Posted by: Dean Hebert | March 17, 2010

Training — How much running is too much for teens?

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert joins us today to answer a question from a parent, asking about how much running is too much for teen runners:

My daughter runs on a local cross country team. They start running every morning in the summer, 3 miles to 4 miles a day. In August they begin running 4-6 miles a day with races every weekend. In September they begin running 4-5 miles in the mornings and 3-5 miles in the afternoons. They had a retreat over the weekend and ran 20 miles of practice. Every year by this time of year…. the girls team of about 15 members, ages 13 years old to 18 years old at least 1-2 girls have stress fractures in their legs. Are they being trained too hard? Is this too intense for this age group? Marki

The proof is in the pudding. Though teen runners are more likely to encounter injuries due to their initial lack of conditioning and lack of year round training something like stress fractures at that rate is extreme. In all my years of coaching runners of all ages (including teen girls) I would be exaggerating if the incidence of stress fractures are 1 in 100 (or more) per year. 1-2 out of 15 is indeed excessive.

The rule of thumb is still to increase mileage about 10% per week. So let’s do the math together. If the team runs everyday 3 or 4 miles per day then they are running 15-28 miles per week to start out. By September, they are running as much as 8-10 miles per day, which is 50-70 miles per week! And add to that 20 miles in a single weekend retreat. This would be a lot of miles even for marathon runners, but the question I have is for what purpose are all these miles being run? Their cross-country race is only 5k!

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