Just a couple of weeks ago, I was heading out the door to register for a 5k that I was trying to find the courage to run. I knew I wasn't in the best shape and that racing a 5k usually comes with a whole bag of mental challenges for me, but I also knew that this was something I wanted to do for myself for a number of reasons. Before I left, I called up the stairs to my husband to tell him I was leaving. Just then, Naomi, my seven year old daughter, came running down to ask me if she could race this 5k with me. She had just recently run her first 5k in July with a friend and had so much fun that she was excited to try again. This time, she wanted to do one with me since she'd never raced with me like her older sister. My initial thoughts were to just scrap my own race and run with her because of the opportunity to spend special time with her. AND it would be an easy out of facing my 5k fears.
I thought about it for a few minutes before deciding that I would do this one by myself and we would choose another one to do together. I knew that letting her just jump into a 5k that day, without much of any running leading up to it, might not be the best set-up for success and coming out of it super eager to try again. I explained to Naomi that this race was going to be something I did on my own but that we would pick out another race to train for together. She was so excited and it wasn't long after I got home from my race that night that we chose OUR race--a 5k in November.
In the past, my daughter was at an age and stage where simply running around the block or joining the family track nights down the street was all she needed and wanted when it came to running. However, now that she is seven and has shown interest and readiness with running longer distances, I know that training for a 5k together will be perfect! It will give us quality time to share, allow us to set goals and notice progress, and then experience the rewards that come from accomplishing a goal!
[Note: I use this term training loosely when it comes to a child. Training for a seven year old will be drastically different than it would for me. Training might simply mean running a few times a week while enjoying quality time with a parent and setting a few meaningful and manageable goals.]
The things I'm most excited about with this:
- This was Naomi's idea.
It is really cool for me to see her eager to run and ask me to share this experience together.
- The quality time together
Our first run together (since she asked me to do this) was two miles along the trail behind our house takes us along the Deschutes River. Our focus was to run easy enough to talk and enjoy our surroundings. It was about having fun and sharing special time together. I let Naomi lead the way. She would run for half a mile or so and then we would walk for a few minutes before running again. We noticed the beauty around us, talked about how we were feeling about this new move, and shared a few things we were hoping for in the coming school year.
- The opportunity to learn life and fitness skills
I know this time together with Naomi is going give us a chance to enjoy special mother/daughter moments. However, if we stick to it and make it a fun way to work towards a goal, it's also going to lead to some big lessons for Naomi: self-confidence, working towards goals, seeing that progress comes from practice, the joy that can come from running, and so much more.
One of the first people I thought of when Naomi asked to actually work more seriously towards a 5k is Tia, Arkansas Runner Mom. As a coach, incredible runner, and mother to four kids, Tia runs with her kids LOTS. In fact, Tia recently spoke for the Little Rock RoadRunners Club (the largest roadrunners club in Arkansas) on this topic: Running With Kids. She has also shared some good points in a post she wrote called: Kids and Racing. Together, we brainstormed things we thought were important to consider when getting started running more with our children. I got off the phone having a list of things I wanted to be more conscious about.
Above all, I know I want to focus on making my time with Naomi a priority. We all get caught up in life going from one scheduled thing to another and getting distracted by all the things that come up throughout the week. There are classes for our kids, work, school starting, family trips and so much more. It is easy to push my one-on-one time my kids off to "later" or when we find time. I am going to have to really be conscious of making the time (even once a week) to invite Naomi to go on a special run with me or be able to stop what I'm doing to go with her when she asks. If I'm doing something that can wait even thirty minutes, and I'm able to sneak away with just her, I want to make sure I'm doing this. Otherwise, it might not happen at all. It doesn't take a lot of time or days but those little moments ADD UP! As Tia reminded me: You Find the Time to Make Time!
Some Suggestions Tia and I came up with to to keep in mind when getting started with running with your child:
- Keep it simple. Start where you are and with what you have.
- Don’t get overwhelmed by details. The most important thing to remember about running with your child is finding joy 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.
- Be present. Be there for your child- not looking at your phone or thinking about what’s for dinner or what is on your to do list.
- 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 to pick right back up where you left off.
One of the first things I know I want to focus on is: making my time with Naomi a priority. We all get caught up in life going from one scheduled thing to another and getting distracted by all the things that come up thro Recognizing and acknowledging our child's readiness and interest in running with us is just one of the first steps to enjoying the incredible and lasting benefits that can come from sharing running with our child. I could have easily dismissed Naomi's desire to run with me as something silly or passing. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to spend time with her, help her grow in fitness and build some lasting habits for successful living. Now to actually make the time to stick with this!
|This was from a race back in July where Naomi ran her first 5k with her good friend from school. She was smiling the entire way and finished already excited to try again.|
|After our first official "training" run together. Two miles of a run/walk mix, lots of smiles, and surely a lasting memory for both of us.|