Last month I did the ShePower 5K with my 9-year-old daughter. It was her third time doing this race, and she finished it much faster than I thought she’d want to go. I am so, so proud of her—and she is so proud of herself! I realized that this achievement was and wanted to share it to give other adults inspiration and ideas to get their kids moving.
My daughter’s very first race (I use the term loosely) was a kids’ dash after the Resolution Run 5K. It was free and covered about 50 meters. She was 3.5 years old, and I’d signed her up several weeks in advance so she was really looking forward to it. The night before the race, my son had a high fever and we realized my husband wouldn’t be able to go. The night before the race, my son had a high fever and we realized my husband wouldn’t be able to go. We contacted a good friend, and she said she would be there. My daughter stayed with her and her husband (who came with cameras, prepared to document it all!) while I did the 5K, and then my daughter and I did the dash together. It took all of maybe a minute, but she loved the attention and the little ribbon she got.
I wanted to keep them both active but resisted pressuring them—thanks to wise words from other runner moms. My husband and I did have them try activities they were interested in: gymnastics for both, and taekwondo for my son. We also did a local superhero race each year, which consists of 2 miles of running from obstacle to obstacle (water slides, inflatable slides, etc.), and they did come to races with me.She did similar kids’ dashes as part of other 5Ks that I ran, and sometimes her brother joined her. When she was 5, I signed her up for her first Healthy Kids Race Series (HKRS). She and her brother (2 years younger) ran the five-race series each weekend. They both loved the cheering and medals they got at the end. They both did the HKRS races again, and at some point, my son decided he was done. My daughter stuck with it a bit longer but then became discouraged that she wasn’t winning her age group.
Two years ago, I convinced my daughter to do the ShePower 5K with my friend and her daughter. It was fun, but I’ll be honest, it was also tough. My daughter tends to take off too fast, so she got a cramp and was unhappy the second half of the race. Fortunately my friend’s daughter kept her company and they both had fun. Last year, my daughter wanted to do better, and she did finish faster. However, she started off too fast again and was unhappy again for the second half. Also, I didn’t realize that she really wanted to beat some MRTT ladies and was sorely disappointed when they finished ahead of us.
This year, we did the Hot Chocolate 5K (her third time) and couldn’t train much thanks to illness and travel. We made it a fun race and talked about ShePower being more of our goal race.
Her victory wasn’t just that day, it took more than half her life. Based on that, here are my suggestions for getting your kids active.We did train for ShePower—doing anything from a half-mile to 2.5 miles on Saturdays. But at the race, she didn’t seem to have any goals, so I started us off slow. Instead of our planned intervals of 2 minutes run, 1 minute walk, she ran almost the entire first mile, gradually picking up speed. We saw some MRTT ladies and I realized she was keeping her eyes on them. About halfway in, they were a bit ahead of us and she started to speed up. I told her we’d catch up eventually and she said, “That’s what you said last year!” That was the point when she literally put on her game face, set her sights on the MRTT ladies, and sped up. She passed them at about the 2.5-mile mark and was eventually going so fast I couldn’t keep up. She finished about 1 minute ahead of me, in 33:51. I was SO proud of her, she was proud of herself, and later told me it was the BEST day!
- Set an example. If you enjoy running, hiking, biking, Pilates—whatever your thing—show them. Make sure they see you doing it and hear you talking about why you do it and why it’s important to you. Early on, when I’d come home from a race, my daughter would ask if I’d won. I’ve never even won my age group, so I’d tell her that I hadn’t won, that I had raced to see if I could do better than last time. Sometimes I’d say I’d only gone to spend time with a friend. Now, when I ask my daughter if she wants to do a race, she’ll ask if anyone we know will be there.
- Don’t pressure your kids into an activity—have them try activities they express interest in. Make sure they stick with an activity for a specific amount of time. This will help them see whether they’re truly interested in it and will teach them the value of commitment. I have to reenroll my son in taekwondo every year. At that time, we talk about whether he still wants to do it, and what he needs to do (focus in class, practice at home, etc.) to continue.
- Start slow. There are a variety of ways to get children moving. Local parks and recreation classes are one inexpensive, relatively low-commitment way to try something out. Kids’ dashes at local races are often free. The Healthy Kids Running Series is nationwide and inexpensive.
- Help them do and stick with it. If they need to practice or train, set aside time for that. Maybe you can do short runs together and then go out for hot chocolate and muffins. Keep it fun and they will remain interested.
- Cheer them on. Literally and figuratively, cheering your kids on can help keep them going. You may buy your daughter a running shirt with a motivational saying on it. Have the husband and siblings at the finish line cheering for her. Go out for breakfast as a family after race.
Your child may not be a runner, but whatever his or her passion, I believe these guidelines do apply!