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  #1  
Old 12-19-2012
CSLEE CSLEE is offline
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CSLEE
Default over training

I am in charge of a swimming club here in Penang, Malaysia. We have quite a big group of swimmers who are under 12 yo, some of them turn up for training twice a day almost everyday except Sat n Sun (one session), I am a bit worried about young kids being over-trained, would like to know what is the appropriate training volume for kids below 12 and also signs and symptoms and consequences of over-training.

Thank you
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  #2  
Old 12-19-2012
The Parrot The Parrot is offline
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CSLEE
I don't know how much under 12 your young people are but can they be taught how to take their pulse? If they can and do it regularly first thing in the morning before getting out of bed that will indicate their basal pulse rate which is usually consistent. If they are overtraining, that usual consistent pulse rate will be elevated by 5 to 10 beats.

An elevated basal pulse rate is also a good indicator if one is developing an infection - before other symptoms manifest themselves.

Pulse rate is useful in that the condition of your youngsters can be shown by how quickly the pulse rate drops to a rate you can determine. The fitter they are, the quicker it will drop to that rate. If it takes longer or only drops a little, the individual is not fit and may also be overtraining. Sometimes, with mature athletes, if overtraining, it can be hard to get the pulse up to its usual rate for a given amount of work.

Hope this helps.

Martin T.
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  #3  
Old 12-20-2012
CoachMatHudson CoachMatHudson is offline
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Default Over-training?

There is a lot contained in that word "training".

In swimming we might break it down into:
1) muscular training.
2) metabolic training.
3) neuro-muscular training.
4) mental training.

And in the case of children I might add 'social training'.

The fact that these children are coming every day and perhaps twice a day may reveal more than just eagerness to be fit or fast. There may be a good social reason for them being there. The frequency of them coming is not the problem- really it may be better that they are at the club that somewhere else- like on the street or in front of a TV.

If we view 'training' in all of these dimensions then we may see a lot more ideas for how that training time can be used. And by this a coach can set up a program that prevents 'over' training in any one dimension.

And I might add that it is wise to consider at what age your program is designed to help those young children peak in their performance - do you want to make them the fastest at 14 or 16? Then there is a good chance (statistic-wise) that they will no longer be the fastest ones at 21, for various hypothesized reasons. I recommend keeping a long-sighted view in mind when setting the intensity level for early age-group practices. These years are far more valuable for attitude, value and neuro-muscular imprinting when those aspects of development are so maleable, than muscle and metabolic which peak later in life. If you have precision it is easy to build power upon it (like an archer), but if power comes first, it is much harder to build precision into it later (like a powerful, but clumsy bull).

Swimming skill should be viewed in more ways than just heart beats or muscle power. The swimmer needs to learn precision of movement and conservation of energy. They also need to learn how to recognize what good technique feels and looks like, before it becomes so fast that they can't feel it or control it - or in other words, learn how to tell the difference between movements that cause more heart beats versus those that cause less - and get the same amount of work done.

They need to learn to a 'feel' for the water so that they can work with it rather than against it: holding the water with one part of the body, while sliding the rest of the body around as easily as possible. Learning hydrodynamic principles by intuitive play.

Mental training involves these perceptions (proprioception and interoception) and it also involves attitude: good decision-making, cooperation, self-control, recognizing and enjoying learning opportunities in every mistake, learning to respect the self and the body, and much more.

Setting up certain days or certain practices that use creative, well-designed games to teach these skills can add more variety to the weekly schedule and create rest opportunities for certain dimensions of training without having to reduce training.

Muscular and metabolic training can certainly be overdone, especially in young bodies that are not developed completely yet. Plus, consider the habits and perspective they form at an early age if taking their body over the edge of exhaustion and injury is the high value on the team. Hard work is wonderful, but they must be taught wisdom with it. The coach sets the tone for this.

However, it is very hard to over-train the neuro-muscular system- it is hard to over-train precision and efficiency instinct. And our minds really thrive with consistent mental training.

Consider dividing up the days of the week and the practice sessions into separate focus - some practices are about speed, some about endurance, some about neuro-muscular, some about games that teach necessary attitude and skills in a totally different way (than swimming laps).

And set up days where the children are given swimming 'puzzles' to solve which will require them to use the specific metrics and knowledge you have been using as a coach - teah them to think like you do. Some of these puzzle can involve short fast swims that require them to use a certain number of strokes to get the distance done in the fastest time, and some can involve long swims where holding a certain pattern (stroke count, tempo, push-off, underwater dolphin, etc) is required and the time is not as important (build up their ability to focus and concentrate).

