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Running Partners?

Posted 3/23/2018 by UHBlog

Anything active you do with your child or teen is a good idea, as long as you’re doing it safely. Talk to us about how to stay injury-free.

Mother running on track with young daughter

Most parents want to be good role models to their children. Naturally, as a runner or walker, it’s tempting to want to share your pastime with your child. But should you?

“First, your child has to be interested in doing this,” says pediatric sports medicine specialist Amanda Weiss Kelly, MD. “While it’s simple enough to buy running shoes and athletic clothing, it (running) isn’t the easiest thing to do.”

In fact, if you're a novice yourself or not sure what safe running techniques involve, you or your child could end up injured.

“A lot of people who train too hard too soon end up with stress fractures,” Dr. Weiss Kelly says. “At the start of every season, I see kids who do too much and end up with injuries, stress fractures and tendonitis.”

Still, if you dream of running in a fun run or 5K race with your child, there are some steps to take to make sure you're both ready. Dr. Weiss Kelly recommends asking yourself:

  • Will it be fun? If you’re the type of person who goes all out or expects the best from your child in everything, that pressure might ruin the experience for your child. “If you sign up for one of the family-oriented races, you have to be comfortable with whatever the outcome will be. Don’t put pressure on your child,” Dr. Weiss Kelly says. “Go in with the attitude, ‘we’ll do this together.’”
  • Will you train together? You may think you’ll bond while training, but your mini-me probably has other ideas. “For most kids, it’s more fun to run with other kids, not necessarily their parents,” she says. “If you’re running with your child, let them bring a friend along.”
  • Are you the best person to train your child? Consider enrolling your child in an age-appropriate, structured program through their school or recreation center. Oftentimes, these programs – such as Girls on the Run – also focus on life skills, conflict resolution and self-acceptance.
    “If there isn’t an organized running program available, you can find an online program to download,” Dr. Weiss Kelly says. “Look for those that start with walking, then walking-running and building up to running.”
    Whichever training schedule you follow, increase either your endurance level or mileage by no more than 10 percent weekly to avoid injuring yourself.
  • Do you have a hidden motive? With one in three kids overweight in this country, you might view running as the weight loss answer your child needs. But you want to be careful how you approach the topic.
    “If you are dealing with an overweight child, it’s important to introduce any kind of exercise with a focus on becoming healthy, not to lose weight,” Dr. Weiss Kelly says. “While running can help with the problems of being overweight – blood pressure, cholesterol, joint pain – it’s got to be around the issue of health.”
    Likewise, for thinner children who take up running, make sure they are adding more calories to their daily diet. Again, if you lead by example and eat fruits and vegetables, don't skip breakfast and do multiple physical activities, it will encourage your child to be healthy.

“When you introduce fitness as a concept and get your child to try running, soccer, basketball, walking and other sports at a young age, it becomes part of a habit in their lives,” Dr. Weiss Kelly says. “The nice thing about running is it’s a great sport for a lifetime activity. You don’t need 20 people to play it, and you can run at various levels and speeds. You don’t have to be great athlete to be a runner.”

Amanda Weiss Kelly, MD is a pediatric sports medicine specialist, the division chief and program director, Pediatric Sports Medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and the division chief, Pediatric Sports Medicine at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Weiss Kelly or any other doctor online.

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