Endurance Training for Youth Athletes
Endurance training is quite a broad sweeping term. It’s often used interchangeably with terms like “aerobic”, “anaerobic”, “strength” and “speed”. This section of the website focuses primarily on aerobic endurance conditioning and the various training methods that have been developed to help athletes reach peak aerobic fitness.
Endurance training is important for many sports – not just the pure distance events like running, swimming and cycling for example. While the type and amount of endurance training will change according to the specific demands of the sport, even some traditional strength and power based games demand a solid aerobic base.
There are several factors to consider with respect to the development of
endurance in a young athlete:
1. Mechanical/Coordination/Movement – Efficiency of movement is a
paramount factor with respect to the endurance capabilities of a young
athlete. Poor mechanics (which are only reinforced with repetitive
training) lead to higher degrees of fatigue. To truly increase the ability
of a young athlete (in all facets), coaches and trainers must exercise
patience and teach proper movement habits rather than prescribe
endless numbers of sets. A critical point here is that by perfecting
technique, you can effectively improve endurance without increasing
2. Body Type – The more overweight a young athlete is, the less
endurance they will likely have. Excess bodyweight (particularly in the
form of body fat) will serve to decrease endurance due to an increased
energy cost. Additionally, being overweight often leads to poor
mechanical efficiency (as per point one). According to Joseph Drabik,
“each 5% of excess weight penalizes a child approximately 89 meters
in a 12-minute run test”. Conversely, “in a 10-mile run, each kilogram
reduction of body mass improves performance by 30 seconds”. Drabik
did not indicate how bodyweight was determined to be excessive.
3. Psychological – Many young athletes do not possess significant
amounts of mental toughness (but they’re kids so why would they?).
To combat this, many over anxious trainers and coaches opt to make
drills and exercises purposefully difficult in order to produce some sort
of perceived mental strength. Given that both the physical structure
as well as mental potency of a youngster is tenuous, this often leads to
little more than burnout or injury. A more prudent approach to this
issue is to systematically present challenges to young athletes that
respect their individuality as well as their current stage of development
and offers positive feedback at the conclusion. By offering challenging
yet achievable forms of exercise, you will progressively improve their
endurance and develop their confidence to attempt new and more
It is important to understand that endurance training with young athletes is
critical for long-term development and not immediate results. Developing
good endurance allows the young athlete to tolerate an increased amount of
exercise stimulus in the future and this alone is the key point. Don’t become
pre-occupied with immediate effects – like any other aspect of athletic
development, endurance training is part of a continual, multi-tiered effort.