Training for a 10 year old

Is anyone else here the parent of a budding cyclist?

I have two boys aged 7 and 10. They’ve both ridden since they could walk, and for the last few years we’ve been members of a club with a brilliant Junior section.

We’ve done Cyclocross, Road and Track racing, and they’ve progressed lots. Most importantly, they’ve enjoyed some brilliant experiences through it. That’s always been the most important factor for me - enjoyment and learning.

That said, for the 10 year old things are getting a little more serious in the racing now. Everyone trains hard, and I’m struggling to motivate him to train. Naturally, he then gets left behind.

I’m finding it a real struggle between keeping it fun for him, but encouraging him to train a little so he gets even more out of his riding. I’m also finding it hard to write this without sounding like a pushy parent!

On a serious note, I’m wary of pushing a pre-pubescent body too hard. Has anyone any tips on suitable workouts or training plans for kids of this age?

Thanks in advance!

1 Like

Interesting topic, my son is about to turn 9 and I’ve had to push him to ride at all. He only learned to ride at 7 and last year was all about learning to navigate very basic trails. He’s expressed some interest in racing but he’s too young to be training seriously (my opinion). To me, starting out too seriously is a good way to kill the spirit and fun of a sport. You know yours better than I but most kids aren’t driven the way adults are. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pursue this, especially since there is clearly interest - but like you said, how do you balance fun and training when a lot of training is basically getting on the bike during times when you’d prefer not to?

I suspect most answers revolve around getting your son to just ride more often while keeping it fun. Make skills days into game days, make a long ride into an adventure in the woods complete with make believe elements. Meet your kids where they are at, rather than where you wish they were. Don’t project your own desires on them. If you’re lucky, it’ll stick. If it doesn’t, you’ve exposed them to something they can pick up later at any point in life.

Subscribed, great question and topic.

3 Likes

I doubt cycling is different but if they’re not intrinsically motivated at this young age (most are not tbh) then pushing or even suggesting “training” can have a disastorous effect. Again, I’ve never been around young kids cycling and “training” but have decades of experience in youth basketball, AAU, and coaching youth sports. Those that play the most are usually the ones that get ahead. At the age you’re talking about you will have kids at different stages of development. Some will advance quicker as they start puberty earlier, other kids will be slower to grow into their bodies and sports performance.

The ones that get training (from their parents or coaches) that doesn’t, for the most part, come from within will most assurdely burn out. Often sooner rather than later.

Tread lightly, we don’t know your kid. My vote is always just let them have fun. Make anything training related be more fun focused (like 95% fun).

I’d wait until after puberty to start “pushing” a kid if they’re interested. Pubery levels the playing field, lol. I cannot tell you how many “superstars” I’ve seen who dominate basketball or football even baseball when younger but once the rest of the boys catch up they get caught and passed rather quickly. It’s one of the most numerous of cases of burnout we see in youth sports.

Outside of an outlier (you’d know already if you had one) I believe it’s better to let the kids enjoy activities organically than to introduce training. The more activities they’re into the better. You want lifelong participants in fun outdoor activites not regimented intereference from adults who believe (If I was pushed more as a kid I’d be a superstar…) and go to far.

It’s awesome that you’re enjoy this activity with your boys. That’s enough. I’d rather have an average kid that enjoys an activity than to have a kid pushed hard too early for meaningless results who gives up when he’s 17 to never do it again.

I’ll leave you with a universally truthful maxim;

Parents ruin youth sports.

Good luck to you and yours, in the end you will know best what to do with your kids. Keep them and their enjoyment first in your thoughts and you should make the right decision.

Good luck.

17 Likes

If 10-year-olds around them are seriously training that much, don’t worry about it. Within 6 years they will all be 300 lb and probably in jail because the burnout was too real :stuck_out_tongue: I forget which one, but it was mentioned on a podcast a while ago that instead of focusing on training, maybe help them develop skills in a fun way such as jumps and competitions with their friends. That way it’s seen as fun, but you’re not stressing the structured training side of things while still providing benefit.

2 Likes

You didn’t mention mountain biking, but my suggestion is to see if your area has a NICA team or similar. In Georgia we have GCA instead of NICA, so your area may have something similar.

Most kids are motivated by what their friends, not parents, are doing, and the mountain bike program gets a lot of kids on the trail training in the summer and racing in the fall.

