She needs to run to burn fat!  This viewpoint is shared by many adults as a solution to improving youth fitness.  Parents and nanny’s envisage myself and my colleagues beasting their children with laps, skipping, burpees and sit ups.  At NK Fitness we receive a lot of requests to work with children and young athletes.  The vast majority excel at sport within their age groups and are therefore looking for some specialist input to maximise performance.  However, some are inactive and wish to develop their general all round fitness and health.  For children in the latter category long slow running is exactly what we don’t do!  And it is one of the reasons why we continue to be one Fulham’ most successful trainers for young people.


Improving youth fitness looks like organised chaos

There will be many reasons for a child to be inactive, overweight and unfit.  These factors will combine to reduce the opportunity and enjoyment gained from regular physical activity, therefore creating a vicious circle of increasing weight and physical inactivity.  The most important factor when improving youth fitness is to instil enjoyment of physical exercise.  If we only achieve one thing then enjoyment is it.  Children who gain enjoyment from exercise are more likely to remain engaged.  They are therefore more likely to form a regular exercise habit.

Time must be invested in finding activities that children enjoy.  Therefore, fitness sessions with young people must be led by the interests of the individual child.  To the casual observer, many 1 to 1 personal training sessions with children can appear chaotic.  The key performance indicator for us though is whether or not the child is smiling and moving.  If the answer is yes then the session is successful.  As a child’s fitness improves then sessions can evolve and build upon their strengths and interests towards more formal modes of exercise.  The pace of progression must be determined by the child.


The role of the creative personal trainer

Fitness is multifaceted.  Improving youth fitness just about endurance or strength or body fat levels.  These variables of fitness are important but not exclusive.  Effective personal training for children requires the development of motor skills, balance, and co-ordination, along with a love for physical activity.  Personal trainers that work with children must be creative and keep sessions varied at the same time as fun.  This is what develops intrinsic enjoyment of exercise amongst young people.

The other role for a youth personal trainer is to manage the expectations of parents.  They understandably want results.  However, if you go in too formal and too hard then the child is likely to have a negative experience.  The battle is then lost.  Therefore, effective youth personal trainers must work closely with parents so that they can be supportive and increase their child’s chance of success.