Many kids love to swim, bike, and run but they don’t typically do it all in the same day. With local youth triathlons popping up everywhere and USAT youth teams such as Tri Team Xcel and Mini Cow Tri Club, youth and being given the opportunity to excel a the sport that is sure to be the next NCAA scholarship program.
Not all races are equal when it comes to race distances for youth and USAT posts a chart of recommended competition distances for youth and juniors on their website.
When it comes to training and race day, here are some helpful tips to get youth ready for racing:
· Be safe: Here are a few safety tips to remember:
- Wear sunscreen – even in the winter you can get a sunburn!
- Wear a helmet at all times when on the bike
- Keep your bike tires inflated properly
- Use hand signals when turning while on the bike
- Wear properly fitted shoes. Older youth may want to have a gait analysis done.
· Practice transitions: Without previously having completed a triathlon, many youth will be unfamiliar with what is involved in transition. During their training it will be important to practice what is commonly referred to as a “BRICK.” Brick workouts combine two of the three sports during one workout (e.g. swim/bike workout or a bike/run workout). During a swim/bike workout, for example, the youth will go from having all their swim gear on into a transition where they dress in their bike gear and then head out on their bike. Practicing transitions will help the athlete be more successful on race day.
· Teach swimming: If a child isn’t a strong swimmer it might be a good idea to have them take some lessons prior to their race day. Swimming will take the longest of the three sports to develop and, most often, requires coaching. For a first timer, it won’t be important that they have a perfect swim stroke or that they race using a freestyle stroke. However, it is important they are able to complete the distance for their age group. If they are able to perform the back stroke or breast stroke for their age, that is perfectly fine.
· Teach pacing: In a race situation, many kids will take off from the starting line and putter out within a few minutes. Young athletes need to know the importance of pacing themselves. This is a hard lesson for adults to learn so it won’t be something they’ll pick up right away. But, over time, they’ll learn more and more about it and be able to pace themselves to finish the race successfully.
· Have fun: Triathlon is a fun sport and your goal in training should be to keep things fun! For instance, instead of having a child run laps around a track, let them practice some agility exercises or, if other kids are involved, relay races. They get similar exercise benefits but their training has now become fun!