If you are interested in getting your family involved in your running life, here are some ideas of where to start.
Family hikes and after dinner walks. I think this may be the key. It helps kids if they have a base-level of ability. It isn’t running, but it is activity on their feet. Hiking and walking allow them to build stamina, be familiar with what it feels like to be on their feet for some time, and what a certain distance feels like. We always try to have fun on our walks too, spotting a certain number of interesting things to discuss, or talking about their day. We try to make it a special time to talk and enjoy each other, while also taking in nature or observing the city.
Support each other. If only one of the parents is a runner, it is important that the non-runner is supportive and understands why they should foster a love of activity. My husband is not a runner, but he will lace up his shoes and do a 5k with the family because he wants to model a healthy lifestyle for them.
Encourage. It is important that children feel like they have a voice and say in the matter, so ask them if they are interested in a fun run. If they aren’t sure, explain how fun it is, how it is good for their bodies, and that they don’t have to run the whole thing if they get tired. Keep it upbeat and positive. I would suggest not making jokes about how hard it is, or they may miss the joking part.
Run with them. Sometimes I am doing a longer run and cannot run with them, but my husband always does. He will push our younger one in the stroller and our older one runs alongside. If the starting times are different or on a different day, I always love the opportunity to run with my kids. I also seek out fun runs that are meant just as family events, like the Zoo run in Boise, where we can focus on them completely as little runners. There are usually lots of fun activities before and after for kids too.
Celebrate and reward. Letting your child pick out new running shoes and clothes can be a little extra boost of excitement for them. Consider saving them for race day to make it feel special. When they complete their race, make them feel special. It is a big accomplishment when anyone finishes a race and even more impressive when your little one can do it. We celebrate by getting ice cream or cake, their choice.
Read children’s books about running.
Start young with short distances. I signed our son up for a 2.5 km trail run when he was 2.5 years old. He loved it! He was familiar with the area from our family hikes on the weekends. He ran, walked, and explored the 2.5 km.
Our daughter did her first race when she was 1.5 years old. She did a .25 mile last summer that the local zoo put on. She is the biggest animal lover, so she stopped to appreciate the bunnies, then continued on her way.
I loved that I got to run through the mangroves with B on this 3.5 km race. We even climbed to the top of a wooden lookout tower to get a better view of the ocean and mangroves. His decision.
Run Wild at the Boise Zoo. Lady H’s first race (.25 mile). I got to run with B on his 1 mile run.
Rayong, Thailand trail run.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina 4km run with Mr. G. Pretty epic picture–Lady H in her chariot.
A little pre-workout warm up.
Split, Croatia 5 km race for Mr. G and B. Lady H got to snuggle in blankets and go along for the ride.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina Spring 5 km run with B. I got to run with him and was super impressed with him finishing in 36 minutes!