Runners have a flaw: They think everyone should run. I myself have this problem when it comes to my kids. I think they should love running as much as I do, and I sometimes find myself getting a little pushy with them. I start mentioning track and cross country a little too much. Or I try to talk them into a local fun run. They resist, and we are both left frustrated.
If you do want to raise your kids to be runners, sometimes you have to get creative. Making running fun for your kids can set them up for years of miles and health later in life. Place the subtle suggestions and examples when they are young, and you may have a running partner by your side for a long time.
There is no better place than a run to discuss tough topics and to get closer to your running partner. Why wouldn’t you want that partner to be your kid? We all know there is something about running side by side that opens us up to not only working our bodies together but working out our emotions as well.
Set a Good Example – There is nothing better you can do for your kids than to set a good example for them. When they watch you handle yourself well, treat your body right, treat other people right, and go about life in the best possible way, they will emulate you.
Above all, I want my kids to value hard work. I want them to see their parents working hard, and going after things that mean a lot to them. My kids see me setting goals, training, doing tough things in order to meet my goals. They see me coming home from bad runs, good runs, they see me struggle through strength and cross training that I don’t want to do.
And while they are still young, they are starting to show great signs of perseverance. They will go after what they want. They work hard during their sports and when they have challenging work during school. I see the stubbornness and strength of will growing in them each and every year and it makes me so proud. I don’t want them to grow up thinking they will be handed things. I want them to feel the joy of hard work—running is a great way for a parent to highlight this for their kids. There is no faking it in running. If you don’t put in the hard work, iit shows.
Running as Play – This is probably the best thing you can do to show your kids how much fun running is: make running a game. Don’t mention anything about “running” to them that would make them think it was a chore. Running games can be so fun, and your kids will love it. Bring out their competitiveness; it’s amazing quality time that they will remember for their entire lives.
You want to make running (or any exercise) fun for your kids.
Some games you can play:
· Racing – Kids LOVE to race. Tell them you will race them to the nearest light post, tree, house, stop sign and witness their delighted faces and their gleeful laughter. Make sure you don’t let them win every time. Make it a challenge that they have to get after. Life isn’t about always winning.
· Tag – Who didn’t love playing tag when they were a kid? I’m sure you will have just as much fun with this as an adult. This game includes quite a bit of running.
· Soccer – Soccer includes a whole lot of running. It promotes good coordination and is an amazing exercise for you and the kids.
· Obstacle Course – Another way to make running and exercise fun for your kids is to set up an obstacle course for them. Set up some markers around your yard and let them know where they need to go to complete the course, and race to the finish with them.
· Basketball – Another sport that kids love and that includes a lot of running. Start a game of H-O-R-S-E, or just see who can get the most rebounds.
I’ve found that the best way to get my kids running is to allow them to run fast and take a lot of breaks. They love to sprint and have no self-control when it comes to running an entire mile. Constantly running is boring to them when they are little and there is no reason for them to participate in continuous running. When they reach middle grade and beyond, they are more apt to want to slow down and spend time running a mile or more with you. Until then, let them speed ahead of you and then walk until they are ready to sprint again.
Get Them out There – If you keep your expectations low—and take them out with you on an easy or non-running day—you will make things easier on you and your kids. Whatever you do, don’t expect to get a regular workout in.
Your kids love spending time with you, and taking them on a run with you shows them that you love them so much you are willing to share your love of running with them. They are able to see what you do while you are out running. Keep it light and fun. Make the activity all about them while inserting tiny amounts of running tips.
Get a Dog – There really is nothing better out there to get you and your family motivated to become more active than a dog. If you are prepared to give a loving home to a dog, and you have time to give it the exercise it needs, this is a great way to get your kids moving with you.
We are adding another puppy to our household later this week. My kids are so excited. Our older dog is now retired from running, so I’m ecstatic to start running with a dog again as soon as the puppy is old enough.
My kids have promised me they will help walk the puppy every day, and I’m glad. Anytime they would rather be active than play video games makes me happy.
Who knows, maybe they will turn a walk into a run with the pup.
Sign Them Up – If they are interested, sign them up for a fun run race. Usually, these runs are about a ¼ mile in distance. Not too long for your little ones. Most fun runs offer a race shirt and a medal. Talk about motivation to get out there and get active!
Make sure you don’t push them into it. I’m not sure about other kids, but if mine think I’m trying to get them to do something, they will resist.
I’ve had luck getting my kids to do a fun run during some of my races. It gives them something to do other than standing around waiting for mom to finish her race.
No matter what you do to get your kids moving, and enjoying running, remember to praise them when they are active and don’t try to push them to do something just because you do it. Sometimes it takes years of watching you do something before they admit you were on to something.