My 6 1/2 year-old daughter has been watching me train for a 10K. She would like to join me in some running. Where do I start with her and how far a distance is suitable?
It's SUPER that your daughter would like to get started running. You must be a great inspiration to her. And yes, she can be a runner too. According to the current research it's just as, or even MORE important for your daughter to get exercise, as it is for Mom. The minimum recommendation is one hour of vigorous exercise for kids and a half hour for parents.
But the hour for the child doesn't mean a consecutive hour of running. It's the amount of vigorous activity she needs over the course of each day.
Running can and should be a part of her exercise, but training as an adult would do for a 10K isn't the best way to go.
Here's what you can do:
1. Make sure that your daughter knows that running isn't always racing. Talk to her about pacing and being able to control her speed: sometimes slow and easy, sometimes good steady faster running, and sometimes quick short sprints.
2. Get a baseline. Find out how far and long your daughter can easily run, while talking to you, without getting winded and without tiring.
3. Build that amount into your cool down at the end of your run and have her start by running that part with you. This will probably be from 50 to 400 meters to start. She will naturally start increasing the distance she feels comfortable running, but her goal isn't to do your 10K training with you. She'll need to a kid friendly running program.
4. Find some activities to do with your child apart from your own running. Let her have some friends over to play different kinds of tag: flashlight tag, freeze tag, TV tag.
Instead of your daughter joining you for your 10K training, join her for her running. Jog and talk. Vary the pace. Do slow...fast, slow...fast, etc. Let her try out different terrain: trails, grassy fields, road, and track.
5. Teach her about hydrating. Kid don't sweat like adults, so they don't have as great a need for the 'high tech clothes', but they do need more frequent hydrating before during and after activity.
6. Encourage her to take the time to stretch as a life-long habit. Kids also don't have the same need to stretch as adults (they are naturally more flexible), but it's a good habit to start young. Make sure that her stretching is not to the point of pain.
7. Interest her in one of our RIBBON running programs. We have a mileage program, the Log-a-Mile. Your daughter can chart her mileage by coloring in footprints. She can get her first name on our page, a certificate, and a blue ribbon. We have the Run the Seasons program where she can incorporate art and nature, and earn a green ribbon. Our RED RIBBON Run to Read and Write program, integrates reading and writing with her running. We also have the Rainbow Cave program where she earns a ribbon for running, reading and coloring.
These programs are designed to reward kids who stick to a goal and make a commitment to exercise for health and fitness, but they are also meant to integrate the activity of literature and art with exercise. For kids, learning and running can be more fun when they are combined. She can print our Running Journal and Journal Cover, then write about her experiences. Integrating running with learning nurtures a child in a way beyond pure exercise. It encourages the child think, feel, and express her world through running.
8. Plan an event to attend where you can run a 10K and she can run a kids' event. Try to make sure that the events are not simultaneous so that you can be her fan.
9. Cross-train with your daughter. Ride bikes with her, take her swimming, play a pick-up basketball game, teach her tennis, jump rope, dance, and/or go for a hike.
10. Have fun! Encourage, encourage, encourage!
Distance: A young primary school child can work for any short distance race/fun run ( 50 - 200m), or a longer race if that's all that's available (400m- 1/2 mile), one mile FUN RUN (IF she understands EASY PACING and not racing; my schoolchildren do). A once a year 5K event, just to finish is acceptable, but not our recommendation when there are so many events now that have kids' fun runs or races with shorter kid-friendly distances.
Competition: It's not for everyone. You can be a runner without being a competitive runner, but if your daughter shows interest, look for a team for her to join when she is a little older.
Nutrition: Good nutrition goes hand-in-hand with running and healthy exercise. Teach about good eating (what is a healthy snack. Have plenty of fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean meat, low fat dairy available) and portion size (we tend to overestimate portions). According to the report on a survey "Nutrition and You: Trends 2002" by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) found that eventhough Americans are making progress in diet habits, overestimating portions was one of the obstacles we have to achieving a good diet. They give 'visual examples' of portions such as a 'half of a tennis ball' for a portion of rice, or an 'audiocassette' for a 2-3 ounce lean portion of meat.
Attitude: Every time your daughter runs, she should remind herself that she is doing her part in keeping her heart healthy, making her bones strong, and replacing fat with muscle; all things which will help her stay healthy and fit throughout her lifetime.
Thanks for writing,
Press Release from ADA on Nutrition and You: Trends 2002 Diet Survey Size
Press Release from ADA on Nutrition and You: Trends 2002 General Survey Info.
Parents' Day at Mileage Club