How to raise a runner

Your kids are little and they like to run. It’s just what they do.

Flash-forward a few years, however, and by the time a preschooler becomes a teen, many have stopped. Forever.

How, as parents, can we encourage our kids to run, not just as young children, but throughout adulthood, too?

First, say experts, make running a fun part of everyday family life.

“We need to get back to the art of playing,” says John Stanton, founder of The Running Room stores that can be found across Canada and the U.S.

“Maybe it’s Sunday. You go have a family picnic at the park, but you do something physical when you’re there. Maybe you play soccer for a while, or throw a Frisbee. Whatever it is, you’re moving.”

Most adults remember those runs we’d take in gym class; a few students would sprint to the end and a few of us lagged behind, just wishing the bell would ring.

That’s no way to encourage running, says Stanton. “The fast kids, no problem, they’re bored, but the sedentary kids, they’re embarrassed because they’re last. Do with kids like you do with adults — put them in peer groups with similar fitness levels.”

Jackie Crooks, the Alberta projects coordinator for Healthy School Communities, agrees. That’s why she encourages schools to implement a walking component within a running program.

“A lot of kids think to themselves, ‘Oh, I can do a walking program,’” she says. “Then when they see their fellow students and friends out running and having a great time, they are led toward that step next.”

Crooks also helps to coordinate the Alberta Medical Association Youth Run Club, a partnership between Ever Active Schools and the AMA. The pilot program started with 4,000 runners in 74 schools across Alberta in April and takes place through June 2013, and in September, it will roll out across the province.

Modeled after the Doctors Nova Scotia Kids’ Run Club program, it’s a free, flexible program that supports existing running clubs. It also offers support for parents, students and teachers who want to create clubs in schools that don’t yet have a running club. (If you want more information, email them.)

“You can actually have someone come in and help you and your teachers implement it, help kids with training, that sort of thing,” says Crooks.

“Some run one time a week. Some run five. Some run mornings, before school, at noon, after school. It’s completely up to them.”

“Our goal is to help keep the converted running, and to get the non-converted outdoors and moving, too.”

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