So you’ve decided you want to run with your child but what do you need? Starting any new routine takes patience and finding ways to make it fit into your life. What works for you and your family when it comes to running together may or may not work for others. Try not to get stuck by a fixed mindset where you look for a one size fits all approach or plan. What’s best for your child will depend on personality, schedule, size of your family, where you live, and so much more. Below are some key points to keep in mind as you get started on this journey:
Keep it simple. Start where you are and with what you have.
Make time. It’s sounds so easy but making time is the biggest obstacle families have when it comes to exercise and being fit. Running itself doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t need fancy equipment or tons of gadgets and gear. You don’t even need prior experience. You just have to make the decision to make time. If health and fitness are important goals for your family, you find the time to make time for it. It’s a matter of determining what works for you and following through with it. Start small with a few minutes and go from there.
Don’t get overwhelmed by details. The most important thing to remember about running with your child is finding joy in the time you get to spend together, building fitness, and working towards goals and life skills.
Start small and keep it fun. Focus on fun, not distance when starting with young runners. Avoid focusing on time goals or specific race goals right away unless your child is older and has run races in the past. These things come naturally as your child progresses.
Follow their lead. Let your child decide what they want from running. Maybe they will want to race or work towards a goal and maybe they just want running to be about games and spending time with you.
Think family. Try to find ways to include the whole family in running as a way to promote family fitness. There are more and more fun family running opportunities being offered throughout communities all over the nation. If there aren’t family races or track nights, make your own family fun runs and incorporate running into your schedule in whatever ways that work best for you.
Foster a love for running and fitness. Model a love and enjoyment of running and fitness. Keeping it positive will help your child grow to love running and fitness too!
Be present. Be there for your child — not looking at your phone or thinking about what’s for dinner or what’s on your to-do list. As parents, it can be so easy to get caught up with daily distractions and interruptions. The most important part about running with our kids is the opportunity to spend quality bonding time together. Another benefit is building fitness and teaching skills and habits that will carry over into the rest of their lives.
Slow down. Remember they are kids and it’s going to take time. They don’t know how to pace properly. Whether they are running 50 meters or one mile they probably have one pace (all out sprint!) so it’s a good time to talk with them about pacing and saving some energy for later.
Be consistent. Set a time when you can run or do some kind of fun physical activity together and stick to it. Even if it’s just a few minutes once or twice a week — make it a priority. However, if you get off track, it’s okay. Ease back into it and try again!