Benefits of Triathlon for Children
Medical studies have proved conclusively that, participating in sports is one of the best ways a child can improve their levels of physical fitness. Children have the opportunity to pursue three sports simultaneously.
Sport of one kind or another is something which the majority of children naturally tend to enjoy. It helps to keep them fit, active, healthy and happy, no matter what their level of sporting ability is.
Triathletes tend to be physically fit, and many athletes choose triathlon specifically for its fitness benefits. Because all three events are endurance sports, nearly all of triathlon training is cardiovascular exercise.
In addition, since triathletes must train for three different disciplines, they tend to have more balanced whole-body muscular development than pure cyclists or runners, whose training emphasizes only a subset of their musculature. Injuries that are incurred from long hours of a single activity are not as common in triathlon as they are in single sport events. The cross training effect that athletes achieve from training for one sport by doing a second activity applies in triathlon training.
Is participating in an intense sport like a triathlon good for my child?
The main goal of youth triathlons is completing the race rather than getting the fastest time.
What are the benefits of a child doing triathlons?
One of the biggest benefits is that your child is exposed to three separate events in one, helping to prevent overuse injuries that can occur from playing just one sport all of the time.
By participating in the same activity or sport over and over, our bodies are more susceptible to injury. Participating in shorter segments of multiple activities can actually decrease the number of overuse injuries.
Swimming keeps your child’s heart and lungs healthy, improves strength and flexibility, increases stamina and even improves balance and posture. Being comfortable in the water is a necessity in life, because even if kids don’t go to a swimming pool regularly, they should be at ease near any body of water.
Additional benefits include overall increased physical fitness and weight management.
Is there a down side to youth triathlons and other intense sports?
As with any endurance sport, if too much time is spent training at a young age, overuse injuries, especially in the legs, may occur. Acute injuries such as sprains or fractures are very rare but can occur as well.
The most common injury is during the bicycling leg and the transition on and off the bicycle. Training in proper transition and overall bike safety can lessen these risks.
In the days leading up to the event, is there anything parents should do to help their child prepare physically and mentally?
Rest is of utmost importance. Children should sleep 8 to 10 hours per night. Maintaining good hydration also is key, especially in the week leading up to the race.
Mental preparation includes visualizing the legs of the race and reviewing transition procedures. Transitions are considered the fourth leg of a triathlon, and practicing prior to a race will help prevent confusion on race day.
- Have fun!
- Be fit. Benefits of exercise are well documented – improved sense of wellness, fitness, mental health, sleep hygiene and lower obesity rates (a growing epidemic) to name a few.
- Be a better student. We’ve long heard a healthy mind depends on a healthy body.
- Get out. Screens CAN help exercise with tracking, music and more. At the same time, we know too many kids are sedentary, in part as a result of the trend toward increasing time on screens.
- Set and meet goals. I talked to one of our high school age sons who said that participating in triathlons at an early age taught him the role of regular training in meeting larger goals – a concept that is easily transferrable to other areas of life.
- Develop perseverance.
- Do math. While they train, kids can learn to calculate distance, speed, split times, heart rates, and overall improvements.