Getting your kids into running is a massive step for a healthy active lifestyle.
While they may spend a number of their early years charging and crashing about, getting them out running for actual fitness or for active play, isn’t always that simple. It is a combination of not only keeping them encouraged and motivated, but also making sure your little ones have the right running gear and essentials when they’re out and about. Find out everything you need to know in our rundown of tips and advice.
Make sure your kids know that it’s not all about winning
Even if you are a fitness-obsessed born winner, it’s important to approach family fitness with a focus on enjoyment and over performance. Your kids should know that you love them regardless, fast or slow, first place or last.
Whether it’s running, swimming, or even playing catch, look to be certain they are enjoying the activity they’re getting involved in, as that will be what makes them persist with it. If they develop a competitive side, help them to channel it in a productive way, one that keeps their frustrations to a minimum and keeps them wanting to improve.
This can all start with being a little bit more mindful. If your kids compete, cheer them when they’re doing well, but don’t yell at them when they aren’t. The same applies to their competitors, or their coaches. By being a positive role model you can demonstrate the attitudes towards running that you’d like your kids to embrace. If your kids have a coach, do what you can to create a respectful, communicative relationship with the coach too.
Find a safe way of running that makes them feel comfortable
While it’s a good idea to start their relationship with running by going with them, it’s good to keep checking in with them if that’s how they want to do it going forward.
Respect when they’d prefer to run with you vs. running by themselves or with friends. Even if you do provide a safe environment for their running, physically and emotionally kids often enjoy independence, and they’ll get the very best out of running and an active lifestyle when they feel relaxed and happy doing it.
Make sure they have fun!
Running should be fun for children, and the best way to encourage your kids is by making it so. When you run with kids, avoid competitiveness and instead foster a spirit of fun and sharing.
Make the most out of the moment when they want to stop and take in their surroundings. Teach them to observe nature, to listen to their bodies, and especially to respond to their physical needs (in terms of food and hydration) during their run.
How to motivate kids
Set goals which reflect your kids’ age and level
Be realistic about their abilities.
Start slowly, regardless of how naturally athletic they are. By going too fast too soon, your kids could easily fall out of love with running. Help them set realistic goals, to keep the disappointments to a minimum. You don’t need to necessarily hold them back, it's okay to not reach a target, but don’t add the unfair expectations that they’re going to be world champions.
Before heading out, the best way to motivate your children is by setting up a fun running outing that takes into account their individual levels and abilities and the distance you will be running.
Motor skills are different at every age. Don't think of your kids as little adults. Instead, change your pace, distance, and the length of breaks based on the needs of each child. Running is an ideal sport for younger people, allowing them to do a different kind of recreational activity which will help stimulate and develop motor and sensory skills.
Mix it up!
An example jogging outing with children: Start with a short run (no longer than 15 minutes). Then, walk for a bit and take a picnic break to replenish your energy. Run for a little while longer, and then take some rest breaks in which you play fun games. Start your return journey with a short run and have a little challenge after you finish!
The main goal is to have fun with your kids while bearing in mind their individual abilities and desires. The best thing is to do a variety of activities to keep them interested all day long and teach them to love running.
These could include:
- Exploring nature by looking for and learning the names of the birds and flowers you see during your outing.
- Learning how to read maps, road signs, and a compass.
- Outside games (leapfrog, ball games, etc.)
Alongside running, if you have children under 12 years of age, two of their main activities during your running outings should be jumping, and throwing. There’s also the option of bringing along a camera to teach your kids how to use it so that they can learn to appreciate the great outdoors another way.
Make sure they're comfortable in their trainers
In order to ensure maximum comfort, "road and trail" running shoes for kids are perfectly designed for the comfort, safety, and physiology of children. They should be light and flexible and have good support to avoid sprains and a soft cushion to ensure stability when running in almost any setting.
Choose special technical running socks
When your feet are wet, rubbing can cause itchiness and chafing. Instead of cotton socks, which soak up water and leave your feet wet, pick a pair perfectly suited for running. Did you know that a pair of synthetic socks or a synthetic t-shirt which is specially designed for running will dry three times faster than a pair of cotton socks or a cotton t-shirt? A word to the wise, don't go barefoot in your running shoes. After just a bit of running, you will end up with blisters!
Choose a backpack designed specifically for running
They’re often less cumbersome than a traditional backpack. In fact, it is usually worth bringing two rucksacks for the adults and individual backpacks for each child. Distribute weight based on each child's age.
Always remember to be safe and stay protected
During the summer holiday, it is essential to protect children from the sun's powerful rays. In warm weather, even if it is not sunny, you absolutely should wear a cap in order to effectively protect you from the sun and the heat. This will keep you safe from sunstroke or heat stroke, which can quickly cut your family running and relaxation outing short.Use waterproof, sweatproof sunscreen (at least 30 SPF) to protect their skin, sunglasses to protect their fragile eyes and special sporting apparel for outdoor activities.
Running clothes should be loose and breathable. Technical fabrics will promote sweat evaporation and leave the skin dry. These items include a t-shirt, light shorts and thin socks.
Remember that running is the ideal leisure and sporting activity to do with your kids over the holidays. Whether discovering nature, learning, and sharing, or developing their bodies and senses, the most important thing is to promote motivation by adapting recreational activities to the abilities of every child and to plan for your run while bearing in mind some key needs, which include food, hydration, sun protection, and running shoes and clothing. Like every open-air activity, running depends on the weather, even in the summer. Be prepared. On every outing, bring along a backpack, windproof jacket, sweatband, sunscreen, drinks and food. Don't forget your sunglasses, disinfectant and anti-histamine cream in case you get bitten or stung by any insects.
Nutrition for running
Before running, have an energy-packed breakfast together
Give your family the best possible chance of a relaxing, exercise-filled outing, by preparing a well-balanced, energy-packed breakfast for the whole family. This can include dairy products, fruit, breakfast cereals, bread, and proteins (ham or eggs). The first meal of the day is a great way to get started on the right foot and avoid low blood sugar or early fatigue.
Remember to refuel
Even if you are only going for a short run, bring along solid foods to make sure you or your children do not end up with low blood sugar. Children love cereal bars, nuts and sweets, and you should bring along these products during every outing.
Pay close attention to hydration
Whatever the weather conditions, drinking is essential for both adults and children when doing any kind of sport. During a fun running outing, children can learn to make sure to save enough water so that they can drink throughout the day (their water can have a little sugar added to it).
Advice: always make sure every child stays hydrated while exercising (at least a drink of water every ten minutes).
If after everything, your kids just don’t like running, figure out what they prefer and support it equally. Make sure to encourage your kids in all of their discoveries and efforts! The rules are the same for supporting them during bagpipe practice!