Get Your Kids Running Part IV

Last night Lisa took Gabrielle, and Mark took Madison, for their final training runs before the Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon Weekend (http://bluenosemarathon.com/). As usual, Gabi (aptly named) chatted the whole 4.5K. Lisa got all caught up on what she’s learning in school, and all the third grade politics and shenanigans. Madison and Mark ran 7K, incorporating some hill strategies that she’s going to need on Sunday! We picked up our race kits today, and we’re getting ready to “Just Giv’er”.

So while we’re anxiously awaiting the Bluenose, here’s the last of the Top 10 List of strategies to get your family on the road to running. (The list has been spread out over a few posts.)

7.     Keep distances reasonable for the age of the child. There is a lot of controversy about how much distance children should be running, and at what ages. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overuse, overtraining and burnout are increasing issues among children as their participation in sports increases*. There is no single guideline regarding the distances that are appropriate at specific ages. That means that as parents, we are responsible to work with our children to determine how much is too much.

Start off slowly, with short distances, then increase speed and distance as you go, but not by more than 10% per week*. Listen to your child. If he or she is experiencing any pain, it could signal injury to muscle, bone or tendon. We follow training plans that allow at least one “rest” day between runs, so that muscles have a chance to recover. Our 8-year-old daughter can run 5K without too much strain, but we wouldn’t let her do much more at her age. Our 11-year-old daughter – we’ll call her the gazelle – has no problem running 10K. With the right training plan and lots of monitoring, we would allow her to start training for a half marathon.

8.      Set goals and help your child build a plan to achieve them. When you decide to start running, be sure to set a goal. It might be a specific race (a Family 5K Fun Run is an excellent place to start) or a distance or duration that you would like to work up to over time. Make sure your goal is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Set a plan to achieve your goal. Follow the plan. Make a chart that your child can update – it’s a visual reminder of his or her achievement. Build your plan to increase your distance and speed over a period of time, with milestones along the way. Training without a plan is like trying to put together a Lego set without the instructions.

9.      Run while on vacation – it’s a great way to see the sights. When you plan your next vacation, have your kids plan a couple of runs. Discover the local parks and gardens, or incorporate some of the major sites. Last year, Mark ran the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco (amongst other ports on a Mediterranean cruise). Remember: safety first, of course. Stick to the beaten path, be aware and alert, and be sure to learn about the area before you hit the road.

10.   Make it fun. Children love to run. If they start looking at running as something they have to do versus something they love to do, you’re sunk. (They love the idea of helping with housework, too, until you add it to their chore list.) Vary the route, set goals, make it family time, get them talking, sign up for running events, involve them in planning, and incorporate running into your routine. Don’t underestimate the power of a race goal to motivate your little runner. Ours are pretty fired up about the Bluenose.

No more excuses. Just get out there and run – Family Style! You’ll be glad you did.

*Brenner, Joel S. (2007). Overuse Injuries, Overtraining and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes. Pediatrics, Vol. 119, No. 6, June 1, 2007 (pp. 1242 – 1245)

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