Running Training for Youth Athletes: Considerations and Guidelines

Tim Kleppick

September 18, 2023

Running Training for Youth Athletes: Considerations and Guidelines

Youth athletes are the future of sports, and nurturing their talent requires careful planning and training. Running is a fundamental skill for many sports, and the proper training can help young athletes reach their full potential while minimizing the risk of injuries. This article will explore the essential considerations and guidelines for running training for youth athletes.

Age-Appropriate Training

One of the most critical aspects of running training for youth athletes is age-appropriate programming. Children and adolescents go through significant physical and psychological development stages. Therefore, coaches and trainers must tailor training programs to align with these developmental milestones.

For younger athletes (ages 6-12), focus on developing fundamental movement skills, agility, and coordination through tag, relays, and obstacle courses. Running should be enjoyable and integrated into games rather than structured workouts.

More structured training can be introduced as athletes enter adolescence (ages 13-18). However, it’s essential to consider individual differences in growth and maturation. Some athletes may be physically more mature than others, requiring different training approaches. Customized training plans should emphasize technique, strength, and speed development while paying attention to the athlete’s physical and emotional well-being.

Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Before every training session or competition, youth athletes should engage in a proper warm-up routine. A dynamic warm-up, consisting of jogging, skipping, and light stretching, helps prepare the body for physical exertion and reduces the risk of injuries. After training or competition, a cool-down period with gentle stretches can aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness.

Emphasize Technique and Form

Good running technique is crucial for performance and injury prevention. Youth athletes should be taught proper running form early on. This includes maintaining an upright posture, relaxed shoulders, and a rhythmic arm swing. Coaches should emphasize the importance of landing midfoot, as this reduces the risk of overuse injuries associated with heel striking.

Video analysis can be a valuable tool for coaches and athletes to identify areas for improvement in running technique. Regular feedback and drills can help young athletes refine their form and become more efficient runners.

Gradual Progression

Progressive training is vital for youth athletes to build strength and endurance while avoiding overuse injuries. Coaches should design training plans that gradually increase workouts’ intensity, duration, and frequency. Balancing challenging athletes and preventing burnout or injuries from excessive training is essential.


Cross-training should be integrated into the training regimen to prevent overuse injuries and develop well-rounded athletes. Cross training activities can include swimming, cycling, yoga, and strength training. These activities reduce the risk of burnout and enhance overall athleticism and physical fitness.

Monitoring Growth and Maturation

Youth athletes undergo rapid growth and maturation, which can impact their training needs and abilities. Coaches and parents should closely monitor growth spurts and any signs of overuse injuries. Adjustments to training volume and intensity may be necessary to accommodate these changes.

Rest and Recovery

Youth athletes need adequate rest and recovery time to allow their bodies to heal and adapt to training. Overtraining can lead to burnout and increase the risk of injuries. Encourage athletes to sleep well, maintain a balanced diet, and incorporate rest days into their training schedule.

Mental and Emotional Support

Running training for youth athletes is about more than physical preparation. It’s also essential to provide mental and emotional support. Young athletes may experience performance anxiety, stress, or self-doubt. Coaches should create a positive and nurturing environment where athletes feel comfortable discussing their concerns. Mental training techniques like visualization and goal setting can help young runners develop mental toughness and resilience.

Injury Prevention

Injuries can be especially devastating for youth athletes. Coaches should educate athletes about the importance of listening to their bodies and promptly reporting pain or discomfort. Proper warm-up, cool-down, and stretching routines can reduce the risk of injuries, as can strengthening exercises targeting the core, hips, and lower limbs.

Running training for youth athletes requires a thoughtful and holistic approach that considers their physical, mental, and emotional development. Coaches and trainers guide young athletes toward their full potential while ensuring their safety and well-being. By following age-appropriate guidelines, emphasizing technique and form, and promoting rest and recovery, we can help young runners thrive in their athletic pursuits and lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy activity.