These tips have been tested out by our kids ages 4-13 years old. How to Get the Whole Family Running and Enjoy It!
I was my PE teacher’s worst nightmare!
I’m not exaggerating. Running laps was like taking me to the dentist and extracting a tooth without anesthesia.
My parents tried so hard to “encourage” me to run on Saturday mornings with them but all I did was whine and cry. I hated running as a kid. Absolutely positively hated it!
Unlike my husband, I am not built like a runner, I am probably built more like a wrestler without the muscles. Seriously, I was the chubby kid all of my life.
But everything changed for me when I went to college. In college, running became my outlet for releasing frustrations and stress. Then it became a time to think and pray. It also helped me lose the baby fat that had been hanging around for 18 years.
Fast forward my life, now I am a mom with 3 boys who are very familiar with track fields and jogging trails. From the moment I was released from the hospital and I was able to get out of the house with them my children were in a stroller running with mommy.
Running for me is a way to process, think, pray and just relax. It keeps me sane especially when I had a house full of babies and toddlers.
As the kids got older, I would find fields with playgrounds where they could play if they wanted to, or join us in running if they wished. Most of the time they chose playing over running. Sometimes they would join us in a short lap.
How to Get the Whole Family Running and Enjoy It!
Two summers ago, we started the Tuten Family Running Club (my kids really loved that it was an “official” running club). I noticed my kids had an interest in being active so I thought this will be a good activity for the summer to help get some of that energy out. My hope for our running club was to model healthy living and enjoy a fun family bonding time.
Running is also a great way to stay in shape and help children discover an activity that they could enjoy for the rest of their lives. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything to get started! On the other hand, my fear was that they may end up feeling pressured into running or physical exercise, so we did our best to make it a fun time for them.
Our family running club was a such a success that my son and I ran a 5K together shortly after the summer was over! It was such a neat experience for the both of us.
related article: Tips for Running a Race with Your Child
Please know there will be days your kids will not want to do it and that’s okay. Encourage them and let them know they can do it! Remind them of their past wins and ability. Below I share some incentives to help motivate them. Also some days, we just let them walk if they got to a point where they weren’t interested in running any longer.
How to Start a Family Running Club
These are some of our tips for starting a Family Running Club of your own and ideas to keep the kids motivated:
- Pick the Day you’re going to run and write it down on your family calendar. We ran 2 or 3 times a week for our summer running club.
- Pick the Time. Find the best time for all of you to run. For us, it’s in the morning before the sun becomes unbearable. If you do run when the sun is out, make sure you wear sunscreen and that you stay hydrated.
- Goals are fun to work towards, so set one for your family running club. Maybe your goal is to run 2 miles at the park or maybe just run for 8 minutes without stopping. Whatever you choose as your goal, it’s important to set one. I set weekly goals for our running club. Each week we did more laps: run 2 laps this week, next week we will run 4 laps etc…
- 1 Big Goal! For example, run a 5k as a family (click to read the tips I share with you on running a race with your child).
- Give Incentives! This was a huge motivator for my boys. They picked a sticker to put on their shirt for every lap they ran. When they crossed the “Finish” line, they got a sticker. They loved counting all their stickers at the end of their run. Other times they got beads to put on a leather string bracelet.
- Remember to stretch before and after your run.
- Stay hydrated. Have water bottles with you on your run.
- Wear running shoes. Make sure you wear comfortable running shoes.
- Run on a Track or Field. At the beginning, we had to run on a track or field. We tried running at a park, but because we all run at different paces it made it hard to run as a family. When we ran around a track we were able to keep up with all of the kids, and they could enjoy running at their own pace.
- Let your kids go at their own pace and allow them to stop and walk if they need to. You want to keep the pressure off. That was another plus about running around a track because my youngest son could take a break and walk if he wanted without slowing the rest of the group. Our kids knew walking is fine as long as they’re moving. It’s important to find the balance of encouraging and challenging.
- You can also set your timer for interval running. Run for 5 minutes and walk for 2 minutes. I do this every year when we start off running to ease them into it. We start off with our running and walking time being the same so itw ould be 2 minutes walking and 2 minutes running. Then the next week you can change it up to more running time and less walking time-2 minutes running and 1 minute walking. I continue to challenge our body and eventually, we drop the walking.
- If you enjoy running don’t make this YOUR running time. Their pace will frustrate you. Have a separate running time for yourself until you all get into a groove and good pace as a family.
- End your Running Club with Medals! We made edible medals for our Olympic party. Celebrate a job well done and go out for ice cream or have a pizza party as a reward!
Pile on the Praise
Make them feel like rock stars, champions, winners (even if it’s not even close to what YOU were hoping they would accomplish). We piled on the encouragement, constantly cheering them throughout our time. But also balancing it out by challenging them to go beyond.
Don’t use this as a time to shame them or make them feel bad about their inability to perform.
Reward Good Attitudes! Some days they had a stinky attitude but we gave them an incentive. I used our post-run snack as an incentive. Regardless, they always get a post fitness snack. But if they had good attitudes I’d let them pick from our special snacks. Our special snacks were things like a yogurt popsicle or a mini Gatorade drink. This always helped curb the whining or complaining.
“I can’t do it.” turned into “I’m so tired.” but we encouraged them to keep going. It’s amazing how they suddenly regain their energy and run 3 more laps when given an incentive.
Give them a pep talk. I like to start off with asking our kids, “Do you think you’re strong?” Most of the time they’d say yes. I’d have all of us flex our muscles and make strong people noises. At the end of our running club, I’d say, “Remember you said you are strong? Well, now you proved it to yourself.”
It’s not about you, it’s about them
Remind yourself this is not about your childhood dreams or the desires you have for them. It’s about your child. It’s a time to enjoy an activity together and plant seeds of health and fitness into their life.
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I recently wrote this article on 8 Proven Ways to Stay Fit and Have Fun as a Family these tips have been tested and approved by my 3 boys.