In a recent facebook live session we invited questions from our followers on all matters relating to fitness. One of the most interesting questions was about youth conditioning. What were our top three tips when it comes to fitness training for their children? My immediate response is not to jump into technical information about the best youth fitness training methods. Effective long term youth conditioning starts long before the child sets foot in a physical activity setting. Getting the youth conditioning environment right for any young athletes starts with the parents. Being the father of 3 sporty boys, with my fair share of errors, here I give my top 3 considerations for parents.
Long term youth conditioning starts at home
Forget organised classes and selecting sports to trial. A child’s long term attitudes towards physical activity, and therefore youth conditioning, will be heavily influenced by those of the parents. Young people will be picking up on their parents exercise vibes throughout their childhood. Therefore, having a healthy attitude towards exercise and fitness is the crucial first step. So often when working with young athletes on their fitness in Fulham, I see a mismatch in attitudes between parent and child. Many adults see exercise as a necessary part of being fit and healthy. However, children first and foremost need to see exercise and physical activity as fun. Take this a step further to the parent who also counts calories and is dieting on and off in a bid to lose weight. Young people growing up in this environment are more likely to share the same attitudes when they are adults.
Much better to have parents who enjoy exercise for the right reasons.
Variety is the spice of life in youth fitness and enjoyment the lifeblood
Expose children to as many different forms of physical activity and exercise as possible. Doing so increases the chance that they will discover something that they enjoy. Variety also increases the range of physical skills, referred to as physical literacy, that they will develop. Many parents will have come from a background of specific sports and activities. It is important not to let this limit their outlook on the activities that their children take part in. For example, my eldest son has played a good standard of football since a young age but recently is showing much more interest in skateboarding. Even though I do not understand skateboarding like traditional team sports I can recognise the physical skill set required.
Immersed in having fun young athletes will rack up hours of physical activity. A deep rooted inherent enjoyment of physical activity is what ultimately keeps us coming back for more – even when we have lots going on in other areas of our life. Any self respecting coach of young athletes will list enjoyment in their top 1 things to consider when programming youth conditioning and physical activity.
Go with the flow and changes of heart
This can be a hard one for many parents of sporty and active children. Being prepared for changes of heart and mind is tough. There will be plenty of days when young athletes simply ‘aren’t feeling it’! Too often I have seen children forced to participate in sports practice against their will. At times like these they are not having fun – fact! The goal is to have young athletes build positive associations between exercise and effort. ‘Manning up’ is more appropriate for adults in these circumstances. I strongly recommend easing off if a child doesn’t want to go one morning – this can be by lightening the activity, changing the emphasis or simply allowing them to do something else. It’s very difficult to see the world through child eyes, especially when activities have been organised and paid for. At times like these, parents need to exercise a high level of emotional intelligence. I firmly believe that my middle son loves his rugby as a result of me not forcing him to go on the mornings when he was too tired and didn’t want to go!