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Tips to get your kids running

KidsMudRun

Start slowly

I’m sure many recreational runners cherishes a hidden dream that their child will be the next running great. When you hear buzz-stories about young children running marathons or breaking world records, it’s easy to get caught up in a dream. However, avoiding too much too soon is even more essential when it comes to introducing kids to running. Start out with a walk-run plan and take plenty of breaks.

I started out running with my mom when I was about 12. At first, she would run two loops for her run, the first three kilometres with me, drop me off at home before heading back out. Gradually, she worked me up to running six kilometres. I remember her insisting we needed to stop to give the dog a drink of water before the big final hill on that route. Only a few years (and many runs on my own up that hill) did I realize that the stop was definitely for me, not our energetic Labrador retriever.

Make it fun

Running doesn’t only have to be on a sidewalk in a single direction. At a university cross-country meet I once played a game of ‘cool-down tag’ after a race. The fun element made us all forget how tired we were and I’m pretty sure that we would have kept playing for a long time if our coach hadn’t rounded us up.

Make a goal

Working gradually towards a final goal, like a local 5K, is a great way to teach time-management and long-term planning. To make sure things stay fun, look for a race which is kid-friendly and has a fun theme, like the Halloween run. Check out our list of kid-friendly races.

Reward effort rather than performance

The number one goal when introducing a child to running should be to instill long-term healthy habits, not to mold an Olympian. Talk about how proud you are of participation without putting too much emphasis on time. This is especially important if you have multiple children, as one will inevitably be faster, but that doesn’t mean the others should feel second-rate.

Harry_Kids_raceMake it social

I think most runners can testify that they’ve met great people through races, clubs, teams and other running events. Check out your local track club and see if it has a kid’s group so that your child has the same experience of making friends through running.

Provide them with role models

Running isn’t a sport like hockey, football or baseball, that is often broadcasted on television and has players who are household names. However, that doesn’t mean your little one has to go without a sports hero. If you live in a city with a marathon big enough to attract elites, take them out to be a spectator on the race course. If you live near a university with a cross-country or track team, consider taking them out to a race.

Keep going slowly

Even if it looks like your child possesses a fair bit of talent, resist the urge to treat their running like you would an adult. Kids are susceptible to injury because they’re still growing physically and susceptible to stress from pressure to perform because they’re still growing mentally. Continue to foster a love of running and there will be plenty of years for them to train hard and have running play a major role in their life, if that is a decision that they choose to make.