In my family, we have runners and non-runners. Some of our immediate and distant relatives are super cheerleaders while others give me the “you’re going to ruin your knees” speech. Just like in the general population, the attitudes towards running in the family can be just as diverse. While running is definitely an individual sport, there are a few ways you can *try* to get your immediate family involved.
I’m lucky in that my almost-18-year-old daughter is an athlete. She was a competitive gymnast as a pre-teen and then a varsity letter winner in diving and track all through high school but even with that background, she never wanted to run “distance”. For her, anything over an 800 (1/2 a mile) would be considered a distance run. Even so, I’ve been able to
coerce convince her to tackle the 5K distance on several occasions. Since my daughter is like me in many ways, she shares my love of bling. For her, finding 5Ks that also offered medals was a big draw. This past weekend I even helped her achieve her dream of completing an obstacle course (mud) run and it was all her idea! (More on this in another post.)
How can you help foster a love of running in your children? To start, you need to find what motivates your child. For my daughter, it is definitely the promise of bling when she’s finished. For others, it may be spending time with friends or even *shockingly* with YOU.
- One key to encouraging children, and really ANYBODY, to run is to make it fun. This applies to other sports and activities as well. Keep it interesting by trying different running routes. Set up fun obstacle courses at a local playground. Vary the workouts (and I use this term loosely) so they don’t get boring.
- Let your child set the pace. This means you run when they run and if they want to walk, you walk. If they speed up, let them. You can address some basic techniques and by all means, make sure they are wearing proper running shoes, but training speed and whatnot can come later.
- Make your program one in which they WILL succeed every step of the way. Praise them and tell them exactly what they did to make that day’s run successful.
- Look into running programs at their elementary school and then if they are more serious, track and cross country in middle and high school. Girls on the Run is an excellent program for pre-teen girls that not only addresses physical fitness, but more importantly empowerment and self-esteem.
- Make sure they see YOU are having fun. My girl saw the photos of my first mud run and saw how happy I looked. For her, just running for 30 minutes really isn’t very fun, but the idea of adding mud and obstacles upped the fun factor.
- Have your child select the goal. When she said she wanted to do a mud run with me before she left for college, I found several in the area and let her choose which one we would do. Participating in this with her right before she moves over 1000 miles away for college gave us an incredible bonding experience.
Kids really do learn by example. If they see mom and dad taking care of themselves, eating right and exercising they will be more likely to do the same. Maybe along the way, you can instill a lifelong love of running in your son or daughter, like I hopefully have in mine.
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