Struggling to fill the final weeks of the summer holidays and desperate to fit some training in? Now is the time to get your kids active!
Incorporating the little ones into your training regime not only kills two birds with one stone, it sets them up for a healthy, happy future in the process. Encouraging your kids to get active is also vital for their development. The NHS advises that to stay healthy, young people need to do three types of physical activity each week: aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity.
Physical activity not only helps to build strong muscles and healthy bones, it improves self-confidence and sets them up for an active life. But luring the kids out the house when they’d rather be on the Xbox can be a challenge. We speak to eight active parents about how they incorporate running and exercise into their children’s daily routines.
Leanne Davies, founder of Run Mummy Run lives in Surrey and has two children aged 3 and 5
“We swim on Saturdays and I also incorporate some of my running with my five-year-old while he is on his scooter – he’s fast! It’s hard to juggle it all when they are very young but it can be done. There are some amazing running buggies out there. The 5K Parkrun phenomenon is fabulous at incorporating the whole family. A child on a scooter or bike can be a brilliant training buddy too!
“I think if you incorporate what they love alongside your training, it’s a winning situation for all. To get them involved I make it fun! I invent little games like who can be the fastest to the next tree or we play cat and mouse and I chase him. My little three-year-old did a one mile race last week at our local park. He ran some of it and walked the rest but he had fun. As long as they are enjoying it and it’s safe I think there is no right or wrong age. Even a baby can go in a running buggy and get some fresh air while Mum or Dad go for a run. Let your kids see that exercise is the norm and your routine. Make it fun. Include them in any races you go to and give them flags and banners to wave when you race past!”
Louise Woodvine, a buyer from Shrewsbury, has two girls aged 5 and 7
“We cycle together a lot. I also take then with me when I run. If I do intervals around a football field, they cycle on their bikes. I take them on long runs and they cycle too. My eldest daughter and I are members of Mid-Shropshire Wheelers cycling club and we go once or twice a week to a cycle track and take part.
“Working full time it’s difficult, but I get them involved and spend time with them too and they love it! They went in seats attached to our bikes as soon as they could. We actually took out eldest daughter up Snowdon before she was one in a backpack. It’s just the lifestyle they are used to now. We’ve always been active and so are they. Bikes are a great way to get kids involved! I think kids learn a lot off parents, if they see parents outside enjoying exercise, they are inclined to as well.”
Conrad Wild, a police officer from St Albans, has two girls, 4 and 7
“We go walking with the kids and also run with them while they ride their bikes. We went on holiday to the Peak District last week, where we got them up their first ‘mountains’, which involved some easy scrambling and downhill running, which they enjoyed. We’ve also just started geocaching, which is fun and can be incorporated into runs and rides.
“Getting them out of the house is the hard part, but they enjoy it once they’ve started. Geocaching is good because they get excited about the idea of a treasure hunt. I’d recommend incorporating some sort of target into it, like, going for a run and stopping part way for ice cream. Make it as adventurous as possible for them, for example it’s not a wood, it’s a secret forest!”
Lee Maxwell, a VAT Manager from Surrey, has two boys aged 5 and 7
“With my eldest George, I cycle and run. He enjoys it and it is usually him asking to go more than me pushing it, though sometimes on a longer session he will get tired and want to head home, which we do. I don’t want it to seem like a chore; once the enjoyment has gone it’s time to rest.
“If you want to get your kids active, don’t force it. They started at a young age, but they did it because they loved cycling, running and swimming. Children lose drive if they don’t enjoy something. If you child doesn’t like to run, try swimming or dance classes or gymnastics. At some point they will find something they like.”
John Bullard from Chichester West Sussex has two kids, Charlotte 11 and James 9
“Charlotte and James do Triathlon Club, Solent Pirates Junior Cycling Club, Tri Club Swimming, one-hour swim per week with a swim coach and Charlotte then does Chichester Runners 1h15 on Wednesday nights and I run or cycle with some of the parents. James will start Chi Runners in September. Normally they would also cycle with my wife or myself once a week, for a few miles.
“Charlotte has done four cross country races, 10 Aquathon/Triathlons, four indoor athletic meets and four outdoor athletic meets so far this year. In September we have a race every weekend, which makes for lots of driving and tired kids. I do not push them to do anything. Charlotte is very driven. James is not as motivated but he follows the example set by his sister. I would advise parents to join clubs themselves that have a youth section. Then you will find your way around the sport a lot quicker, and find people to train with while the kids are doing their sessions.”
