Training plans for young athletes

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  • #45980
    frank.holen
    Participant

    My 14-year-old son does mountain running and skimo is very motivated for training. On average, he trains 11-13 hours a week and then the majority in zone 1. He also plays soccer, so in parts of that season it will naturally be somewhat less. Given that he is young, my approach is that the activity should be motivated by whats fun, more than being too rigid and systematic. At the same time I find it necessary that we systematize the training in order to avoid injuries and overtraining. Consequently, we began to record his activities this winter and more planned training with an emphasis on aerobic base training. Mainly skimo and mountain running. This has worked well and he has a very good aerobic base for his age.

    As I am interested in developing my knowledge of training and ensuring that his passion for training and mountain activities does not overload him, we did a lactate test to give us more knowledge to control the intensity of training. This test was mainly done in order to get a confirmation on our estimates of his training intensity zones, especially how high zone 1 one was.

    The test confirmed our estimate of AeT around 195/196 bmp (based on experience from uphill running) and a Lactate threshold at 199 bmp (2.9 mmol). Based on this, the training zones were estimated at:
    Zone 1 162-192 / Zone 2 193-196 / Zone 3 197-201 / Zone 4 202-204 / Zone 5 205-

    The question after this is related to what goals and focus follow from this? My immediate assessment is that (1) he continues with a lot of aerobic base training (2) focus on increased speed / efficiency (increase the amount of interval below the lactate threshold somewhat as well as technique training and strength)

    Any thoughts on this?

    Kind regards
    Frank
    Tromsoe Norway

  • Moderator
    Scott Semple on #46012

    He also plays soccer, so in parts of that season it will naturally be somewhat less.

    And short bursts of high-intensity. WIth mostly Z1 training, that’s a good combination.

    Given that he is young, my approach is that the activity should be motivated by whats fun, more than being too rigid and systematic.

    Wise. It takes upwards of ten years for full aerobic development, usually occurring in the early-30s. If he likes endurance sports, you don’t want him to burn out too soon.

    The test confirmed our estimate of AeT around 195/196 bmp (based on experience from uphill running) and a Lactate threshold at 199 bmp (2.9 mmol). Based on this, the training zones were estimated at:
    Zone 1 162-192 / Zone 2 193-196 / Zone 3 197-201 / Zone 4 202-204 / Zone 5 205-

    This is an exceptionally narrow aerobic gap. How was AeT measured? What lactate value? What was the test protocol?

    Participant
    frank.holen on #46015

    Thank you so much for the feedback.

    The test protocol and the results was:
    Time Elevation Speed (km/t) Heart rate Lactate
    10 5,5% 6,6 163 0,7
    15 5,5% 7,5 163 0,8
    20 5,5% 8,5 172 0,9
    25 5,5% 9,5 181 1,2
    30 5,5% 10,5 190 1,3
    35 5,5% 11,5 197 2,2
    40 5,5% 12,5 202 4,5

    Despite having a lot of experience with cross country skiing the lab was not familiar with AeT and AeT testing (but eager to learn). So it was estimatet to a lactate around 2,0 in combination with data/results from an uphill track (with steady elevation) lasting 40 min. The experience from the uphill (repeated two times) was that he was able to keep the pace at a bmp around 194-196 which seems to correlate with a lactate around 2,0. Do you think that estimate is a bit high?

    Best
    Frank

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #46130

    Excellent.

    2.0 mM is an average for AeT, so there will be some variation. From what I understand, the range can be as broad as 1.5 – 2.5 mM. But your description makes it sound like the mid-190s is about right. If it feels like a pace that he could hold for more than two-ish hours, then it’s probably about right.

    I’ll ask Scott J. to comment as well.

    Spectator
    Scott Johnston on #46135

    Frank:
    Thanks for writing in to us with your questions. Also I am very glad to hear that you want to take a cautious long term approach to helping you son train. I have many years experience training junior cross country skiers so I might be able to offer some advice.

