How far is too far for a kid to run? Should we sign our kids up for 5Ks or continue to put them in 1-mile races instead? This is a question I hear often because I allow my own children—who are under the age of 10—to run 5Ks. My 9-year-old daughter left me halfway and finished the race three minutes quicker than I did. Should kids run 5Ks? Yes, but COR’s Dr. John Mullen advises parents to think beyond the run. A healthy run requires a healthy body, appropriate training, and fun.
Let’s be realistic here: kids in the US are out of shape. If we can get them moving, shouldn’t we? According to the CDC, nearly 13 million children between 2 and 19 years of age are obese. That is a startling statistic. In addition to a healthy diet and sleep, children in the US should be physically active for more than an hour each day. Think about it: that’s more time than it takes to run a 5K.
Benefits of Kids Running a 5K
There are many reasons why children should run 5Ks.
- Promotes healthy body and lifelong fitness habits
- Builds stronger muscles and bones
- Reduces obesity-related conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and certain cancers
- Improves attention and focus
- Allows children to manage stress and anxiety
- Allows children and their families to spend more time together by training together
- Motivates children and allows them to learn how to be goal-driven
- Kids sleep better
What to Consider Before Starting a Training Program
Before you begin a new training program with your child, consider the following:
- Your child’s age and current fitness level
- Your child’s eating habits
- Advice, concerns or suggestions expressed by your child’s physician
- Your child’s current health and any conditions or injuries that will affect training
- Your child’s willingness to participate
Starting a Comprehensive 5K Program with Kids
Your child cannot run a 5K on week one. Healthy training will allow you and your child to build up strength and endurance over time. When you are training with your child, think beyond the race course. Incorporate a variety of activities that will keep your child moving. Doing so improves endurance, eliminates boredom, and reduces fatigue. Your child’s 5K training program should include:
- Resistance training and strength training
- Aerobic training
- Flexibility and balance training
When training for a 5K with your child, use common sense to keep your child safe and interested in the sport. Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration and exhaustion, as well as discouragement. Your child can become discouraged if the training becomes monotonous, painful, or boring. Running every day can be boring for some adults. Allow your child to set the pace and be sure to add other physical activities in during the week.
Creating a Schedule
When you train for a 5K with your child, set a schedule that gives your child plenty of time to develop overtime. When it is not a running day, encourage your child to swim, play other sports, or to do resistance training. Alternate the activities throughout the week.
Week One: Run with your child every other day. Keep an eye on your child’s technique and natural stride. Make sure your child does not slouch. Children can lean forward slightly, but the chest should be open and the head should be up. If your child gets bored or discouraged, play visual games or start talking about a topic that interests them. This first week of training should have at least three days of running and walking for 15 to 20 minutes. During the run, carry plenty of water and ensure your child drinks it during training. As soon as training stops for the day, encourage your child to drink more water.
Week Two: Encourage your child to run longer than last week. Aim for 3-to-30: 3 minutes walking and 30 seconds running. Training should last for 20 minutes.
Week Three: Increase training to 30 minutes on the running days. This week, flip the time: 30-to-3: walk for 30 seconds and run for 3 minutes.
Week Four and Beyond: As your child builds stamina, encourage your child to cut walking altogether. If your child stops to walk, reduce the time during each stop. Encourage your child to set goals during the run. Landmarks work well and provide children with a visual target to reach. Your child should be ready by race day.
Racing should be fun for you, your child and your family. Encourage each other along the way and start planning for the next race after you cross the finish line.
If you need help creating a comprehensive and safe training program for your child, contact COR for training advice and personalized attention. Also, the COR boot camp is beginning its running preparation for the Spring and Summer. Start having your child train for a 5km, while you prep for 5 km, 10 km, ½ marathon, 50 km, or even 50 miles…