With obesity at an all-time high, especially at alarming rates in children, running is a life-changing commitment to a healthier lifestyle that anyone can start today ... even your kids.
As the coordinator for the New York Road Runners’ Official TCS New York City Marathon Online Training Program, I've worked with over 12,000 runners of all ages and abilities on the basics of proper training, fueling and racing, and I’m here to help you take that knowledge to your own backyard and into your children’s lives.
1. Know that the more respect and care you show for your body, the more your children will learn to do the same.
Begin by taking walks together after dinner and challenge each other to race to the nearest stop sign. Before you know it, their endurance will build enough that your beginner runner may be lapping you!
2. Respect their abilities.
Encourage your child to give their best during every run, but know that giving their best doesn’t always mean running their hardest. Some runs should be very easy for recovery. Remember: it’s their run, not yours, and some days may be tougher than others. Running should be in a safe environment; encourage a healthy mindset by setting realistic goals, recognizing their limitations and celebrating your child “win or lose.”
3. Reward their efforts.
You are your child’s personal cheerleader. Rewarding your child with motivators is a great way to encourage running — as long as running remains the ultimate prize and not a means to an end. Keep the rewards small, but meaningful. Perhaps your son or daughter could be in charge of picking the movie on family night? Or try instituting a weekly taco night after a long run, writing a heartfelt note or rewarding them with simple running gear like colorful shoe laces or a sweat band.
4. Make them your cheerleaders.
At the New York City Marathon, the spectators are a huge part of our race day and I’m lucky enough every year to see children cheer on their parents with enthusiasm and love. We hear countless stories about people running the race in honor of their own parents and we see their pride as they greet their children at the finish line.
Whether it’s 50,000 runners along 26.2 miles or a family team at a local race, get your kids out of the house and into your cheering section.
Photo courtesy of the author