Four quick takeaways from my 13 year-old son’s completed 2015 outdoor track season:
Staying healthy enables consistent training and development. Several injuries and illnesses have interrupted training over the past year, and adversely impacted developmental progress. My son’s physical growth (6 inches in height and 2 full shoe sizes in past 6 months) have resulted in some overuse injuries (IT band, knees, arches), and a weak immune system led to various illnesses including multiple bouts of bronchitis. We are focusing more on adequate recovery, sleep, nutrition, hydration, managing stress, and strength and flexibility exercises. More in “Operating at the Boundary of Health and Injury”.
Based on retrospective of 2014 outdoor track season, we reduced “intensity density” by focusing even more on aerobic training, training at the lactate threshold (tempo runs, fartleks), and introducing minimal anaerobic training only before championship meets at the end of the competition season. In addition, we have emphasized volume over effort during lactate threshold workouts or repeats, which has enabled my son to run even or negative splits during races (some workouts were structured as progressions). This marks a departure from past seasons (where training included sets of 800 and 400 repeats at 90-95% of goal race pace both during pre-competition phase of season and competition phase), and this change has improved long-term development and yielded better results this season. More on training approach and principles in the excellent youth and teen book by Mick Grant and John Molvar “The Youth and Teen Running Encyclopedia – A Complete Guide for Middle and Long-Distance Runners Ages 8 to 16”.
We limited the number of meets to 4 (2 dual meets, 2 championship meets), and trained through the 2 dual meets to peak for the last championship meet. This enables long-term development without the interruption of racing and the required recovery, reduces risk of injury, and keeps the runner fresh and motivated for the important championship meets at the end of the season.
This season my son emerged as a leader on the team, embracing his role as mentor and role model among younger team mates, and sharing his experience, acting as a sounding board, and supporting and motivating his team mates. We had wonderful conversations about the qualities of a leader, and leading by example and being humble. Good stuff.