Friday, June 21, 2013

Race Training With Your Kid!

Posted by Devin

This past spring Jake and I had the most fun and rewarding experience: We trained with our second son, Caden (7 years old), for a 5K.

During the last school year, we told our three oldest boys that instead of playing all three of the sports they usually participate in, they needed to pick 2. Our lives had become a bit too hectic and three boys playing three sports, all on different teams with different practice and game times, was more than we felt we could handle at the time. As it turned out, Caden was the only one who did not choose to play baseball, leaving him quite bored during the spring season. Caden has always had a natural aptitude for running (I call him my "loper") and Jake and I love to run and participate in races. We decided to see if he would like to train for a race. His answer was a very strong "Yes!"

Here is how we approached Caden's training:

1. Start slow and see what he is capable of doing. The first time I ran with Caden, we decided to try to run for 5 minutes straight at a nice easy gait (about a 12 minute mile pace). I made sure to observe whether this was easy or difficult for him so I could set the rest of our training accordingly.

2. Set realistic goals and then try to improve them. Once I knew that Caden could finish 5 minutes at a comfortable jog with little difficulty, we began to set new goals each time we'd run. "Let's see if we can run for 10 minutes without stopping." "Let's see if we can run 1/2 a mile in 5 minutes." Whenever we would meet one of these goals, we would then set a slightly longer or faster goal the next time. After a few weeks of this we developed a very specific, 4-week training plan for his 5K. Here it is:
3. Push him, but know when to ease up. It is natural for us to want to quit when our bodies begin to feel uncomfortable. I have learned through my own personal training that uncomfortable does not mean dying (although sometimes it may feel like it) and it is only when I'm pretty "uncomfortable" that I make my biggest strides and improvements. I knew that training with a kid, this line between uncomfortable and really needing to stop would be a bit tricky. If Caden would say that he wanted to stop, I would suggest to him that we could go a bit further. He was usually fine with this and had no trouble making it to the next goal. However, there were a few times that he insisted and so we'd walk! We were still moving, not letting our heart rates completely drop, but Caden could catch his breath. We'd drink our water and chat and when he said he was ready, we'd start again! 

4. Find convenient times to train. Our training runs lasted between 5 and 30 minutes. Since it was baseball season, Caden and I would run in circles around the fields where his brothers were practicing or during warm-ups before their games. These were the best times for us. Once we'd get home I'd be swamped with cooking, taking care of little brothers, cleaning up messes... Caden was busy with homework and chores... Finding times that didn't interrupt our daily schedule was pretty crucial to making sure we got the training done. Jake and Caden usually ran together early on Saturday mornings, the best time for my hard working husband. Make sure to schedule it where it fits or it will probably get pushed aside.

5. Keep it fun. The most important part. I really wanted this to be a bonding experience with Caden, our time to hang out and talk and have some fun. I did NOT want to be some crazy Mommy yelling at their kid and pushing them to "Go! Go! Go!" while their red-faced child secretly wishes their wacko parent would get lost. Or anything even remotely close to that. Make sure to keep it fun and remember that the actual training comes second. I was really a bit surprised by just HOW MUCH we both loved training together! In an active family with 4 boys, one on one time can sometimes be hard to find. I think my favorite part of all of this was just talking with Caden as we ran and hearing all of the funny and interesting things he had to say. And with Caden, it really didn't matter if he was a bit out of breath, he just kept talking! Lol! It's great for the lungs. ;)  

As it turned out, Caden was not able to participate in the 5K that we had trained for due to family scheduling conflicts. Since we live in AZ, opportunities for another 5K are few and far between until the fall. We have decided to pick up the training again then and find another 5K that he can compete in. I will keep you all posted when he finishes!

Although Caden missed his 5K, we did sign him up to compete in a local Kids Race that was a little over a mile long. I told Caden before he raced "When they say GO those other kids are going to fly out of there at the speed of light! Just remember your training and run at your usual pace, don't worry about everyone else." Sure enough, that's exactly what happened!

Caden followed my advice perfectly. He told me afterward, "I was almost in last place at the beginning! But I just kept my pace and one after another I passed everyone!" Caden ended up coming in 4th Place against quite a few kids, many of whom were older than him. He won a race shirt and a free pizza at one of our favorite pizza places (where we immediately went to celebrate). Caden was so proud. What an amazing experience of hard work and accomplishment this proved to be for our little 7 year-old. And what a cherished memory for his parents.

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