From one “pushy parent” to another, you can’t do anything to make your child want to put in the work. But if they are having fun and riding with other kids, eventually what is fun becomes actual training and the desire to compete may or may not come out. My son is 14 and has no desire to compete, but I can get him to ride at practice with other kids and have fun.

3 Likes

Good grief, 10 years old - just let them have fun on their bikes!

22 Likes

Everything you said was great, but this stood out the most. Very well said. I had to quickly adjust my expectations of my son when I first tried to teach him to ride a bike. He was not interested. I waited until I was starting to become concerned about being a cycling dad to a kid who couldn’t even ride at all. My expectations shifted from, “I really hope cycling is his thing, like me” to, “I hope that me showing him what riding a bike is like influences his life positively” - that shift from me allowed me to teach him how to ride, and then to enjoy paved paths to some easy single track. Now he asks when the next ride is, or says he’s not in the mood to ride. I typically don’t push him too much, but sometimes I do force him out. He usually has fun, even then.

And for parents of younger kids (and yes, I should have absolutely known better!) never let your kids ride training wheels! What started out as a quick weekend experiment to get him more comfortable just pedaling, turned into a crutch he was unwilling to rid himself of. Now I see 2 year olds on 2 wheel bikes, all kids develop differently and mine needed to wait. but wow, I regret that choice!

1 Like

Love this, and it’s exactly where I’m at with it. His involvement in cycling so far has opened up so many amazing experiences for him that outweigh any race results.

I absolutely agree with the comments around making it fun. I’m doing my Level 1 Coaching Course with British Cycling and that’s a key tenet.

I raced as a Junior myself so witnessed others burn out thanks to Parental pressure. Probably explains why I’m so wary of it to be asking on a forum for advice!

1 Like

Very good points. Even though we as parents know “all kids are different” it often takes a number of times getting kicked in the face for it to sink in.

My oldest son started learning to ride a bike at age 4 with training wheels and we went to this park for him to practice in the grass. There was this little kid just ripping around the park going off dirt jumps just tearing shit up! My son was extremely motivated by seeing this kid, smaller than him, ripping around on the bike. I took his training wheels off right there and within the hour he was riding around just fine. Come to found out that the little ripper was 7 years old…just a small little fella! My oldest was motivated by him to learn.

My middle son learned to ride on training wheels at age 4 as well, I was in the military at the time and deployed and my wife taught him to ride. He’s the one who still rides a bit.

My youngest took a long time to learn to ride a bike. He was 7 at the time. I should note that while all three of my boys were learning to ride their bikes, I was not a “cyclist” I’m late to the game.

Who knows how them learning to ride a bike would have went If I was into cycling at the time.

Hopefully the OP will do the best thing for his son and enjoy many years of activities together. Whether or not he’s “good” at them should be irrelevant.

3 Likes

This reminds me of when Team Cannondale made an appearance to sign autographs and take pictures at our local bike shop. This must have been the 2014 Tour of California. Rising star Peter Sagan was the star of the show.

My son Lucas was about your son’s age and he’d been doing junior events in both road and CX for the shop-sponsored team. He and his teammates were all there in their team jerseys and during the Q and A, some one asked “Peter, do you have any training advice for the juniors here?”

Peter Sagan’s response: “No. They should not ‘train.’ Maybe, later when they are teen agers they can think about training. Right now, ride your bike and have fun.”

And we’ve taken that advice to heart. If he wanted to do a race, I’d sign him up. If he wanted to do a clinic, I’d sign him up for that. And as he got older, he started asking to go on the local Saturday group ride. Then the local XC mountain bike series. And then the local CX series, which he won twice. He said his “training secret” was always being late to school, so every morning was TT.

As he got older, I let him decide whether and how much he wanted to train. When he asked, I helped him put together workouts and a training plan. Sometimes I’d need to remind him that he needed to do a particular workout if he wanted to stay on track. But I tried to never nag or push. I probably didn’t always succeed, but I tried.

Now he’s 18 and a senior in HS. I’m hoping he’ll do collegiate racing next year, but now especially it’s something he’s going to have to figure out for himself.

12 Likes

He can probably train as hard as he wants. He’ll eat and sleep more to keep up with it. Luxuries you and I don’t have!

Prepare yourself for him to abandon ship.

