Running down our street, I let my daughter take the lead. I wanted her to enjoy this moment and remember it as not only fun, but empowering for her. Who knew those tiny 4-year old legs would be zipping alongside me? Pleasantly surprised, I stayed with her.
Running is a very natural activity for kids to pick up on at an early age. Jeff Taylor-Haas, PT, DPT board certified clinical specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy (OCS) and certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, says running is a normal developmental milestone that many kids master by about 2 to 3 years old. For kids to want to participate in running —or any activity — you have to make it fun.
“To make running both fun and safe for younger runners, include a large dose of games such as tag, freeze, red light/green light, etc.,” Taylor-Haas suggests. “Next, make sure your child gradually increases his running activity to reduce the likelihood of sore muscles or injury,” he adds.
And if he is showing interest in running, you better start lacing up your sneakers! You can help him with this new found activity by taking short, slow and steady jogs – no more than a third mile depending on his age – around your neighborhood or park so that you don’t overwhelm him or increase risk of injury or overheating.
Since kids are growing and developing, pay attention to your child’s running performance, says Ottilia Bulathsinghalage MSN, APRN, FNP-C, Premier Physician Network, Middletown Family Practice. Listen to his cues, and if he complains about pain or soreness, take a step back. Do this by scaling back the distance you run together, or encourage some stretching before and after you run.
“Warm up with a light jog or a jog in one place, it allows blood flow to targeted muscle groups,” says Bulathsinghalage. “This along with stretching helps loosen muscles prior to a running session.”
Stretching after a run also helps the body to move excess lactic acid out of developing muscles which helps to prevent muscle soreness.
Staying on Track
Help your running kid to stay motivated with a simple reward system or signing him up for local teams, suggests Bulathsinghalage. Kids love running with other kids; research age appropriate races and family fun runs to get everyone moving together.
Reward systems can be as simple as a pair of new running shoes or clothes for reaching milestones. And most importantly, safety always comes first while ensuring he is the one wanting to run.
“Pay attention to your young runner and enjoy and cherish every time spent running together,” she says.
For an easy-to-follow running guide for kids, visit nationwidechildrens.org.
For family-friendly 5Ks, click here!