Start ‘Em Young: Getting Kids Running

Programs like ING Kids Rock are growing in popularity across the nation. Photo: Lester Cacho

Keys To Getting Kids Running

Whether you’re a parent, teacher or just a runner, you can help get kids on the path to living an active lifestyle.

Make It Fun
Coach Jack Daniels says kids have to enjoy it. “In this country, running is often considered punishment. It’s always, ‘Make them run laps.’ So kids associate running with being bad. One thing that’s important about physical training is it better be fun, or they’re not going to keep it up.” The most important word when it comes to fitness? “Consistency,” Daniels says.

Get Parents Involved
“In some of the schools I’ve worked with in Los Angeles, the kids have never seen their parents exercise,” Rod Dixon says. He insists on having the parents be part of the final mile his program. It’s key to the kids’ sense of accomplishment and also has the benefit of getting the parents into exercise. “The reason seat belt laws worked is because the kids kept nagging their parents about it,” Dixon says.

Talk Nutrition
Six weeks into the KiDSMARATHON program, a dietician gives a talk on food. “You hold up a tomato and some of these kids have no idea what it is,” Dixon remarks. “When they think of food, they think of pizza.” Daniels mentioned a rather terrifying number. “Do you know how much soda the average American consumes annually? Eighty gallons!” Hence, don’t forget the talk about making good decisions about diet and nutrition.

Rewards
“This is about being a runner for life,” Dixon says. “There are no expectations on performance. There’s no gold, silver or bronze medal. They all get the same medal for finishing.” Incentives are a powerful force, adds Fred Bailon, a longtime runner and teacher in San Antonio. “It means a lot to kids. They love to get things. It doesn’t cost much and it’s such a powerful motivator.”

This piece first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.

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