Connecting With Kids Through Running

Connecting With Kids Through Running

My 9-year-old daughter is at that age when she watches what I do and wants to copy me, but at the same time is starting to be embarrassed of me.  She asks to go out for a run or try her hand at yoga arm balances just like me.  But stand around while I try to talk on the phone to her friend’s dad in German in the middle of a store, or wear her hair in a bun like I often do?  Forget it.  She’s mortified.

I feel the weight and the responsibility of her observations.  She’s watching me exercise, eat, and dress.  She’s noticing how I talk to and about people.  She picks up things I say. 

I have a small window of influence.  What can I teach her during this short amount of time and how can I keep at least a small window of communication open during the often-difficult pre-teen years?  These years are hard enough for average children, but military kids face extra challenges…changing schools, saying goodbye to parents for varying amounts of time, and living unpredictable lives.

Perhaps running is part of the answer.  My daughter watched me devote countless hours to marathon training — rain, snow, or shine.  She now loves to join me in 5k races.  Most recently, we ran an obstacle race with the Girl Scouts.  It was hilly and slippery and my heart rate was definitely up.  I was impressed with how well she ran.  And, I hate to admit it, but she beat me fair and square in a short sprint not too long ago.

If we could establish running as something we do together now, then it gives her something that will help her feel good about her body and it offers us a chance to have easy conversations.  Have you ever noticed that you’re more forthcoming in a conversation when you can’t see someone directly?  Running side-by-side could provide that same opportunity.

Coach Jenny at Runner’s World offers some great tips on how to get started running with your child from setting goals, starting slowly, working with breath, and celebrating. 

Marc Bloom, also at Runner’s World, suggests checking the race website before you sign up for your next race to see if the event includes kids’ events.  For example, the Marine Corps Marathon features a Healthy Kids Fun Run on the day before the marathon.

I’m definitely going to keep these tips in mind as I plan out my races for the coming year.

Do you run or participate in other sports with your kids?  Has it helped you develop a special bond?