Running with Your Children
Mary Jones and kids at the finish of Race for Life.
Mum of three, Mary Jones is a Jog Leader in Whaley Bridge in the High Peak. She has run a 5k Race for Life with her two girls, six-year-old Lily and seven-year-old Eve. We asked her to tell us about her personal experience.
Her children's first interest in running
They saw Mummy and Daddy running and wanted to have a go. We both run with our local club Goyt Valley Striders.
The good thing is that it's something you can easily do with the kids. You don't need any facilities or expensive kit or even any extra time. You just need a pair of trainers.
Running's quite natural for children - if you go walking with them, they tend to end up running anyway. It's great to get them out in the fresh air, running around.
Training with the girls for Race for Life
I used my Jog Leader experience to do a 'Couch to 5k' type programme with them – walking, then running, then walking, letting them slow down when they wanted to, nothing intense. They'd only done a distance of one mile before the race.
Jogging can benefit the whole family.
It's a very emotional occasion. My Mum ran with us so there were 3 three generations of our family. The girls were a bit nervous because they didn't know what to expect but they really enjoyed it. Lily, who is 6 years old, needed a bit of carrying but my 7 year old, Eve, even managed a sprint finish!
Doing a Race for Life has improved Eve's confidence no end. Like me, she's not a good sprinter so doesn't tend to do well at school athletics. After the run she said very proudly, "I'm a long distance athlete, like Mummy!"
What came next
We then did a 5k Park Run this weekend with our Whaley beginner joggers. I think it was a good experience for the girls as they can do it in their own time and could see people of all different abilities out running and enjoying themselves.
Children who show promise can be encouraged to join a club.
Top five tips
- Start off by going for a walk and let them run if they want to.
- Take treats like sweets or raisins.
- Keep them well hydrated.
- Take the lead from them and let them run at their own pace.
- Make it fun – play games like Follow the Leader - running in silly lines - or tag games like Scarecrow Tig.
If you think your child shows promise as a runner then you could take them along to a local club with a junior section (link to running section), so they can enter races if they want to and improve their performance.
How much, how often?
Local fitness coach and fellow Goyt Valley Strider Nik Cook adds his own recommendations.
- You're not going to hurt kids by getting them to run. You won't damage their growth as long as you listen to them. Children have a very good cut off system – they stop when they're tired. Don't push them – you don't want to put them off.
- Always try and get them to run on soft surfaces, rather than on the road. Because they are light, they tend to have a good power-to-weight ratio, so they don't put a lot of stress on their joints and they tend to have a very natural, free running style.
- Remember that up until the age of 12, if you say run, they will run as fast as they possibly can. So it's a good idea to try and teach them to run at a more sustainable pace, a bit more slowly.
- As with grown-ups, it's a good idea to mix up your training. Letting children try lots of different sports and activities means they can discover what they're good at and what they enjoy.
- A variety of exercise also encourages different movement patterns so they become more rounded and robust. Sports physios have noticed with young athletes those who perform best and go on to have successful, injury free careers tend to come from a wide sporting base, having done lots of different activities.
Children should be encouraged to try a wide variety of activities.
Government guidelines on physical activity state that to maintain a basic level of health, children and young people aged 5 to 18 need to do:
- At least 60 minutes (1 hour) of physical activity every day, which should be a mix of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as fast walking, and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as running.
- On three days a week, these activities should involve muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups, and bone-strengthening activities, such as running.
- Many vigorous-intensity aerobic activities can help you meet your weekly muscle and bone strengthening requirements, such as running, skipping, gymnastics, martial arts and football.