Mystery Coach -
Can you comment on how you'd apply Lydiard's training philosophy to middle school kids (ages 12-14)? I know of a number of kids at these ages who are mature enough to want to compete and to want to train, but (I presume) too young to do it at the levels / intensity that will more appropriate as they move into High School and beyond. Seems like there must be some balance between encouraging the passion for the sport vs. the need to stay injury-free and to keep improving. I have read too many stories about kids (girls mostly), who run amazing times prior to age 14 and then never again. Relatedly, is interval training appropriate at these ages, and if so, what sort of intervals?
Tim, Middle school aged kids (ages 12-14) are at an age where they go through a rapid growth spurt and this has their energy levels and coordination levels all over the map. Because of this growth spurt the use of hard volume speed work should be avoided. A number of my best runners came from a good feeder program that a coach ran at the middle school in town. His goal was to get the kids out for a bit of work everyday so that they developed consistency in their training. They only had a few meets during the season and most of the speed work was very informal fartlek type running. The fact he did not pressure the kids was the biggest contribution to their development. A very good web article that gives a good overview of how Arthur thought can be located here: Arthur's Kids. As you can see a lot of the common sense that he recommends for kids is sometimes missing in adult programs so it is never too early to be giving the hows and whys of training.