“The first is running makes you healthier. It gets you in better shape and makes your heart healthier. The second reason is that you can run with your buddies. There are group races. It's fun and it encourages you to do better. The third reason is that you can finish your goal. First, you do a half-marathon. Then, you do a marathon. If you just love running and you're up for a challenge you can do a 50-mile or 100-mile race. ” -Fourth Grader Davis Lang
Getting your kids into running is a great way to give them a strong athletic foundation for any sport. Because almost all active sports involve running, it's never too early to start. As an expert runner yourself (wink), there's a good chance your kids will want to follow in your footsteps (no pun intended) or at least give running a try. Personally, I started running when I was 6 years old with my primary motivation being that my dad always spoke fondly of his high school track and field days. If Dad was good at running, maybe I would be too!
Keep running fun for any beginner—especially a young child. Although kids can get in shape and set running goals for themselves, running should mostly be about getting a taste for it and learning good form and technique. You'll be surprised how few park department track coaches are actually teaching kids how to run. What better time to learn than when you start. This is where you come in. Explain how to keep your arms from crossing your chest, extending your strides, relaxing your jaw, keeping your chin down....
Make it social
Kids enjoy running in groups too. Make it a social event. There are plenty of running clubs out there that have liberal age standards. You can also sign the girl scout troupe up for a 5K run and give them a great bonding moment and a unique “patch opportunity.” I know I've been passed by more ankle biters than I care to admit on the race course!
Other kids will prefer joining the recreation department or school track team. You can always volunteer to coach or ask to join in with workouts occasionally. In addition to teaching your kids about running form, young tracksters will definitely appreciate your expert tips like leaning at the finish line and how to anticipate the starter's gun.
Bring the family together
Try to put together a family run from time to time. Next time you head out to the park for a playground visit, add a run around the park trails to the schedule. Also one-on-one runs with your kids can be special alone time to get extra attention from mom or dad. Remember to model good running behavior like stretching, cooling down, and watching for traffic. For more great advice, check out KidsRunning.com.