Does your child have a favourite sport or are they an all-round sporting star? Do they always want to win, or is it the taking part that counts? If they’d like to try a little bit of everything while having fun, a kids triathlon might be right up their street.
When you think of triathlons, intense training regimes and strict schedules might spring to mind. But for children, it’s all about having fun and trying new activities.
Gary Jones, Clinic Director and Chartered Physiotherapist at Six Physio says: “Current NHS guidelines suggest children and young people aged 5-18 should do at least an hour of aerobic activity every day. This should include a mix of moderate-intensity activities (raising their heart rate and breaking a sweat), vigorous-intensity activities (breathing hard and fast, with a raised heart rate) and also doing activities that strengthen their muscles and bones. Combining activities like running, swimming and cycling can help children improve their overall cardiovascular fitness for the future, as well as exercising a number of different muscle groups, thus helping them to build a strong foundation for exercise.”
Weight-bearing activities like running can help improve bone density and strength, while swimming, running and cycling will all help to improve fitness and muscle strength. Practicing all three activities from an early age is also thought to benefit co-ordination and motor skills.
Six tips to help your kids train for their triathlon:
- Keep it fun! – Keep training to a minimum with short, creative bursts of activity to keep your child interested. Build in training sessions with friends and include activities like trampolining and dancing (to improve how their tendons and bones respond to load), yoga (to stretch out tight muscles) and Pilates (to aid muscle control).
- Mix it up – Varied activities and sessions can help keep your child interested, for example 100 metre swims and 400 metre runs repeated 2, 3 or 4 times. Encourage your child to swim, cycle and run at least once each week, and set up a ‘transition’ area for them to practice switching between activities.
- Teach your child the ‘3 S’s’ – stretch tight muscles, support weak muscles (by doing exercises to maintain muscle control and strength) and snooze! It’s super important to take rest breaks to allow muscles to relax.
- Allow time for rest days – Make sure your child is getting 1-2 days without vigorous exercise each week to allow their muscles to relax. Building in recovery time and stretching can also help to avoid inflamed joints.
- Look out for signs of tiredness or injury – Following a sensible training programme with plenty of rest time will reduce the chance of injuries. Look out for persistent muscle aches that last more than a couple of days after exercise and persistent feelings of tiredness. It’s difficult to know exactly how much extra sleep your child will need, but keeping an eye out for signs of tiredness can help you to identify if they need more rest.
- Talk to an expert – The best training plan for your child will very much depend on their individual capabilities and body, as well as their anatomy. If your child is thinking about training on a regular basis, there are some excellent triathlon coaches who can help to put together training plans for your child.
For more information on appropriate exercises for your child’s age group and individual needs, speak to a physio.
Six Physio is London’s leading independent physiotherapists, based across the Capital and South East England. You or your child can visit any of the Six Physio clinics in London and the South East. www.sixphysio.com.