When I was a young kid, running was fun if I didn’t really think about it. Running around the playground, running to catch up with friends, or running as part of a game – this was the running that didn’t seem like a chore. But as I started to grow and be more aware of things, running became a “necessary evil” and harder work as part of sports practice. And I would never have considered to just go out and run, for the fun of it. Running for the sake of running just didn’t sound like fun.
So how do you get your kids to love running? Here are five simple ways:
1. Make it look fun. Kids model the attitudes that they see and if you are running with a smile, and look forward to running, this can rub off on them. If you’re always negative and complaining about the heat, your shoes, the distance you have on your training plan – they’ll notice this too! So smile and enjoy your running and they will see how fun it can be.
2. Loops, loops, and more loops. My kids love when we run loops. There’s something about running the same path over and over in one session that’s really fun and energizing for them. Perhaps it’s the familiarity of the loop the second, third, or fourth time around. Perhaps they can take it a little faster on a curve that they now know. Or maybe it’s the thrill of knowing where the end of the lap is rather than an unknown destination.
Your loop doesn’t have to be a track, as many track runners would frown on a gaggle of kids running loose around the track (and safety is a factor!). Find a block in your neighborhood or a path around a lake and have them keep track of how many loops you do in each outing. It’s fun to mix it up and vary your running locations so scout out some loops together and make a list of possible running routes!
3. Make it a game. My kids can turn anything into a game. But the thing they love the most is when I turn something into a game, with a bonus if I create incentives as a reward. A contest to see how runs the most loops? Who can reach a certain tree first? Who can sing the whole alphabet before you reach the end of the street? There are lots of ways to make a run playful and memorable for kids. And the rewards don’t have to be food or money – try giving them a head start as a reward for “winning” a game, or let them pick the next game.
4. Get them the right gear. Kids don’t need much, but get them a good pair of running shoes and some sweat-wicking clothing and they’ll enjoy the experience all the more. And handing a kid their own personal handheld water bottle can seem like a treat and make them feel a part of your hobby.
5. Pick a goal together. Having a goal race, whether it be a kids’ fun run, the local 5K, or a fun and whimsical color or light-themed run can give kids something to look forward to and make the training seem like a journey you take together. Give your child a few options and pick out your goal race together.
But most of all, enjoy the special time with the kids!