Runner’s World April 2002
By Jeff Galloway
Do you want your family to love running as much as you do? We’ll
show you how.
For me, the 1996 Boston Marathon was my most fulfilling marathon
experience. Nope, I didn’t win that year. Not even close.
After running more than 120 marathons, I enjoyed that Boston the
most because I ran it with a very special training partner: my dad.
As we trained for and completed that event together, we grew closer
in ways that I never thought possible.
You already know all the wonderful benefits of running: better health,
lower stress levels, more vitality, and a positive mental outlook.
But these benefits begin to expand exponentially once you include
your family members in your running routine. All of the sudden,
the whole family is healthier and happier, you’re spending
more time together, your share a common bond, and, when life gets
tough, you can draw on running to help you through it. Oh, yes,
and you’ll never again have to feel guilty about going out
for a run.
Those of us who can integrate our running into the family fabric
have the best of all worlds. But no family member wants to be guilt-tripped,
bribed, or shamed into doing something, no matter how beneficial
it is. So how do you get the gang started? Try these six strategies.
1. Plan family walks. Just getting out of the house on a regular
basis can be the first step to any running program. So schedule
a couple of family walks each week. All two-legged and four-legged
members included. Keep the atmosphere social and the pace upbeat.
As family members get more fit, start to sprinkle in a couple minutes
of jogging, and build from there.
2. Encourage sibling rivalry. Adult brothers and sisters love to
heckle each other just as they did when they were kids. Channel
that energy by getting your non-running siblings-or your own kids-to
focus on one common fitness goal. Maybe it’s to run a mile
nonstop, run at least three times a week, or complete a local 5-K.
The emphasis should not be on competition, but on simply reaching
the goal. Even if your siblings are spread throughout the country,
keep tabs on each other via the telephone or e-mail.
3. Make running part of a family tradition. For example, every Christmas
Day at sunset, the Galloways cover a short distance to an overlook
that offers a lovely view. Once we’re outside, some of us
walk, others run, and some do a combination of both. Regardless,
everyone feels great afterward, and we gab like crazy.
4. Schedule a family gathering around an event. When you go someplace
where there are lots of fun activities for runners and non-runners,
everyone can participate in his or her own way. For instance, the
Disney World Marathon includes a family fun run and a half-marathon,
plus all the fun of Disney World.
5. Urge kids to volunteer. If you have children who are too young
to race, take them to an event where you’re volunteering and
encourage them to join in the fun. Whether they’re handing
out water or just cheering for all the runners, they’ll be
swept into the excitement.
6. Pump up your parents. Getting your parents to commit to regular
exercise can be one of the best things you can do to help ensure
their long term health. If they live close by, plan a weekly outing
with them, and use it as an opportunity to catch up. If they live
far away, call them once a week, and ask about their progress. You
can make your parents’ support group as big as possible by
also enlisting the help of siblings and neighbors.
Games that involve running help kids keep fit. They also teach youngsters
that running can be fun. Here are three games for kids of all ages.
Follow the leader: Lead a group of children around the neighborhood
or through a park by skipping, hopping, walking, and jogging alternately.
Kid Olympics: Organize a triathlon, heptathlon, decathlon, with
a jump, a throw, a strength element, a short run, etc. Feel free
to recycle age-group awards or finisher’s medals you’ve
accumulated from road races, and give them to all who participate.
Scavenger Hunt: Distribute instructions to team or individuals,
and set them loose in a backyard or park.
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