Just some ideas. And have fun! If you are having fun, so will they.
__________________
~ Mat Hudson

Head Coach
Mediterra International Swimming
mediterraswim.com

My blog with over 400 posts on TI technique and mindful training: Smooth Strokes Blog

Email: mat@mediterraswim.com

Last edited by CoachMatHudson : 12-20-2012 at 06:17 AM.
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  #4  
Old 12-24-2012
CSLEE CSLEE is offline
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Dear Martin:

Tq for your insight, I think it is surely a useful, if not the best, guideline to determine the condition of the kid. Most of the kids are taught to take their pulse rate after a certain programs, especially quality drills, like 50 or 100m sprinting, so they should have a rough idea what their pulse rates are.

Appreciate your reply.
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  #5  
Old 12-24-2012
CSLEE CSLEE is offline
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Dear Coach Mat:
Many thanks for your elaborate reply to my questions, it truly gives me more answers than I asked for, my view is in the brackets as stated below:


There is a lot contained in that word "training".

In swimming we might break it down into:
1) muscular training.
2) metabolic training.
3) neuro-muscular training.
4) mental training.

And in the case of children I might add 'social training'.

The fact that these children are coming every day and perhaps twice a day may reveal more than just eagerness to be fit or fast. There may be a good social reason for them being there. The frequency of them coming is not the problem- really it may be better that they are at the club that somewhere else- like on the street or in front of a TV.

(You are absolutely correct, I have parents who just ask their kids to come for trainings as they want to keep them away from watching too much TV, toying with electronic gadgets and etc. I actually feel that whether the kids should come for training very much depends on necessity and how fit they are, so that the training won't take its tool on them, especially for young kids who are 12 yo and below)

If we view 'training' in all of these dimensions then we may see a lot more ideas for how that training time can be used. And by this a coach can set up a program that prevents 'over' training in any one dimension.

And I might add that it is wise to consider at what age your program is designed to help those young children peak in their performance - do you want to make them the fastest at 14 or 16? Then there is a good chance (statistic-wise) that they will no longer be the fastest ones at 21, for various hypothesized reasons.

(Over here, many parents do not see swimming as a possible career for their kids, so they expect quick and early accomplishments from them, sadly to say that I have seen too many potential and talented swimmers who peaked too early at the age of 10/11 just stopped swimming completely when they were 12/13 yo. Therefore, sensible parents and coaches usually set the target for the kids to peak around the age of 16-18 before they finish their high school and enter universities/colleges. It is a common phenomenon here, or maybe around the globe, that there are hundreds of swimmers from group 5 or 4 in all the competitions, but when it goes up to the higher age groups, the number just drops gradually and in group 1 (16,17,18), only a handful of swimmers left to take part. I totally do agree with you that if you already peak around the age of 16/17, then hypothetically you won't be able to swim faster when you are 21, but again not many parents/coaches would be worried about this.)

I recommend keeping a long-sighted view in mind when setting the intensity level for early age-group practices. These years are far more valuable for attitude, value and neuro-muscular imprinting when those aspects of development are so maleable, than muscle and metabolic which peak later in life. If you have precision it is easy to build power upon it (like an archer), but if power comes first, it is much harder to build precision into it later (like a powerful, but clumsy bull).

(Again, I totally agree with you as I always tell my son to be very meticulous with strokes, techniques and skill first for his current age. The commonest mistake committed by the parents here is to judge the swimmers by the time they swim, I used to be that kind of parent too but now I realise that all those racing times are actually quite insignificant at this tender age, it is far more important for them to pick up all the good traits as you mentioned above.)

Swimming skill should be viewed in more ways than just heart beats or muscle power. The swimmer needs to learn precision of movement and conservation of energy. They also need to learn how to recognize what good technique feels and looks like, before it becomes so fast that they can't feel it or control it - or in other words, learn how to tell the difference between movements that cause more heart beats versus those that cause less - and get the same amount of work done.

(A very good insight that I think most of the coaches and parents should be aware of.)

They need to learn to a 'feel' for the water so that they can work with it rather than against it: holding the water with one part of the body, while sliding the rest of the body around as easily as possible. Learning hydrodynamic principles by intuitive play.

Mental training involves these perceptions (proprioception and interoception) and it also involves attitude: good decision-making, cooperation, self-control, recognizing and enjoying learning opportunities in every mistake, learning to respect the self and the body, and much more.

(These are what out swimmers here truly lack of, I can see that most of them just train and swim senselessly for the sake of training, but again I feel extremely difficult to put all these messages across to them.)

