I would like to address specifically what happens to the quality of endurance sports, when 90% of kids growing up today is not as active in daily life, as they were 15 – 20 years ago. Ask top atheletes in endurance sports about their life as kids and they will all tell you about how active they were. And I’m not necessarily referring to “organized” activities, such as practice etc. It is all the other little things, such as how did they get back and forth from practice (ran, biked etc).
How did they get back and forth from school (ran, biked) and basically how active they were growing up, doing all sorts of outdoor activities. All these “little” things led to a very active upbringing, which easily included 15-25 hours of training per week. This training was not “planned” or organized, it didn’t get recorded in a training log, it wasn’t “planned intervals”, but it all consisted of good, sound base training for endurance sports. This base “training” laid a very important foundation for their future success in their respective sports.
Without this foundation the athlete is not able to sustain the high volume of training nesseccary for success (800-1100 hours per year). Today, more and more youth is sitting still. The hiking trips, fishing trips and all the other outdoor activities have been replaced by Playstation, McDonalds and TV shows. This is a terrible trend. To illustrate the point, take a look at medium and long distance running. Which nations have been dominating the scene the last 10-15 years? African nations. One of the reasons for their success is found in how these athletes lived as kids. Being active and eating simple, healthy food gave them the foundation for success later in life. I was once told a very interesting story, at a training camp: The Danish national long distance running team was at a training camp in Africa. On one of their long, hard endurance runs they ran past a group of young, African kids (12 years or so).
These kids were so intrigued by these tall, skinny white guys that they decided to join the team on the run. They ran with the Danes for the entire session and then returned home to continue their game of soccer. This should clearly illustrate the problem we have in the western world. In the sport of cycling and cross country skiing we don’t have the dominance from 2nd and 3rd world countries, mostly because these sports are very “equipment heavy”. It is not enough to run every day, you need a certain amount of money to even start. Because of this, we don’t have to panic in our sports, but the level of performance will drop. So, what can we do? Lets bring back the joy of outdoor activities!