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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Get Your Kids Running Part III

If you’re following along, we at Running Family Style have dedicated a couple of posts to strategies for getting your kids, and yourselves, dear Parents, on the road to running. This is the third instalment, so if you’re just joining, you might want to hop back a few posts and check out the Top 10 List…

4.      Change up the route so it doesn’t become boring. The best thing about running is that you can do it anywhere. (Use common sense regarding safety, of course. Running on busy streets without sidewalks is not the best option.) Take your little runner to a park, on a wooded trail, through the city, or even reverse the direction of the route to keep it from getting stale. Even if you have a favorite running route, it is worthwhile making some changes to keep it interesting. My favorite tool for mapping running routes, around Halifax or wherever we happen to be traveling, is GMap Pedometer (http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/). This tool allows you to map routes; calculate distance, pace, and calorie burn; and track your runs on a workout log. Madison loves to use the application to plan runs and check distances for the Running Club at school.

5.      Encourage your child to join a running club at school or in the community. If your school doesn’t have a running club, get a group of parents and school administrators involved in starting one. Begin with the Phys. Ed. teacher. He or she will usually be your biggest ally in getting kids fit and active. Some communities also have running groups for kids outside of school, with regular sponsored events. At our daughters’ school, the Running Club has become quite popular. Some of the kids are more focused and competitive than others, but they’re all running. They meet once a week after school and run around the perimeter of a historic Halifax cemetery. They run at their own pace, and the Principal and Phys. Ed. teacher track the total laps (conveniently 1 km). The goal this school year was to collectively run enough laps to “climb Mount Everest”.

6.      Participate in running activities and events as a family. Many larger races also have kids’ events. These are usually shorter distance “fun runs” – from a couple hundred meters to 5K. Set training goals with your child to ensure that he or she is well prepared. Encourage participation versus competition. Some kids are competitive by nature, but others are not. Encourage children to pursue personal bests, not to beat their friends. At this early stage of their running careers, children need to know that participation and fitness are the most important things, and that it feels great to have completed a race, especially if there is a medal at the end! If you’re new to running, there’s nothing like a Family 5K to get the family on track. Most even welcome strollers.

If you happen to be a “destination runner”, look for races with kids’ events when planning your next “runcation”. When we started running, our first race was the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. Madison and Gabrielle asked to run the Mickey Mile kids’ race. They loved all the hype, the medal, the T-Shirt and the experience. When we run, they always want to participate. Madison will run her first 10K on Sunday at the Bluenose Marathon with Lisa. Gabrielle will run the Doctors Nova Scotia Kids’ Race with her school.

Stay tuned for the 4th and final instalment of Get Your Kids Running and all the Bluenose Highlights!

Mark & Lisa

Mark’s Weekly Update (May 5th – 11th)

It’s only a week until the Bluenose and it was a tough week of training. I started off the week by getting up early Sunday morning and heading out with a few friends to do a dry run of the half marathon route. It wasn’t planned, but we showed up at one guy’s house to start our run and we were all dressed in blue. We looked like a senior’s version of the Blue Man Group. The weather was perfect and we just ran at a pace 30 seconds a kilometer off our race day pace. There was not a lot of traffic and when we reached the park I was surprised that so few people were out on this beautiful Sunday morning. We finished up the run refreshed and confident we would have a good run in two weeks.

The run sounds great, so you are probably wondering why I said this was a tough week. Well, as great a day as Sunday was, Monday was just the opposite. I woke up Monday morning with a pain in my lower back. I am not a person that has back issues, so I was quite surprised and quite upset. It is never nice to have an injury, but less than two weeks to a run can be devastating. I took some ibuprofen and contacted my running partner. He is a pharmacist and recommended a back pain medication. For the next few days I was in pain sitting, standing, or sleeping. Finally Friday morning I got up and the pain was less intense. I figured this was D-day. With just over a week until the run I needed to try and run.

Venturing out, I chose a shorter 7.0km run. I started out slow, but as I got going the lower back felt pretty good, so I increased my speed to normal. I finished the run without incident and without much pain. I still couldn’t sit or stand for too long without discomfort, but I was able to run. The next two days I got up still in a little pain, but I was able to run short training runs without aggravating my injury.

I am not fully healed yet, but I am confident that next Sunday I will be out on the road, running through the city, on my way to finishing the Bluenose Half Marathon.

Keep Running!

Mark

Get Your Kids Running – Part II

Whether you’ve decided to make running a part of your family’s lifestyle or you’re still considering it, this series of posts offers some tips and pointers on getting your kids excited about lacing up the running shoes and hitting the trail. Remember, these tips are not just for kids. Being the “reluctant runner” that I was, I needed a few of these strategies to get started as well.*

1.      Model the behaviour you want your kids to follow. If you already run, let them watch your races and get involved in cheering. Immerse them in the sport. If you’re not a runner yet, consider taking up the sport with them. It’s good family fun. I think part of the reason we started running was the steady stream of runners who pass our house every day. There came a point where we just couldn’t ignore them anymore – you start to feel really lazy just watching them. Likewise, if you expect your children to get off their butts and start moving, consider practicing what you preach, and make it part of your own lifestyle. When they see you running, they’re more likely to want to follow. 

