I’ve been a track coach for awhile for kids of all ages. One of the toughest things for young kids to experience is when they run a 400M for the first time. You quickly find out which kids can handle pain well and which kids can’t.
Meaning, it is usually the first time these young kids felt the burning in their lungs, the dead feeling in their legs, and wondering if this is normal or they are going to experience their first heart attack.
You hear coaches of all sports say to kids, “push through the pain.”
But, how are kids to learn which pain is what? What is lactic acid building up? What does it feel like pushing through your anaerobic threshold? And what if this pain is an actual injury?
I tell parents that I treat their kids like I would treat my own child. When it came to my own child, I didn’t put her through various stages of torture to find out her pain threshold. It was a simple conversation and it consisted something like this:
- There is good pain and there is bad pain. As an athlete grows in their experience of athletics, they will no doubt feel certain pains in their body due to pushing their body to certain limits.
- Bad pains are usually easier to identify. Sharp pains that inhibit your body’s ability to move are probably bad. A broken leg. If you can’t move without this pain going off, then it might be bad.
- Now my daughter has the luxury of her dad being in the fitness industry. So, all I said was if you have a pain that affects your movements in a negative way, then talk with me and I’ll determine how severe it could be.
- She once came to me and said that her calf was feeling a little tight and stiff. I asked if she thought it would affect how fast she could run. She said no, she could run on it and feel she’d be fine. So I said run the race and she ended up winning it. Now after the race, it did tighten up so we iced it and did recovery therapy. She was fine after a day or so.
- The shortness of breath due to conditioning can be scary for young athletes. This could make an athlete want to stop training for that day. They must learn that their body is resilient and can recover and continue to workout from these feelings very quickly.
Ultimately, what I did with my daughter was go to a track and do a workout. I basically said, I’m going to have you run as fast as you can for 60 seconds and let’s see how far around the track you can get. I’d give her a few minutes rest and then go again.
My daughter hung tough, fought back some tears because it was a little tough for her, but I think it set the stage for her to feel that pain and know she was fine. That was huge. Now, she could do harder workouts and feel that pain and know it wasn’t going to hurt her.
This helped her in competition to persevere when others were giving into the pain.
I don’t think you want to approach the subject of injuries too lightly. I want them to push through pain, but I want them to understand that injuries need to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Not addressing an injury could cause more harm in the long run.
Some kids start off handling pain very well and others need to be brought into it slowly. But, if you can talk an athlete through what their feeling and prove to them by putting them through it and bringing them back to normal, it can start showing them the power of being able to push through the pain.
What am I missing? Feel free to put your thoughts in the comment’s box listed below.