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My daughter, who is coming up to be 7 years old, loves swimming and has recently started race training. She is the youngest/smallest/thinnest of all the children in the group. Her technique is pretty good in all 4 strokes (better than some of the older children), but she lacks the stamina, endurance and general body strength to keep up with the others and as such she's finding the pool-training quite harsh.

She already swims as often as is reasonably possible - 3 sessions a week training plus one or two swims with me where we just have fun in the local pool. The coaches have suggested she does 5 days training , but this would a) be difficult for us logistically, and b) I think it's too much for her at this age. One of her former instructors in group lessons at our local pool advised extreme caution with pushing her too hard at this age.

She plays football once a week for an hour, and does Tai-kwon-do for another hour, and generally she is quite an active child.

So I am wondering what are the best exercises that can be done at home that would help her endurance, stamina and general physical preparedness/strength.

FYI, at the moment I just let her do what exercises she enjoys at home - which are sit-ups, press-ups, star jumps, wheel-barrows with her brother up stairs, hand stands, walking hand stands (she's just started to try this), and a few exercises with little 2.5Kg dumbbells (curls, shoulder presses, lunges and side bends) - as and when she feels like it....

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b) In my opinion both as a parent and USA-S coach, I completely agree with you. I have a growing sample of kids who perform better than most 5 day a week swimmers in my region. –  Peter DeWeese Oct 7 '13 at 16:14
    
Answered your comment assessment request. –  JohnP Oct 8 '13 at 14:34
    
@JohnP thanks again. I wish I could accept both answers :-) –  Robert Long Oct 9 '13 at 8:38
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4 Answers

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I certainly don't ever train 7 year olds more than what your daughter is already doing. If she is already generally fit all effort and focus should be put on skill progression. She can potentially get stronger than the average child but focusing on athletic training as if she were a young adult is physically and psychologically unnecessary for a few more years. There is little to gain until the onset of maturation. When comparing children of similar size and maturity, skills are by far the biggest differentiator for speed. Watch a local meet and see it play out!

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+1 Thanks. I wonder what you think about cutting back on the comp training and going back to pure technique-focused lessons ? She already completed all stages of the national swim plan lessons, but one of her former instructors does private lessons for a quite reasonable fee. With the comp training, the coaches are so focused on her ploughing up and down and timing her that I actually see her technique suffering a bit ! FWIW I'm an ex-comp swimmer myself (but not a qualified coach or instructor) so I have a reasonable eye for what looks right to me....[cont] –  Robert Long Oct 8 '13 at 8:13
    
[cont]....One of her 3 weekly comp training sessions is a 5AM start which is pretty insane at her age, so if she could do away with that and have a weekly private lesson at a sensible time, perhaps that's the best way forward ? I know the coaches won't like it, as it's meant to be 5-or-3-or-nothing, but I know them all pretty well, so maybe I could argue for that. –  Robert Long Oct 8 '13 at 8:16
    
It sounds like you are concerned about "junk yardage", and I would be too as a long term concern. I can't count the number of 12&O swimmers I have worked with who were previously injured by pushing it without great style. It would also be a shame to have to choose between lessons and a competitive group, as kids get motivated by being together in a team. [cont] –  Peter DeWeese Oct 8 '13 at 13:23
    
A competitive group for 7 year olds (or 9yo for that matter) should always focus on skills but as they are taught, reinforce them through reasonable distance, repetition, and varying effort to eventually transition each skill to actual racing events, and then go to actual meets periodically to test those skills. If this isn't happening, at risk of there being "too many cooks", perhaps it is worth considering those lessons for some of the training. Tough choice, but you are considering the right things! –  Peter DeWeese Oct 8 '13 at 13:27
    
5 am is not that unreasonable, it may be forced by pool schedules, etc. Peter's answer/comments are spot on. One of the best things that I had as a young swimmer was the opportunity to not only take standard lessons, but competitive stroke lessons, which refined the basics that I learned originally. I wouldn't be overly concerned if something doesn't "look right", as it is entirely possible that it is effective for her and her body mechanics. While form is paramount in swimming, it's also possible to force someone into a "perfect form" that doesn't fit their mechanics and leads to injury. –  JohnP Oct 8 '13 at 14:32
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One of the great things about swimming is that it is very much technique based, and while muscle strength may compensate for that to some extent, once she start growing she will soon catch and surpass bigger children because of that good form.

Until then, I would continue as you have been. Participating in many sports at her age is great, it means that she is active, enjoys exercise and activity, and in time she will find what she enjoys the most. The stuff that she is doing on her own (handstands, pressups, etc) should be sufficient to keep her developing well for both athletics and fun.

Seven years old is not too young to start a structured training program IF (and I repeat IF) she has kind of "settled" on one sport as her main focus. There are many sports where children start structured training programs at young ages(Swimming, gymnastics, martial arts immediately come to mind), but that doesn't necessarily mean weights, intense training, things like that.

So in summary, let her enjoy the sports, if she gets totally frustrated with swimming and wants to do something else, let her give that a try. If she decides that swimming is for her, then you can look at possibly working with a trainer for appropriate exercises designed around swimming.

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+1 nice answer. I'd appreciate your view about my comment on Peter DeWeese's answer. –  Robert Long Oct 8 '13 at 8:20
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Sounds to me like you are doing what you should be doing. Seven years old is very young to start any structured training, and I would just let her do what she wants to do.

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I totally agree with Eric Gunnerson. I recently found easy home exercises on this page... But I don't know if working out is a good thing for her.

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Can you post some of the exercises here so that if the link dies the reference is not lost? –  JohnP Oct 7 '13 at 15:31
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Thanks - that's quite a useful website, for adults. However, I question the appropriateness of some of those exercises for children, and in particular for a 7-year-old swimmer. –  Robert Long Oct 7 '13 at 15:49
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