Find a way to make riding bikes purely fun, which doesn’t include education on how to do it better. While you’re right that some of his barriers to having fun are that he’s not as successful as he’d like, whether at skills or racing, or workouts, or whatever… making him better at those things requires you to educate him, or push him, both of which are going to be received as “this is dad’s thing and he just wants me to be better,” even if you layer your education with triple-decker compliment sandwiches, and 90% pure fun activities.

Find a way to make riding bikes purely fun.

Once he finds it exhilarating, he’ll ask for input on how to do it better. Until he asks, seek fun.

If/when he asks, find someone you trust to coach him while keeping it fun. I’d find that person now and keep them in your back pocket, silently, so there is no delay. Kids are impatient. You have to be the patient one here, for now.

Sincerely,
A former burnt out parent-coached athlete, turned youth coach.

7 Likes

my son is almost 11 and a few years ago we got him a road bike (on his request). He was initially into it and then stopped using it. for a variety of reasons we’ve had him on a riding routine this year, mainly because he’s not super active and exercise helps with adhd. The only structure I do is time, so in a week we’ll do either 30min rides, 45mins, or 60mins, but we just ride steady or he rides on Zwift. It’s pointless to try to impose structure, esp on someone who isn’t motivated to begin with (and who isn’t going to race either). He’s not intrinsically inclined to try and be a fast kid so I wouldn’t push in that direction.

If he were to want to race, I’d sign him up for a race and have him experience firsthand how fast kids, and then maybe getting his doors blown off at least give him an idea of what it takes. But I think everything needs to be guided by how kids react, you can encourage them to not sell themselves short but pushing them unreasonably can backfire

Gold.

5 Likes

just adding on, having ridden with my son quite a bit, I’m not even sure how much training is actually even beneficial on <12 y/o I’m obvs not a physiologist, but I don’t see much ‘ftp’ growth in my son, so I’m not sure how much pushing training will increase their fitness at a young age

Another vote for looking for something social or clubs for them.

My 12yo does a spring and summer mountain biking camp (1-2 rides a week in the evenings, a little longer ride on the weekends). She does a weekly MTB short track/CX race series in the fall (8 weeks long, I think).

I rode a 25 mile gravel ride with her her last summer and we’re registered again this year. She begged and begged for a trainer for Christmas and Santa brought her one. She has used it twice - typical kid :smiling_face:

She showed a lot of interest early on for swimming so I put her in an off-season program that ended up being really intense and she hasn’t hit a lap pool in 3 years. Lesson learned. She’s an only child so unfortunately she’s the guinea pig for our parenting.

2 Likes

Brilliant responses, thanks all.

I must point out that in no way am I thinking of a highly structured plan, or anything focussed on getting higher places.

@Dr_Alex_Harrison Appreciate your first hand experiences from both sides of the fence. The comment about making it exhilarating is spot on.

Case in point, he raced twice on Saturday. First race he finished joint last as he dropped back to keep the Boy in last company as it was his first race and he was worried about him. Bless. Second race he got stuck in, had to use his head for tactics and finished well. He was buzzing afterwards and that’s what I’m trying to find more of for him.

@hubcyclist We think he is also adhd with sensory challenges. It’s been a hard journey but we’ve found cycling much more suitable than team sports such as soccer. I hope you and yours continue to enjoy your riding.

4 Likes

Fellow ADHD “kid” here. (age 34)

Finally diagnosed at age 27. Was unequivocally ADHD for all 27 of those prior years.

1 Like

I find this conversation relevant. Great thoughts by everyone here. Just asked my son 10 minutes ago (on the way to soccer practice) if he wanted to do some of the bike races (starting up in a couple of weeks) with a couple of other boys and got an emphatic “No”. Of course - he still has to come watch me race LOL. @ibaldwin I too hope that seeing me work hard on the bike (and improve week to week) is a positive influence on him. But maybe that is just a way to rationalize doing my 2nd favorite physical activity.

At minimum my races gets him outside and hanging out with some pretty quality people and their kids. There are worse things we could all be doing with our time! :slight_smile:

1 Like

PS. Fun fact, endurance sports have 5x the ADHD prevalence of other sports, which have roughly 1.25-1.5x the ADHD prevalence of gen pop. I think it’s close to 30% in endurance sports.

Given a normal population distribution, this means more than half of us on this forum are either diagnosable with ADHD or very near it. :wink:

7 Likes

:heart:
Seems like a great kid

7 Likes