2.      Start off slowly. If you run, but your child doesn’t, take her for a short, slow run. Talk to her as you run, and gauge how she is breathing. At a moderate pace, she should be able to talk, but not sing a song. At a vigorous pace, she should be able to say a few words between breaths. The folks at ParticipACTION recommend that even young children should get both moderate and vigorous activity on a regular basis (six times per week). If your child is gasping for breath, dial back the pace. If she’s successfully singing her latest One Direction fave, increase the intensity. Gradually increase distance and speed as your little runner improves. Running with Gabrielle is a treat. She chats incessantly the whole way. On walks and runs with her, we have built and re-built her Dream Tree Fort a hundred times.

Of course it’s conceivable that your child is already a bit more advanced than Mum or Dad in the fitness department. It may take some time before you can keep up with your child. If that is the case, allow your child to run a safe distance ahead of you, then run back to meet you. They are able to get a bit more distance in while you build your endurance. Older children may be able to run ahead with a friend or sibling.

3.      Train in intervals. If you are, or your child is, new to running or physical activity in general, and running a whole kilometer seems daunting, break it up using run and walk intervals. In our humble opinion, run/walk intervals are the best thing that ever happened to running. Both John Stanton of the Running Room, and Jeff Galloway, coach to over 200,000 runners and walkers, endorse the run/walk method of running.

Beginners can start with whatever is comfortable. Depending on your fitness level, you may want to begin with walking. Once you and your child are comfortable with walking, try running for 30 seconds out of every five minutes. (A watch with an interval timer makes this easier to track.) After a week, increase that to one minute of running and four minutes of walking. Continue this progression until you are running four out of five minutes. Gradually increase your run intervals until you can run for ten minutes and walk for one minute. That one minute walk break provides enormous benefits. It allows you to alternate between the running and walking muscles, resulting in increased endurance, improved times, and fewer injuries than just straight running. It has enabled many middle-aged runners with no exercise background to complete marathons.

Run 10, walk 1 is the “typical” interval, but Lisa and her running partner, Barb, are currently running 7/1’s, and Dave, Barb’s hubby, recently completed his first full marathon using 5/1 intervals. Mark and his running partner, Kurt, well they just plain run. We call them the Energizer Bunnies. We’re all different. The key is to find the interval that works for you.

Stay tuned for more Top Ten Tips on getting your child running…

*If you and/or your child are new to exercise, or haven’t exercised in a while, discuss your plans to start running with your family doc.

Get your Kids Running

The folks at ParticipACTION, proponents of a healthy, active and fit Canada, recommend that children ages 5 to 17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day. That sounds like a lot to pack in, considering how many activities children are involved in these days. But making running part of a child’s life doesn’t have to be difficult. The key is keeping it fun.

Most young children love to run. They don’t necessarily consider it running. They play tag, they chase each other, and they race. They elevate their heart rates, mostly in short bursts. They have fun. Gradually, they move on to less vigorous activities on the playground, get lured into the sedentary world of TV and video games, and leave parents scrambling to get them into organized sports and other programs to get them active. The thing is they never have to stop running. If we want to encourage them to become “runners”, we only need to offer them support, guidance, a safe place to practice, and some of our time. It’s cheap, it’s convenient, and it’s effective.

Children of runners are more likely to want to run. The want to imitate what we do (until they hit that age at which parents become the most un-cool people on the planet.) So get them started early, while you’re still awesome! Below is our top 10 list of tips for turning your children into runners. Note that many of these tips apply to adult beginners as well. Over the next few posts, we’ll elaborate on these tips.

  1. Model the behaviour you want them to follow by becoming a runner yourself.
  2. Start off slowly, then add distance and speed later.
  3. Practice interval training, using a run/walk progression.
  4. Change up the route so it doesn’t become boring.
  5. Encourage your child to join a running club at school or in the community.
  6. Participate in local running activities and events.
  7. Keep distances reasonable for the age of the child.
  8. Set goals and help your child build a plan to achieve them.
  9. Run while on vacation – it’s a great way to see the sites.
  10. Make it fun.

Are you going for a short run tonight? Why not try running family style?

Humbled by the Road

I have come a long way over the past two years. Once upon a time, I used to run cross-country (25 years ago to be exact). So when we decided in the spring of 2011 to run the ½ marathon at Disney World, in January 2012, I figured I could hold off training until the fall. After all, I used to run cross-country.

Lisa and her friend Barb began their training in the spring, but I opted to relax most of the summer and start later. I can still remember my first training run. I had looked over Jeff Galloway’s programs and they looked very good, but he preached a run/walk method, which I dismissed. It was late August when I ventured out to begin my training. I had mapped my route and decided on a 45 minute run. The sun was out and there was just a little breeze. It was a perfect afternoon for a run.

