April 6, 2012
Our town puts on one of the largest kid’s races in the country called the Awesome 3000. Last year my husband suggested our oldest (who was five at the time) run in it. It is for kids as young as three all the way up to middle schoolers. Depending on their age, kids can run anywhere from 300 meters to a 3 kilometers. My daughter had to run a 1.5k which is about a mile.
With all my running experience, I figured I could help her train. I started by taking her on a very condensed versions of my own training runs around the neighborhood. The first run she loved. By the third run it was a lot of complaining, frustration, and boredom. How can I make this fun? It was a question I struggled with.
As we entered into Awesome 3000 training again for her second experience, here is what I am doing.
1) Encouragement! If you have ever run a race, you know how the cheering (even if it is from total strangers) gets you across that finish line. I daresay kids need it even more. I find myself having to cheer her through every single training run.
2) Find a common parking lot, track, or course. As much as I find lap running boring, it does help my daughter measure her own progress. She can run a whole lap without stopping. Next she will try for two laps. Once she is comfortable running a few laps without stopping, we will run on a trail or someplace more scenic.
3) Make it fun with games. While we may do a lap or two, we also play simple games. Lately we have been playing “triathlon.” We pretend to swim, then jump on our bikes and do a lap around the parking lot, put our bikes down and run one lap. Or we played a version of Red Light, Green Light called “Red Light, Green Light, Disco.” When you yell “Red Light” everyone has to stop. “Green Light” means “go.” Yelling Disco means standing in one place and dancing. The kids love it!
4) Make a rewards chart. For every fitness activity whether it is swim lessons, running laps, playing tag, walking to the store, or riding bikes, the kids put a sticker on a chart. I let them pick out their own stickers.
5) Set an example. I remember an article in runners world about a father and son doing a Ironman triathlon together. A friends was sharing with the pair how he bought his own son a very expensive racing bike and it sat in the garage. The son said, “Well did you ever ask him to go biking with you?” The father had not. I grew up biking and swimming with my dad. I want the same for my own kids! It’s more fun when you can do it together.