Running With Kids

There are a few different angles the title to this post could take.  The first one (and one which I’ve addressed a few times in my posts) is “how on earth do you get out for your runs and train for races when you have kids??”  A big topic with no one simple solution.

But in this one I’m talking about how to get your kids running too.

I’m a firm believer that (like adults) kids need to run (or do other exercise) regularly in order to be healthy.  In truth, I think kids intuitively know this too.  They are inclined to run.  It’s natural for them and it makes them feel good.  However, it’s not as simple as it may sound to just “let them run”.  What does this mean, really?  If kids are not in a specific time and place where running is encouraged then they are generally being told for most of their days “Don’t Run!” Don’t run in the school, don’t run away from us in the playground, don’t run in the house, don’t run in most public spaces where adults are, etc…

Of course the easiest solution for allowing or getting your kids to run is to sign them up for programs which they enjoy which include running.  For example, soccer, basketball, tennis, sports play, etc… There are a host of these types of programs for pre-school and school aged children and they work wonderfully in incorporating fun into running.

There are also some kids who just love challenges and if you say something like “I bet you can’t run around the playground 3 times” they’ll be off before you’ve finished the sentence.

My son H doesn’t take to either of the above scenarios.  Not a team sports guy and not a “pleaser” by nature. (I swear he does have his redeeming qualities!)

So how does running fit into H’s life?  Basically it has to occur on his terms.  This is tricky for a busy, scheduled, time-conscious, task oriented parent, but I know this is one area where I have to be patient.  So if I pick him up from school in a rush to get us home and get dinner on and H is running in the playground having fun in his own game, I try to let it play out for as long as I can.

Today was another good example.  We were at the park where I had planned to watch my kids in the playground while catching up with my sisters.

Here is where I envisioned spending my morning:

But that was MY idea.  (Silly me – why would I think my plan would be followed?)  Instead, H took off on an “adventure” through the woods.  I followed as well as I could along with his cousin.  This “run” took us through muddy trails, up slippery slopes, down ravines and through brambly trees.  My footwear was not appropriate and I wasn’t really in the mood for a mucky adventure.  But I could see the exhilaration on his face and I recognized that it would be hypocritical of me to tell him not to run on his terms when that’s pretty much all I ask for in life!

In the end, we had a fun adventure, and the kids got a lot more exercise than I had planned.  This was the post-run walk back to the car:

The afternoon consisted of a hot bath and indoor play time.  They are so much calmer once their bodies have had the exercise they crave and everyone ends up happier.

Check out this article on other tips by me on running with kids by The Heart and Stroke Foundation.