Setting up certain days or certain practices that use creative, well-designed games to teach these skills can add more variety to the weekly schedule and create rest opportunities for certain dimensions of training without having to reduce training.

(could you propose what types of trainings or games that can be included?)

Muscular and metabolic training can certainly be overdone, especially in young bodies that are not developed completely yet. Plus, consider the habits and perspective they form at an early age if taking their body over the edge of exhaustion and injury is the high value on the team. Hard work is wonderful, but they must be taught wisdom with it. The coach sets the tone for this.

(In fact, what I am more worried is about their physical "damages" that might occur to the young swimmers who obviously train too hard or too much. I have observed those who peaked at the very young age due to intensive trainings when they were around 8/9, they are currently quite under-height compared to their peers. This is also one of the reasons quoted by their parents for completely dropping out from swimming. But again, I searched in internet regarding this issue, the relationship between body height and over-training has not been medically proven to be related, maybe what I observed was a sheer coincidence.)

However, it is very hard to over-train the neuro-muscular system- it is hard to over-train precision and efficiency instinct. And our minds really thrive with consistent mental training.

Consider dividing up the days of the week and the practice sessions into separate focus - some practices are about speed, some about endurance, some about neuro-muscular, some about games that teach necessary attitude and skills in a totally different way (than swimming laps).

And set up days where the children are given swimming 'puzzles' to solve which will require them to use the specific metrics and knowledge you have been using as a coach - teah them to think like you do. Some of these puzzle can involve short fast swims that require them to use a certain number of strokes to get the distance done in the fastest time, and some can involve long swims where holding a certain pattern (stroke count, tempo, push-off, underwater dolphin, etc) is required and the time is not as important (build up their ability to focus and concentrate).

(Due to the shortage of training time, I can see that most of the swimmers here are not taught to do stroke count and determine the stroke rate, as I said most of them, even some elder swimmers who don't have the idea at all how to control the speed of swimming.)

Just some ideas. And have fun! If you are having fun, so will they.

(Yeah, having fun is what I always tell the young swimmers, just have fun training, have fun competing and have fun swimming together with their friends.)


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  #6  
Old 12-24-2012
CoachMatHudson CoachMatHudson is offline
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Hey CSLEE,

Thank you for bringing up the topic. There are certainly many more reading this than who are actually responding (and will read in the future) so our conversation may help others. And there are some TI Coaches with a fair amount of age-group swim club experience, though I don't know how many frequent the forums. I don't see the names here on the forum of those I know of.

I hope my comments were not felt as patronizing. You have obvious sensitivity and value for these ideas I presented. You are on the TI Forum afterall, so that says something about your like-minded values as a swim coach.

Like Coach Terry, the forum is a very helpful place to present ideas and get input on them. So both for readers and writers of coaching content this is a helpful exercise. I appreciate the opportunity to jump in and lay some of these on the table for discussion. I have my own set at home (4 kids: twins 14, 5, and 3) and have worked with children from 3 to 30 for some years now, in various teaching venues, so the topic is relevant for me.

In that light I'll share some more thoughts in the next post...
__________________
~ Mat Hudson

Head Coach
Mediterra International Swimming
mediterraswim.com

My blog with over 400 posts on TI technique and mindful training: Smooth Strokes Blog

Email: mat@mediterraswim.com
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  #7  
Old 12-24-2012
Mark Laugenour Mark Laugenour is offline
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You asked Coach Matt some suggestions of games that could provide your swimmers fun ways of learning the important skills of correct swimming. "Games, Gimmicks, Challenges", a book by Bob Steele, will give you some good ideas, and the groundwork and motivation to create your own fun teaching progressions.
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  #8  
Old 12-24-2012
CoachMatHudson CoachMatHudson is offline
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Default lowering risk of over-training

The symptoms of over-training may appear in HR (sometimes), in pain (could be a couple hours after practice), in sleep troubles (too much, too little), in wavering attention at school, in personal and social attitude, in behavior, etc. There is a great deal to pay attention to in order to make sure a child is not 'over-training' – it is certainly not merely an issue of HR (though that is a convenient data point), but of entire body systems and the brain and the mind. Over-training can affect the muscles and connective tissues, the metabolic, the immune system, the brain chemistry, relationships, or the attitude of anyone, including children.

In addition to keeping any eye on physical, psychological and social cues of over-training, we do well to design a program that lowers the risk that a child can engage in over-training. We are right to consider it the coach's responsibility.

I don't think we need to worry that daily exercise in the pool in general is a risk for over-training. I would argue that is a very good thing for most children. But what the swimmers do in that time is the issue of concern.