Nikki Yeo, a Primary School Librarian from Hampshire, has two boys aged 16 and 14
“My eldest does parkrun with me and also runs with James when we can figure it in. I ran the cross-country club for three years when my youngest was in year five. I fit running in during the day; I work 9-1, so always run at lunchtime. I never joined a club as they are always evenings, which is not ideal for parents.
“I think leading my example is the best thing, with lots of walking in all weathers, but you can’t force the issue, as that puts them off. I think that it is about doing things together, walking, jogging, but not to be pushy. I used to hate seeing kids in tears at cross-country as their parents had such high expectations. I would suggest you take their lead, let them Parkrun at their pace with you by their sides, or meet them at the end.”
Jose Reyes, a project manager from Bristol, has two boys, Zac 9, and Eddie 5
“As a runner, I occasionally get involved in some training runs. Zac sometimes comes out with me, but more when I’m doing a shorter run or running a sprint session. In addition, I play all kinds of sports with them; they are both very active and full of energy. None of this is forced on them. They choose to do these organised activities and we are only happy to encourage it. Don’t get me wrong, they are both just as dedicated to a television and an iPad as any other young child, but we try and balance that with activity for their own good.
“Kids need activity, not only to get them into a healthy lifestyle that can last their whole life, but sport can teach them so many life skills that can make them better people. The skills of teamwork, hard work, listening to instruction, quick thinking and decision making are all integral to sport, and they are learning this at an early age. Add to that the motor skills and flexibility they are developing, and you’d wonder why anyone needs encouraging.”
Bronte Aurell, founder of www.scandikitchen.co.uk lives in London and has two girls, Astrid, 7 and Elsa, nearly 5
“Marathon training can be annoying for kids, as it tends to take parents away for a large part of the weekend for the long runs. I always wanted to make sure they don’t suffer just because I have a time consuming hobby. In our family, we make running fun and for the whole family. We’ve also done family races together, like the Westminster One Mile in May. They love swimming, cycling and running and all they need is a bit of encouragement. I think it is so very important that kids love sport and exercise and they do not feel it is a chore. If they didn’t enjoy something, I’d never force them. I am very careful about not allowing them to run too much (little legs, little knees… all in moderation). But children look to their parents for inspiration, too. It helps that both Jonas and I are very active – they see us and they follow. It becomes part of what we do as a family.
“It can be tough to find time to train as well as work full time with two kids. But if it’s important to you, you find the time. I have to run to stay on top of things and I feel that giving myself the gift of time to run makes me a better mother, in a lot of ways. Just run. Run with your kids like you used to run when you were a kid. It can be quite liberating!”
10 tips to get your kids running this summer
1. You’d be surprised how efficient a simple stopwatch and a healthy bit of competition can be. Time your kids to run laps around the park using your stopwatch, and get them to time you. The winner gets an ice cream! And you get to do some sneaky speed work.
2. Bring your kids on your normal run with you, or encourage them to run part of the way. If they’re still too small to run, get them to cycle or scoot alongside you and keep you company.
3. If your kids are really small, invest in a good running buggy and take them with you! A bouncing baby will provide a surprisingly good resistance workout.
4. If you’re struggling to get your techy kids to interact in the real world, you can now incorporate both with the GPS enabled treasure hunt, Geocaching. You simply navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) at a hidden location. The excitement of treasure at the end will provide an incentive to speed up. Visit www.geocaching.com for details.
5. Enter a race together. Many 5Ks and fun runs cater for kids and won’t mind if you take walking breaks, so join in the fun as a family. Your kids will start to see running as a normal activity and will soon get the running bug.
6. Get a dog and encourage your kids to run with the new family pet. Playing ball with a pooch will definitely be an incentive to get outside. If investing in a hound is not feasible, you can borrow one from the local dog sanctuary; many dog homes encourage the public to come and walk their dogs for them.
7. Join a running club with a youth section. Then you can all benefit from running and still go at your own pace.
8. Bring them to race day. Watching runners and the odd rhino amble by as the crowds cheer will encourage any kid to get involved, and they’ll soon be begging you to let them enter.
9. Bring them to Parkrun. Free, timed 5K runs held every Saturday throughout the country, Parkrun is the perfect place to cut your kids teeth on the joys of racing.
10. If running really isn’t there thing, find a sport that they do enjoy like swimming, rock climbing or cycling and do it together. You’ll all benefit from the exercise and enjoy some quality family time in the process.