    At 14 years old it is very important that your son has fun and has a variety of sports activities year round. To become too focused too young is one of the most common problems for juniors who then burn out, lose interest when other things in life get interesting or plateau in performance before they even reach their peak potential in the mid to late 20s. I have seen all of these things happen to far too many young skiers.

    I have seen lactate levels like you are noticing with young skiers. Kids have crazy high max HRs and when well trained (as you son seems to be) I have seen very small difference between aerobic threshold and max HR. One of our Uphill Athlete coaches, Maya, whom I have coached since she was about your son’s age typically had an aerobic threshold of 190, an anaerobic threshold of 197-200 and a max HR of of 205 with a max lactate post race of 4-5mMol/L. So, your numbers seem perfectly reasonable.

    Some observations that may help you in coaching your son:

    He is probably not very strong yet so it is hard for him to express great power or to develop high blood lactate levels. That is normal in my experience with juniors. As he gets older and stronger he will be able to use that glycolytic system more and peak lactates will go way up.

    These next several years will be the most trainable years of his life. By this I mean his response to training. His nervous system is still very plastic and he will learn skills very well. So the focus should be on skills and economy of movement. This is done with dedicated speed sessions where you use short (50-100m) repetitions of 90-95% max effort (so technique is not compromised) and take long rests between. Video feedback can be a very useful tool here. The idea is to be fast and relaxed not tense.

    He is still several years from developing his maximum aerobic power and I will talk below about why I don’t like to stress this sort of training for juniors.

    He is maybe 10 years away from developing his maximum strength and anaerobic capacity. So, don’t push this too much either. Body weight strength is enough for now. Speed, agility and athleticism are the places to focus now along with aerobic base. Soccer/football is a great way to develop many of these things in a fun social environment. If you have access to a terrain park at a downhill ski area that will also be a fun place for him to learn to be most comfortable on his skis going sideways and backwards and off balance.

    I would limit his high intensity aerobic training during these next years. I mean Z3-4-5. His aerobic system is not fully developed and to tax it to it’s maximum will give powerful short term results it will possibly mean he does not continue to progress beyond the age of 20-22. I have seen this happen many times. I coached a young American cross country skier whose name you might be familiar with as she has been ranked consistently in the top 6 on the world cup standings for the past several years. During her formative years from 15-20 she probably did only a handful of days of high intensity aerobic interval training (she was racing a lot then). I mean like less that 10 days in 5 years. Our focus for her was on economy and speed. Her peak performance years were in her late 20s.

    It is my long held belief that too many juniors are trained like they are fully developed adult athletes. It is common practice in the US and Canadian cross country ski world for junior coaches to copy the training of the some of the best world cup skiers. The human wreckage from this misguided approach is tragic to see as these young athletes see their world collapse under their feet.

    I hope this helps.
    Scott

    Participant
    frank.holen on #47237

    Thanks a lot to both of you.

    It all makes perfectly sense to me. At this stage it is important to develop both the aerobic base, technique and speed. It is interesting though that the immediate response cross country coach (experienced) based on the test results was to introduce more high intensity in order to raise/develop the threshold levels. Young athletes recover fast and in that respect are responsive to high intensity training, so I kind of find it kind of reasonable. As you say Scott, it may result in a “short term” progress, but not necessarily be beneficial in the longer run. Interestingly there are a large body of research literature on high intensity training for adult endurance athletes but the research on the short and long terms effects of high intensity training on young athletes are sparse. The research in this last category show varying/inconclusive results the effects of high intensity training. There was some positive indications on running velocities and performance at various thresholds and others like that, but not very significant compared to alternative training protocols. More importantly I think, there is a lack of research on the more long term effects of high intensity training for young athletes. Would it be beneficial for their long term development, to what extent and volume? Your approach and arguments are very reasonable and appreciated.

    Thanks
    Frank

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