Monday, 20 April 2015

Getting Children Active : Dinton Kids Duathlon

The habits and values that children develop when they're young often stick with them well into adulthood if not for life. With that in mind it's important that these are good habits, like being kind, eating your vegetables and being active. Not all children are inclined to do sports of course, I know I certainly wasn't (maybe more on that another time), but the more fun it is, the more likely they are to keep it up.

Ellie and Ian at Barnes Fitness run a tri club for children and teenagers between the ages of 8 and 16, which emphasises fun whilst building their skills and confidence at triathlon disciplines. On Good Friday they held a Kids Duathlon at Dinton Pastures which I was delighted to be a part of. There were four races of different distances depending on the age of the participant.

Tristarts (Age 8) 400m800m200m
Tristar 1 (Age 9 – 10) 1.2km2km400m
Tristar 2 (Age 11 – 12)1.6km4km600m
Tristar 3 (Age 13 – 14)2km6km800m 

It was just like any other race I've been to; marshals, briefings, timing, photographer and every finisher got a fantastic goody bag. Bikes had to be racked, the rules about wearing your helmet when in contact with the bike and the mount/dismount lines were enforced. There was some rain but less than was forecast. All in all it was a great way to introduce youngsters to racing.
There was a real mix of abilities, just as there is in races I take part in. Some children had mountain bikes but there were several that looked significantly more impressive than my own. Some wore fairly regular clothes, leggings and t-shirts, but some were in tri suits. They jostled for position. I saw one or two in tears in transition after the first run and felt relieved when they came back from the bike  leg with dry eyes and determination to finish. It was a joy to see them all get over that finish line, especially the very last lad. Unfortunately, because families tended to leave after their child had finished, there weren't many spectators for the final race but he had every marshal on duty that day gathered at that finish line cheering him in.

I remember one eight year old asking lots of questions about the course before the briefing and demonstrating his knowledge of triathlon rules. He proudly announced that he was a Tristart but was moving up to Tristars after the summer; absolutely melted my heart.

I must confess that I don't know whether there are many of these sorts of children's events around but I'm pretty sure there should be more of them. As I acknowledged at the start, not every child likes sports and not every sporty child is competitive but the joy of these events is that it gives them an opportunity to try something out on their own terms and having fun with it.

And that's what the emphasis should be on. Fun. Of course teaching them the rules around competing is great but it still needs to be enjoyable. Parents, by all means encourage your child, but be mindful of how you do that. I heard of one girl announcing herself a "failure" because she didn't come first. How sad!
Barnes Fitness are putting on a kids triathlon at Dinton in June but other events around the country are popping up all the time. Start them young but keep it fun!

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