5 Things My Kids Learned When I Ran a 5K

As I started my 5K training program, I was prepared to be sore and sweaty. What I didn’t expect was how much my young children would learn from watching me.

In January, when New Year’s resolutions were still fresh, I signed up to run a 5K.

Every few months or so, I make a renewed effort to be healthier and try to lose some weight in the process. I figured training for a 5K for the next four months would hold me accountable and help me shed a few of those pounds that seem to cling to me for dear life.

As I started my training program, I was prepared to be sore and sweaty. What I didn’t expect was how much my young children, ages 4 and 5, would learn from watching me train for a 5K.

1 | Exercise is important, even when it’s hard.

Seeing me focus more on physical activity set a good example for my kids. We are a rather active family, but most of our exercise fits into the fun category. We go for walks and hikes, kick the soccer ball around the yard, go to gymnastics class, and swim in pools. However, this does not seem like exercise to my children. Watching me leave for a run with a smile on my face and then return exhausted and sweaty was a different experience for my kids. They also got a front row seat as they watched me attempt to run as fast as I could on the treadmill. Hopefully, witnessing all of this huffing and puffing showed them that exercise can, and should be, challenging sometimes.

They also saw me prioritize exercise. One of the main reasons I signed up for a 5K was because I am terrible about fitting exercise into my daily routine. While I was training, I would often tell them that I had to complete my run before taking them to the library or to their cousin’s house for a playdate, which showed them that exercise and living a healthy lifestyle were top priority.

2 | It’s fun.

Sometimes, I desperately hated climbing onto that treadmill, but I tried not to complain about it too much in front of the kids. Instead, I turned on music and sang along with my daughter when she came looking for me. I encouraged her to exercise with me when she walked by, so she would hop onto her nearby trampoline and bounce along as I ran. Seeing her blonde head bopping up and down as I pushed myself through mile three actually did make it more enjoyable for me.

Outside, we practiced running up hills together. I would slowly make my way up a hill as my son pushed his dump truck along beside me. As I caught my breath at the top, I would hear his gleeful squeal as he pushed the truck back down the hill.

After I completed the 5K, I downplayed my exhaustion and sore muscles and made sure to emphasize how much fun it was. I showed my children pictures of me smiling before the race and proudly posing with my participation medal after the race. They promptly confiscated the medal and took turns wearing it while running around the living room cheering, “Go! Go! Go!” and “You can do it!”

3 | You don’t always look pretty when you work out, and that’s okay!

My daughter immediately seeks me out when she hears the treadmill stop. Right now, thirty minutes is a long time for her not to be the center of my attention, so she bombards me with hugs and kisses as if I have been gone for a week. Inevitably, she quickly pulls away, scrunches her face, and complains, “You’re sweaty!”

I smile and reply, “I sure am! That means I worked hard!”

My son will join in the conversation, “Mom, your face is all red!”

I smile again. “That just means I worked extra hard. I pushed myself as far as I could.”

I don’t want my kids to think that a woman needs to worry about what she looks like all of the time. There are more important things to worry about like being healthy and happy.

4 | It’s important to follow through with a commitment.

There were days I didn’t want to exercise. Sometimes I would grumble about not wanting to run. “Let’s watch a movie instead!” my daughter would quickly chime in.

It was tempting. I am much more a movie watching person than an athlete, but I knew I had to do it. I wouldn’t quit, not only because I had paid money to register, but because I had made a commitment and I was starting to realize that two children were following this journey more closely than I imagined. Instead of relaxing, they saw me get back on the treadmill and continue to work toward my goal.

5 | Winning isn’t everything.

When I started to talk to my kids about how I was going to run in a race, my son would exclaim, “You’re going to win!” At this point in his life, it is all about winning or losing. He refuses to play board games just because someone will lose, and if he finishes dinner before his sister, he exclaims, “I won!”

