It’s natural for parents to want their children to follow in their footsteps. In the case of runners, this want is literal. C’mon Junior, let’s hit the trails. Follow me! Going on a family run may be a dream come true for a running fanatic, but there are a few things to consider first.
Desire: Does Junior even want to be a runner? If you’re lucky enough to hear those magic words, “Can I come?” as you’re lacing up your running shoes, the desire is clearly there, and by all means welcome your child to tag along.
Other kids may need a little prompting. This is where it gets a little tricky, because the line between ‘needing a little prompting’ and ‘completely uninterested in the sport’ is sometimes thin. While it’s good to encourage your child to try something new and active, telling them they “have to” or “should” give running a chance will mostly likely result in them giving running only one chance – a chance in hell.
Ability: If Junior has given you some clues that they are legitimately interested in joining you, it’s important to honestly assess their fitness before the inaugural run. Perhaps your pre-planned hilly six-miler is not the best place to start for a 10-year-old’s first run. A switchback-laden trail run may not be the best starting point either. The idea of ‘pain equals satisfaction’ is an acquired mindset. You wouldn’t give someone a Guinness for their first beer ever, would you? As boring as it may sound, a flat out-and-back on pavement or dirt is probably the best beginner run.
Family runs are about the weakest link, which is (hopefully) your child who is just beginning. It may be best to decide on a game plan together before heading out for the run. For example, perhaps you will walk on the uphills and run the flats, or run for one minute and walk for two. Having an agreed upon plan lowers the likelihood of whining or frustration. Your child will appreciate it too. That being said, it’s important to slow down or walk when they ask, as it’s more about spending the time being active and together than it is ‘getting in a workout’ when you’re running with a child. If an appreciation for the fun in the sport isn’t planted at the beginning, a later love for it will never bloom.
Acceptance: As the adult in the family running group, there are two things you’ll need to come to terms with before heading out the door. First, accept that the intensity isn’t going to be the same as when you run alone. If you begin the run with the mindset that you’re going to get a big calorie burn, you’ll only get frustrated when your child poops out early or wants to walk. A frustrated, grumbling running partner is about as much fun as a wet fart, and your child is not likely to join you again.
Second, there’s always that chance that Junior won’t share your passion for running. You must be prepared for them to admit that they don’t care for it or – gulp! – that they like something like basketball better (shutter). So long as your child’s chosen interest isn’t illegal or physically harmful, you may as well support it.
If your child doesn’t want to embrace your running lifestyle, there are always other ways to connect. Running can remain, by default, your own thing – a way to get out, de-stress, and organize your thoughts alone. However, if your dream does come true you’re your child wants to become your new running partner, soak it up and enjoy every step. It won’t be long before they’re leaving you in the dust.
By Audra Rundle