They’ve grown up seeing the world whiz by from the seat of a stroller. They’ve watched you return from your morning run and go straight into the madness of pouring cereal, checking that teeth are brushed, and getting everyone ready to enjoy the day. Maybe they have seen you sneak out after a rough day of work to squeeze in that 45 minutes that will help clear your head and leave the stress behind. Most likely they’ve watched with excitement as you waved and smiled to them on the way to another finish line. Now they want to follow in Mommy or Daddy’s footsteps… and RUN!
The example set by adults at home is paramount to the health of both children and parents alike. With that, too much of a good thing is likewise unhealthy, especially for the bodies of developing youngsters. The following are some points to consider in creating a healthy environment in which your young runner can fall in love with and appreciate the fun and the benefits of a running lifestyle.
- Running is fun! However, in a performance driven culture, it’s easy to forget that and push our children into dissatisfaction with the very thing we want them to love. Young runners should be allowed to progress at their own rate, make their own choices regarding their running, and see competition as a healthy challenge. Play games that encourage running, be silly, be loud, and laugh as much as possible. Fun is the single most important characteristic of healthy running for children.
- How much is too much? Remember to let them run on their own terms. Don’t push and prod. Create an environment that encourages them to want to run and to seek you out for those opportunities. The following is a framework for understanding what the workload of a young runner should be. The ages of 5-6 are generally when a child is ready to step into the practice of running. 5-6 year olds should start with a quarter mile increasing over time to a maximum of a mile, two to three times a week. 7-8 year olds have the ability to work up to a maximum of around two miles, three times a week. 9-12 year olds can work up to three to four miles, four to five times a week.
- Take more time to consider your courses when running with your children. Navigate to streets with less traffic and stick to the sidewalks. When possible, go to the park, head to Shelby Farms, or to your local track and make that time even more special and enjoyable. As the length of the runs increase, plan for multiple loops or out and backs to provide for opportunities to call it a day if your child is not up to finishing. There is nothing to prove here. Remember, running is to be fun, not punishment.
- Look for opportunities to reward your child’s hard work. Most adults train to race or to achieve a specific running goal as reward for a season of training. Children relish being able to celebrate the training and be recognized by adults and peers for their accomplishment. Many local races offer kids’ fun runs and events targeted towards children. There are also summer camp opportunities that focus on running for children. All are wonderful avenues to celebrate your child’s running!
- Our children emulate our behaviors whether we like it or not, like those expletives we wish they wouldn’t repeat. It’s important for them to not only see us living a healthy lifestyle, but to see us enjoying living a healthy lifestyle. If your children are curious about running, then go and run with them. And jump and laugh and scream. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?
Do you have questions about getting started or finding a plan to work for you? Stop in and talk to anyone on our staff. We’ll be happy to help!
Feb is the General Manager and Footwear Buyer at Fleet Feet Sports. Most of his decisions are determined by rock, paper, scissors. For more information call (901) 761-0078 or visit our website at fleetfeetmemphis.com.