Although I was delighted that he actually thought that I had potential to come in first place (I most definitely did not!), I started to emphasize to him that I was going to run because it would be healthy and fun and not because I would win. It was the perfect opportunity to teach him that it is okay if you don’t win all of the time. Sometimes just participating is most rewarding.

On the day of the race, I left right after the kids woke up as they were sleepily eating their cereal. “I’m going to run my race now!” I exclaimed as I bent down to give hugs and kisses. My daughter wrapped her arms tight around me, and then pulled back to look into my face. She then repeated words I have said to her hundreds of times, “Try your best. Don’t give up. And, most importantly, have fun!”

These words echoed in my head throughout the day. I realized that while I had been thinking running a 5K had been all about me, it actually wasn’t. Running a 5K was just one more way I could show my children how to lead healthy and happy lives.

17 Expert Tips for Moms Who Want to Get Started With Running

17 tips for moms to get off the couch and ready for your first 5k, 10k, or half-marathon. I promise it gets easier, and soon you will see the rewards!

“There is no way this is going to work,” I thought as my feet hit the pavement for my first run after I had my second child.

I had completed my first half-marathon ten years before. But how could I get my body to move again like it had so many years ago?

Before I set out, I told myself, “just try to do it. Put one foot in front of the other and give it a chance.” I had no expectations, other than to make it back alive!

That cold April morning taught me a lot about myself. I learned that the size of my body does not have to decide what I am capable of; grit and perseverance are what matter. Over the next three months, I started and stopped many times before I was finally successful.

Many first-time runners quit because they don’t have the knowledge they need to be successful. My running journey has taken me from beginner to advanced and right back to a beginner many times. Through it all, I’ve found the following tips to be essential to all runners.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]1. You must invest in a good pair of running shoes.[/su_highlight]

Go to a running store and get fitted. Once you know what you need, you can buy from a site like Roadrunnersports.com which allows you to try shoes out and return them if you’re not satisfied.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]2. A good bra is essential to staying comfortable while running.[/su_highlight]

Titlenine.com is a great place to start for fit and function.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]3. If you’re a mom to young ones, investing in a good running stroller is a must. [/su_highlight]

I have experimented with both, and let me tell you, running with a standard stroller is not only much more difficult, it can also be dangerous. The Bob stroller is popular among running moms.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]4. The hardest thing about being a running mother is finding time to train.[/su_highlight]

Running in the morning before everyone else is awake often works best for moms. Now that the mornings are lighter, hitting the pavement early is safe. Lay your clothes out the night before so you don’t have any excuses.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]5. Slow and steady.[/su_highlight]

The key to running is to add mileage gradually. This is where a training plan is handy. Halhigdon.com is a great place to start.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]6. Warm-up and cool-down.[/su_highlight]

Walk 3-5 minutes at the beginning to get your body warm and at the end to cool down.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]7. Take walk breaks while running.[/su_highlight]

Some people find using the method of run/walk works best. Example: a beginner might run 1 minute and walk 30 seconds, working up to running for 5 minutes and walking for 30 seconds.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]8. Pick landmarks to keep you motivated.[/su_highlight]

When I started out, I would see a stop sign and tell myself, “I am going to run to that sign and then walk.” Find mailboxes, signs, houses, etc., to use as part of your strategy.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]9. Running outside is harder than the treadmill.[/su_highlight]

The treadmill is a great way to train, but just remember that you must also get time outside. When the weather is good, I try to limit my treadmill days to one and keep the rest outside. If you do run on the treadmill, make sure you are adjusting the incline. Do not run all of your miles at the same incline.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]10. Try a track workout for a bit of variety.[/su_highlight]

Example: run 3x around the track to warm up and then for each lap you run, do 25 walking lunges, 25 jump squats, and 25 high knees. If you are lucky enough to have stadium stairs, run a lap and then do a set of stadium stairs. Repeat for 30 minutes.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]11. Mix in cross-training that includes strength training.[/su_highlight]

You must strengthen your glutes and core to keep everything in balance. Do not skip leg day at the gym.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]12. The foam roller will become your best friend.[/su_highlight]

