yrs old... where is there an opportunity for those performances to do more for you as a person, and further advance your life?
What’s the long and the short of it? The ‘Burnout’ threat that any child faces is far more likely to be a mental burnout than a physical burnout. The answer is to make sure that the child is driving their training. They should be asking to train and they should be setting their goals. Then more than half the battle is won. Let them run, let them win and let THE CHILD be disappointed if they don’t win... not the parents and coaches. Focus on having a great running career now, and don’t hold out for something that may never come.