If we provide a continuous excess of system-stressing activity, and children are left to serve themselves as much as they think they can handle, then self-monitor their own exertion levels then we do have a set up for over-training at an age when they are typically not be expected to know better.

So two ways I would work at lowering the risk:

1) Divide up each practice time into segments to permit gentle entry into intense parts of the practice time and gentle exit from it. Divide up each week into days and sessions with variation in focus and intensity. And divide up the year into seasons of various focus and intensity, for example: certain months of more race intensity training, certain months on technique imprinting and training the swimmers to think like-self-coaches, and seasons of alternative training with a great deal more of land and other water-sport activities.

2) Train the children in mindset, values, skills and the use of tools to monitor their own health and progress in swimming. Involve them in the interpretation and decision-making process so they can learn to think like the coach thinks. I would bring them on the team of helping coach themselves and each other. A team accountability to care for one another and for each self.

We can have them make their own stroke journals to record their personal stroke metrics and HR and record each practice. We can teach them to use a Tempo Trainer. We can teach them to observe other teammates strokes and offer critique like we do.

It is a core value of TI to help swimmers become self-coaching swimmers, (in the best sense) of taking responsibility for the training, of seeking out input and feedback, in tapping into the body's bio-feedback and using data from the environment and from devices to help us make decisions that lead each of us toward optimal health. This can certainly be started with 12 year olds, even 8 year olds. (I coach even my 3 and 5 year old)

Having a sub-14 year old age group of swimmers is one of the most powerful times to imprint these values that can influence the way they pursue sports and health for the rest of their life.

A young team built on different (more healthy, long-sighted) values than the community normally holds could help offset the number of children who drop out of swimming later. It would increase the amount of wisdom present in swimmers as they transition to the older, more intense teams, and set them up for lower risk of injury and burn-out.

I am so glad to hear how you changed your view about judging a child's potential in swimming too early. I was crushed a couple months ago to hear a father (a swim coach no less) who told me behind his daughter's back that she did not have the potential to ultimately go the whole way to her goal. How could he determine this??? This father obviously had no concept of the power of his own attitude to shape his daughter's 'potential', nor did he completely understand the developmental process in mind and body. I still grieve to recall this moment.

You are incredibly fortunate to be able to work with sub-14 kids. That is a precious age for shaping technique and perspective while it is so much easier to adjust.
__________________
~ Mat Hudson

Head Coach
Mediterra International Swimming
mediterraswim.com

My blog with over 400 posts on TI technique and mindful training: Smooth Strokes Blog

Email: mat@mediterraswim.com
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  #9  
Old 12-26-2012
CSLEE CSLEE is offline
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Dear Coach Mat:

Again highly appreciate your advice, I am going to pass what you wrote here to our club coaches for their perusal and exchanges of opinion.
A piece of a very useful advice indeed!
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  #10  
Old 12-26-2012
CSLEE CSLEE is offline
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Dear Coach Mat:

referring to the "crushed-your-heart-father", it is truly not uncommon here, I have met too many parents with this kind of attitude, they simply compare their kids' racing times with the others and normally they compare with the top 3 swimmers in the competitions!
they sometimes even "sentence" their kids into the "hopeless and helpless" bunch who will never be able to compete, I always tell them "look, your kids are only 11 yo, they still have a long long way to go, as long as they keep training with perseverance and positive attitude, they will achieve something satisfying if not great one day."
I am lucky to come across some swimming websites which correctly open up my eyes and mind towards competitive swimming, as I once doubted my own son too, as he is obviously not a talented swimmer (he took almost 6 months just to stop dancing his palms upon water entry, and now his right arm sometimes still enters the water too early in front of his forehead and thus he has to swerve his right palm to the side) and the coach always jokingly said that he still very much lacks of muscle power.
Fortunately, I made an effort to search around in internet about kids swimming and came across a few very useful websites, TI is one of them, another one is by an Australian coach, I always remember what he said about kids swimming that "below 12 yo competition is mostly, if not all, about muscles power and also talent, but when everyone completes the puberty and physical growth, the real competition only begins!"
Looking back in retrospect, my son is only 10 yo, so right now what I always emphasize to him is "racing times are not important now, what are more vital are training attitude, stroke and techniques".
He did tell me a few times that he really liked swimming, he said he enjoyed being in the pool, disregard of how he had performed so far, I feel it is very important not to kill his interest for swimming just for the sake of racing times, I believe he still has a long way to go and I always tell him: keep it up and I am sure you will reach the top one day!
I recently bought a book "Swimming for Parents" by an Australian coach too, I find it a very useful and constructive book, even though it is not as comprehensive as I wish it to be.
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