Lots of rolling out your IT band, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quads. Stretch, stretch, stretch. This is probably the most important part of training.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]13. Rest days are essential.[/su_highlight]

If at all possible, try not to run two days in a row. Once you are more experienced and your body is stronger, you can run back-to-back days.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]14. Keep a training log.[/su_highlight]

There are great apps that track your mileage, pace, and progress. Examples of apps include: Couch to 5k, Map My Run, Runtastic, and Nike+ Running.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]15. Eat, but don’t overeat.[/su_highlight]

Many people give themselves the green light to eat whatever they want when they are training for a run. The reality is, you don’t need as much food as you think you need. The rule of thumb is that one mile burns 100 calories. That means that a three mile run is needed to burn off that maple bar, or in my case, six miles to burn off the two maple bars I eat!

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]16. If you are running first thing in the morning, try a piece of peanut butter toast.[/su_highlight]

You don’t want to overload your stomach, but you also need some fuel to keep you going. If you are running later in the day, try to eat one hour before you go running. Protein and carbs must be consumed within the first 45 minutes after your run.

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]17. Pick a short race to sign up for.[/su_highlight]

Many people find a 5k to be the best first run to take part in. You can find anything from a 5k race to a full marathon for your state online at runningintheusa.com.

So there you have it; 17 tips to get you off the couch and ready for your first 5k, 10k, or half-marathon. Just remember, it does get easier – I promise!

Stick with it and you will see the rewards.

The Surprising Numbers Behind the Decline of Kids’ Team Sports

It’s not just Little League – about half of American children don’t participate in any team sport

My kid is almost 8. She loves playing baseball – batting, catching, tagging kids out and especially running the bases.

She’s an exception to the trend of baseball’s declining popularity among kids.

Last year, for the first time, ESPN Sports Poll’s annual survey of young Americans’ 30 favorite sports players had no baseball players on the list.

Youth participation in Little League declined from 3 million in the 1990s to 2.4 million in 2012.  Around the nation, little leagues are consolidating with their neighbors.

But it’s not just baseball – about half of American children don’t participate in any team sport

With all the hand-wringing about baseball’s supposed slow pace, lack of action and conservative culture, the most surprising thing about its decline is that it isn’t alone.

In Marc Fisher’s Washington Post article about baseball’s “struggle” to connect with kids, he reports that participation in all sports has dropped by more than 9 percent nationwide over the past five years.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal shared a report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association showing how specific sports have lost ground among kids aged 6 – 18:

  • participation in tackle football was down 5.4%
  • participation in soccer was down 7.1%
  • participation in baseball was down 7.2%
  • participation in basketball was down 8.3%

However, these two sports actually saw increases in youth involvement:

  • participation in ice hockey was up 64%
  • participation in lacrosse was up 158%

Meanwhile, youth are more inactive than ever.

The percentage of inactive 6-to-12-year-olds—youths involved in no physical activities over a 12-month period—rose to near 20% in 2012 from 16% in 2007, according to the SFIA/Physical Activity Council survey.

Inactive 13-to-17-year-olds rose to 19% from 17%.

 The single biggest factor in how much someone loves a sport is if they played it as a kid.

In conversation with Marc Fisher in the Washington PostRob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball says “the single biggest predictor of avidity in sports is whether you played as a kid.”

In that same conversation, Patrick Wilson, Little League’s senior vice president of operations said “We’ve seen a decline in participation over the past 12 years, 1 or 2 percent every year.” He attributed this to the fact than many parents didn’t play baseball and so are less likely to introduce it to their kids.

It seems that kids aren’t just playing less team sports because they’re doing other things – schoolwork, video games, alternative sports, social media, watching TV – they’re playing less team sports because the structure and interests of the American family are changing.

This reminds me of another study reported by NPR (How We Become Sports Fans) that found that fathers have the greatest influence when a kid chooses his or her first favorite sports team.

This is all to say, LET’S GO RED SOX.