How to Instill a Healthy Love for Running in Your Children
One of the greatest joys of running is sharing it with the ones you love. What can be better than catching up with a friend over a lunchtime running date? Or doing a fun race together as a family? It’s the perfect opportunity to spend quality time together, build great memories, and get some training in at the same time.
Sparking a lasting interest in running in your loved ones, and especially your children, is however, not always easy. The last thing you want to do is apply unhealthy pressure, and create a negative association with running or those that are being active and are close to you. Here are five easy pressure-free ways in which to instill a healthy love for running in your children that are sure to last and benefit them for a lifetime:
Lead By Example
Standing on the sidelines trying to force your children to enjoy something that will benefit them, in theory, is doomed to fail, and bound to create frustration and negativity. Children need to observe the benefits of running and an active lifestyle first-hand. They need to see and become familiar with the consistent effort that you put into running, but also the benefits that you reap from it. Show them that training and consistency takes effort, but also that it benefits you physically, mentally and emotionally. Lead by example.
Include Your Children in your Running from an Early Age
Don’t wait until your child can run before introducing them to the joys of running. For the committed runner, running (and healthy-living) is a lifestyle – introduce your child to it right from the get-go. After receiving the green light from your physician or care-giver, take your infant on stroller runs with you. Not only will this allow you to spend some quality time with your little one while doing what you love, it will also introduce them to the concepts of consistency, discipline, and making physical activity a part of life.
Once your children have outgrown the stroller, invite them to join you on shorter runs on their scooters or bikes. Why not run to a nearby playground and take a break for some strength training exercises while the kids play before running and riding home? Or why not grab or make some smoothies after a run? Make an effort to incorporate things that your kids love and enjoy into active outings.
Once your children are even older and have become accustomed to physical activity being a part of your weekly routine, the request to join you for a (real) run is sure to follow. Let it come from them.
Show your children the fun side of running
We live in the age of running fun. There is no excuse not to explore and discover ways in which to turn a running experience with your child into a fun, memorable adventure. Mud runs? Color runs? Fancy dress runs? Foam runs? Your child is bound to find at least one of these concepts appealing, and there are many more. Let them choose an event that sparks their interest, and do it with them at their pace. Forget about time or placement goals, simply enjoy the act of running and spending time together.
Create Fun Annual Family Traditions that Involve Running
Our calendars overflow with annual holidays synonymous with excessive eating. Why not create some fun, active annual family traditions instead? Enter and participate in an annual turkey trot 5 km race on Thanksgiving Day. Or why not get everyone to dress up like Santa for an annual Christmas Day fun run? Make an effort to make it a fun, stress-free and pressure-free annual event for everyone. Take walk-breaks, take selfies, and build memories that your children will cherish for a lifetime. Who knows, perhaps they’ll even continue the tradition with their own kids one day!
Don’t Push It
Perhaps the most important thing to remember, is this: Don’t push it. Don’t try to force your child to participate in and enjoy something that you love doing. As a parent you can lay a good foundation by setting a good example and by creating opportunities for your children to participate in running, and living an active lifestyle. But, as kids grow older and eventually leave the nest, the decision will increasingly be on them to take the tools you’ve given them and make it their own.
So go ahead and lay a good foundation. Chances are they’ll thank you for it later.