How to get your kids to run & love it too!

If you are a runner and a parent, then you probably have thought about how to get your kids to run!

As a runner it's hard not to notice the positive impact and gift that running is in your life! What a beautiful thing it is to be able to throw on a pair of shoes and head out with minimal gear into the great outdoors on our own two feet!

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Who wouldn't want to share their love of running with their own kids?

As a child of an avid runner and then as a parent who loves to run I put some thought into how to share a love of running with your children in the hopes that some day they might experience what an outlet of peace and joy that a lifelong love of running can bring!


Here are my thoughts and tips on how to get kids to run and develop a love for it:

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1. Example is everything

The best way to get your kids to run is to model what a lifelong running habit looks like.

It is what we DO that will speak the most to them and that they will remember!

2. Make it fun.

There is no need to put them on a formal running program. Younger children might enjoy it for a week but most kids don't enjoy being tied down to a plan and it can end up not being enjoyable for them if they are feeling forced to go out for a run.

Instead, naturally build in fun little running spurts in the natural rhythms of your day and active play.

You could play red light, green light, you could set up an obstacle course in your back yard and time them, my children love it when I tell them to race to the tree in our front yard while I count to see how long it takes them!

Relay races and scavenger hunts are other fun ways to get them used to running.

There really are so many different ways to make running fun and memorable without them actually going out for a formal run. Play to a child's love for fun!


3. Get outside as much as possible with them.

You probably have noticed when your children do run that they have a refreshed, happy look about them.

Point that out them by saying, "Don't you love how running makes you feel?" or "Running makes me feel light and happy, what about you?"

Planting these little seeds which will germinate as they grow and become more aware is an important part of instilling a lifelong love of running.

Another little saying you could play with and that I have found to be true is, "Active kids are happy kids."

I believe that the words we tell our children really shape their identity and how they see themselves as they become older.

Who wouldn't want their children to believe that they are a happy, active, healthy individual that takes care of themselves through regular exercise?


4. Go on walks with them.

Whether you have older or younger children, going on a walk with them is a great place to start being active and getting outside together.

Walks offer a wonderful opportunity for conversation but also can wind up turning into sporadic running intervals.


5. Make them aware of how running makes them feel. 

I truly think this is were it starts!

Give them a love for the outdoors.

  • Bring them to the local park when they are little, 
  • go for walks and hikes (more on this in a bit!), 
  • go to the lake, 
  • go to the mountains, 
  • have a picnic in your own back yard, 
  • climb a tree with them,
  • fly a kite, 

The opportunities are endless but we KNOW that getting outdoors plays a BIG role in our happiness.


6. Ask them if they want to run with you and then make it short and sweet. 

If they are interested in going for a run with you then stick to a short distance.

We might be tempted to push them and see how far they go but we risk burning them out, or worse setting them up for overuse injuries before they are fully adjusted to running.

Instead focus on getting out there and having a good time bonding with your child over a short distance while creating a positive experience that they can run!


7. Let them ride their bike with you as you run. 

This is another great way for them to actually see you running and creating that visual in your mind.

Most children love to get out and ride their bike while exploring new terrain that they might not get to see by themselves on a bike.

I love to offer this to my boys before I head out on a run and I usually get one or two takers.

Just because they aren't running themselves doesn't mean that it's not helping to instill a love for running.

Besides, you can get away with running longer distances with them if they are on their bike!


8. Find some trails.

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Anyone who walks or hikes on trails, knows the sense of peace that hiking brings.

Research some local trails in your area and make it a habit to get out and enjoy them a couple of times a year (once a season?).

Not only will hiking promote a healthy lifestyle but it's good for the soul and opens up another world to your children.

Just like with taking a family walk, you might find yourself jogging here and there along the trail.

An easy way to bring extra fun to your trail hikes is by bringing along fun snacks and taking breaks here and there!


9. Get them involved in Active Play

As much as possible, flex the muscle of being active together as a family.

A lot of parenting is exposing our children to things that we want them to love to learn.

It takes a little work and a bit more sacrifice on our part but it is worth it in the long run (pun intended).


10. Have a set time for a family run.

We love to go on "family runs" and the earlier in the morning we can swing it the better everyone's mood and attitudes are for the rest of the day.

As my two oldest boys get older, I find that if I encourage them to run down the trail and back in the morning before there day gets going there is a noticeable difference in their attitudes for the rest of the day.

Believe me they sometimes grumble and groan but they always come back with smiles and happy faces.

Aren't we as adults the same way?

How many times do not want to actually get a run in but by the time we are out there and come back home we feel amazing!

Our kids feel the same way!

Again, point out how great they feel after they get that run in. Teach them to motivate themselves with this thought.


11. Keep your personal goal out of your kids running.

Don't live vicariously through them or force them to choose goals.

Remember, we want to create positive experiences with each run so that they enjoy running for a long time to come.


12. Sign up for a local race, a kid's fun run or a one-mile fun run!

This is such a fun thing to do with your kids and with any other family members!

The race day atmosphere is always so exhilarating and its an excellent way to help your kids realize that they actually love running and feel like they belong as a runner.

They don't need to win in their age group to have fun but they will walk away from the finish line with self esteem, self confidence and an impactful positive experience that no one can take away from them!


13. Get a dog

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If your time (and sanity) allow, get a family dog. Not only are they a safety companion to you when you run, they also provide a loyal safety companion for your children. 

However, they obviously will get you outside running more often as well since they have exercise needs that need to be met! 

If your kids love dogs and are old enough to walk/run them, this is a wonderful way to get them to be regularly active while giving you opportunities to make them aware of how running makes them feel and educate them on the awesome benefits that come with running! 


As they Get Older: 

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They might begin to ask to take part in a more organized running program especially if they see you following a training schedule of your own.

Have them think about their running goals and what they really are looking for as a runner.

This will help you guide them towards the right program for them.

If their school offers cross country or a middle school or high school track or field team then this is a wonderful place to start!


Important Topics to Educate your Children On:

  • Physical activity guidelines for kids according to the CDC: 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical aerobic activity daily ages 6 to 17 years old.
  • Proper Running Form: As Charlotte Mason would say, "Start as you mean to continue." It's easier to learn proper form in the earlier on as a young runner than it is to learn as an older runner.
  • The importance of hydrating adequately! Make sure they have their own running water bottles and encourage them to hydrate appropriately.


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