One of my favorite running shirts says “My sport is your sport’s punishment.” If it makes you chuckle, too, you probably had much the same experience as I did growing up in sports. In volleyball, for every ace serve, we ran lines. In gymnastics, we ran for every beam fall, step on a dismount or even sometimes just to keep us busy while the coach focused on individuals. In P.E. class, talking got you laps. Not paying attention got you laps. Not running your laps got you more laps. Every coach I had, it seemed they couldn’t end a sentence without the threat “…or you’ll run.”
I can only speak for myself, but I think many of us would’ve started running for fun and fitness MUCH earlier in life if we hadn’t always associated it with a punishment.
While I was often made to run, I never really got good at it because all of my attention was focused on getting out of it. In sports, we would stop the second the coach’s back was turned, and in P.E., running was easily avoided by blaming it on a sports game or meet my coach would “want me to rest for” or my personal favorite, cramps. Now, kids don’t even have P.E. to lie their way out of. As an adult (I use the term loosely), I’m just starting to get into running. I’m getting out of the “I want to kill myself if this run doesn’t do it first” phase and into the “Hey, this actually feels good; let’s see if I can push it a little farther today” phase. I’m quite shocked to hear myself say the words “running…is…fun” and mean it.
I wish I would have gotten into running earlier: 1) because those first few months of running wouldn’t have been sheer hell and 2) I wouldn’t have had to teach myself as an adult how to stay active without the help of organized sports. Running would have been ingrained in me from childhood just the same as covering my mouth when I sneeze or not putting my elbows on the table.
Thankfully, there a lot of running programs around the nation that are teaching young children that running can be fun instead of punishment. They teach the importance of physical fitness in a fun atmosphere that fosters positive self-esteem and goal setting. Whether you have kids and want to ensure they learn to love running or if you want to share your own love of running with others’ kids, read on for how you can get involved in some popular and successful running programs made just for youngsters!