I didn’t even own a watch I borrowed my daughter’s Ariel watch and away I went. Feeling the adrenaline of getting started I took off quickly, but soon after slowed down, trying to find a pace that was comfortable. As I rounded the corner of the second street I started to realize it had been a long time since I had run. At 46 years old, my body was not in the same condition as it was 25 years prior. Looking down at Ariel I swore her hands were not moving and the second hand seemed frozen. I had run exactly 3 minutes. At that time I had a startling revelation: Jeff Galloway was a genius! Who was I to argue with an Olympic runner? If he says do a run walk cycle then that’s what I should do. My only problem was his method spoke of 10 minute run and 1 minute walk, but I wasn’t sure I would be still upright for seven more minutes.

I pushed myself to keep running and managed to run four more minutes. At that time I was convinced my heart was beating too fast and I might be having a heart attack. I stopped running. I really thought at that time maybe I should go home, admit defeat and give up. But something inside me said, “Now that you have realized you are human, just settle down and train”. My wife was never a runner, but now she was running 3 times a week. So, I completed my 45 minute run/walk and never looked back (nor did I ever speak of that day to anyone).

That first day was tough, but it did get easier. After a few short weeks I was running three times a week (two 45 minute runs and one longer run). I used the 10 and 1 training method for all these runs.

Over the next few months I experimented with my running and walking cycles and eventually found for me it was better to run the whole time. NOTE: I would strongly suggest anyone starting to run should use this run/walk method to get started. It is an easier and less discouraging way to get started.

By the time January came around I was ready to run my first ½ marathon, with a time goal of under two hours. Stay tuned for tips for beginning runners.

Mark

And We’re Off!!

It’s April 26th, and we’re off to the races. Quite literally. We’ll call this the first official week of training season after a couple of months of waiting for the glacier to recede. Wouldn’t want to ruin a brand new pair of running shoes in the slush!

The need to get off my butt and back to practicing is fueled by a year of new running challenges. I’m still relatively new at this game, having only started “seriously” training less than two years ago. I call myself a reluctant runner. I always contended that I would only be inclined to run if something really big was chasing me (and frankly, then only if it looked like the outcome of that chase might be worse than the massive coronary that I imagined to be the outcome of the running.)

This is how it happened. We were leaving the Disney World resort on a cold and miserable January morning in 2011, just as the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend was wrapping up. The intrepid marathoners had set out in freezing rain to begin their journey. I really couldn’t imagine why anyone would voluntarily punish themselves like that.

When we arrived home and started talking to friends, that Marathon became a frequent topic of conversation. I recall saying things like, “I don’t know why people run marathons, particularly in weather like that. Smart money would have gone back to bed.” It made me shudder. My husband, on the other hand, was intrigued. Always looking to enhance his Disney experience with new adventures, and never one to be put off by a little challenge, he started to research. Way back, he had been a cross country runner, and the running culture made sense to him.

By the time the snow melted that winter, three of us had committed to training for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January 2012. And when I say committed, we still hadn’t registered for the run. It was more of a mutual confirmation that if we really felt like running 13.1 miles, we probably could. Mark was for more convinced than I. Apparently Barbara was convinced that she could do it, too. Particularly if there was a piece of hardware sporting Donald Duck waiting for her at the finish line.

Run Disney has partnered with Olympian and running guru, Jeff Galloway, to offer training plans for both beginner and advanced runners. I chose the training plan for Beginning Runners, who have been running consistently for less than six months. If I followed the plan, I was assured that I would finish the race “in the upright position”. No time goal. Just finish. Preferably, without having a heart attack.

Back to April, 2013. It’s now time for Barbara and me to start training for our fourth half-marathon. (We’ve lost count of the achievements of the runaway marathon train that is Mark, but he’s getting into training mode as well.) We’re on a quest for Coast to Coast glory in August, when we will be challenging the “Dumbo Double Dare”. We’ll take on the inaugural Disneyland 10K on Saturday, and wash that down with the Disneyland Half Marathon on Sunday, collecting a total of four pieces of hardware in the process. That’s one medal for each race, one for the Double Dare challenge (finishing both races on consecutive days), and the coveted Coast to Coast medal for completing one Disney Half on the East Coast and one on the West Coast in the same calendar year. (We knocked off the first Half of the Coast to Coast in January.)

But even more exciting than all that, Barb and I are registered for our very first, promised-it-was-never-gonna-happen, Full Marathon. This whole adventure, which started out as a one shot deal, has turned into something much more. The girls are registered for 10K runs, and Mark is now registered for the Dopey Challenge (5K+10K+Half+Full=Dopey).

We’re not running zealots; we’re just on a quest to build a fun- and fitness-based lifestyle that will benefit our whole family. Come along for the ride run!