Issue 15 • July 2013

Child’s Play

I vividly remember crossing the finish line of my first race, the Marine Corps Half Marathon, October 3, 2009. Prior to that time, I had zero athletic ability. I never thought I’d run 1 mile, let alone 13.1! As I rounded the corner, racing toward the finish line, I saw them, my beautiful family. My husband and 4 daughters were holding their homemade signs, and I was overcome with emotion. I wanted to share this feeling with them one day.

That day came…

My first training chance with the girls came the following year, when I helped start a Run/Walk program at my daughter’s elementary school. Not only did I witness her run over 26 miles in the duration of a school year and earn her “Marathon Medal,” but I also trained with her for her first Kids Triathlon.

I’ve since had the privilege of running at least one 5K with each of my older daughters, several fun runs with all four of my girls, and cheering on my oldest daughter in her Cross Country and Track seasons. The pride I felt crossing the finish line of my race was nothing compared to watching my children reach their goals!

Their goals are getting bigger and so has my responsibility to them. Currently, my oldest daughter is training for her first half marathon. She chose the race, in lieu of a”Sweet 16” birthday party. A girl after my own heart!

Tips for Training… from the heart and for the heart

Patience. Training with your children takes a lot of patience. More often than not, I begin running with a grumpy kid, who would have rather slept in, is too hot, thirsty, and doesn’t feel well. By the end of the run, endorphins are flowing, and they are elated with accomplishment. We all experience firsthand dedication’s pay off. Despite a slow or painful beginning, here are some of the benefits I’m enjoying:

  • Stronger bond and better communication.
  • Improvement in their self-esteem.
  • Increase in stress management for us all.
  • More healthful nutritional decisions.

Reward. The best advice that I could give to anyone wanting to train with kids – find a great goal race. Look for great incentives, like a finishers medal, post race treats, a cool race shirt, or a fun color-filled race, where you finish looking as if you lost a fight with a rainbow. A destination race is also an exciting reward.

Plan ahead. Find a training plan that fits your family’s schedule. The Couch to 5k is a very popular one; however, if your child is already active I prefer the novice 5k plan by Hal Higdon. For my family, we often substitute the long walk on Sunday for some type of Cross training. Biking, swimming, yoga, and zumba are all excellent choices!

Single out. Although schedules don’t always permit, I alternate running with each of my children alone. I try to plan one-on-one time as often as possible, even if it means doing a few two-a-day workouts. Your child will love having some special time set aside for just them. Some of our best conversations took place on one-on-one runs.

Don’t forget yourself. Setting aside time to reach your own goals is a must. Run your first marathon, do a triathlon. You will inspire your children to accomplish goals. Plus, you will need workouts, solitary or with training buddies, for your own sanity.

Melissa Hersh

Melissa Hersh

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