I've always been a bit of a runner. Well, since adulthood, anyway. As a child I didn't participate in any track and field or running-heavy sports, so running came later in life as a fitness-oriented activity. I've run varying amounts for 15 years and I really enjoy it.
Once in a while a client expresses her frustration with never having been able to find joy in running. To which I say, "Then don't run." Running is not necessary for fitness. It's a great skill and a cheap, healthy hobby. It's not for everyone.
If you like to run, you want to share your passion for running with your children. My daughter, Sweaty Kid #1, turned 6 this spring. For a couple of years she's been expressing interest in joining me on runs and I've started to test her out, asking her if she wants to start running with me soon. She is proud of her running and knows she is fast and fit. Naturally, she wants to pursue what she is good at.
Last weekend, we at YMC ran a lovely 5K in midtown Toronto with RBC in support of Sunnybrook Foundation's Family Navigation Project. I was joined by a couple of the Belly Bootcamp mommies (and little ones), and by Sweaty Hubby and both Sweaty Kids, 6 and almost 4 years old. We ran and walked in the pouring rain and had one of the best family outings we've had so far this year!
Sweaty Hubby pulled up the rear with our littlest, who — at not quite 4 years old — is running short spurts as little children do. My eldest and I ran ahead, taking walk breaks as needed. I am proud to say Sweaty Kid #1 ran almost 2.5 km with just short walk breaks and tons of confidence and gusto. People turned their heads to see a child so small racing through the crowd. Maybe some thought I was forcing her. Probably most just admired her energy.
That was all the proof I needed. She is ready to run. And, more importantly, she wants to run.
Here are my tips for spreading the running bug to your littles, without the drill sergeant attitude that creates a stigma of punishment instead of shared hobby.
Now here is the most important part of pulling the whole starting-to-run thing together and managing your expectations:
It's okay to challenge your little one to improve her skills. Coming up to a hill? Ask her if she wants to race you to the top! Scared of declines? Hold hands and lightly jog together. Gradually, her endurance and skill will improve.
Don't expect to get the same level of workout or cover the same miles you would without an ankle biter by your side. When your little one can't run anymore, walk another kilometre or two together. Or, throw her on your back and burn extra calories trekking around with your very own 50 pound weight vest hugging you tight.
Sounds like the best workout ever, to me.