Maturing as a Distance Athlete: Caution

Author: Steve Bennett

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David Rudisha 800m World Record Holder

To mature as a distance athlete you need patience – In 2003 i had a large number of very good national level junior athletes in my squad. They all wanted, like everyone does success now or at worst ,next season. They tried and i did my best by planning training required to be at the highest level. It worked to an extent with numerous junior national medals but it also failed in producing an world class athletes that went on with it.

Here we are in 2014 and very few of the athletes from my squad are still in sport. However, some athletes that were talented then that we knew ,have matured and some of them are running brilliantly now. The scientific reason is that it takes a lot of time to mature as a distance athlete and even more so for athletes growing up in western world cities where our youth are not growing up running like many African athletes. We need to let a lot more time happen with our involvement in the sport for the long term adaptations to happen, these adaptation are likely to be to do with mitochondrial density and levels of muscle capillarization. To increase the likelihood of this happening athletes need to be put in situations where they love what they do enough to keep running for many years and this means building friendships within the athletics community. They also need to look after themselves and avoid injury.  From a promising 16 year old athlete racing at National finalist level its probably around 10 more years before they will be at their best.

It is so easy for 16 year old stars to push for world class success at 20 years of age by training in igher volumes and with more intensity. Even with all the experience in the world with programming and recovery these athletes will not be able to get away from the fact that much more time is going to be needed to mature. By trying to do otherwise they will probably leave the sport well before they reach their maturity. Basically pushing themselves for short term glory as a junior might be be all the will get.

If you want to be an elite world class athlete you need to have:

1/ The talent

2/ The athletics family

3/ The location to train effectively.

4/ The coaching expertise to help you plan and balance it all.

5/ The patience to be in it long enough doing the right stuff to mature.

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