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7 tips to get your kids running

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Personal trainer Andrew Cate offers his tips on how to help foster a love affair with running in your children.

Encouraging your child to run can bring numerous rewards for their ongoing health and confidence, but you don't want to lose them in the process! Here are my top 7 tips to help get your kids running. 

1. Start with mini steps

When it comes to running and developing bodies, it's important that progression is slow and steady. 

Aim for very gradual increases in running speed, duration and frequency to minimise the stress on growing bones and joints. Avoid hard surfaces like concrete where possible, seeking out softer surfaces such as grass. 

The more gradual the changes you make, the more likely you are to maintain interest. Don't expect too much too early from your child.

2. Purchase good running shoes

Growing feet need to be well supported, especially due to the impact forces that occur during running.  Shoes designed for a specific activity are always the best bet. 

Running shoes help to reduce and absorb the unique stresses and forces placed on the body during each phase of movement. Good running shoes provide cushioning and arch support where it's needed, making running more enjoyable, and less likely to cause injury. 

Specialty shoe stores are a good place to start, with trained staff to help select the right brand and features for your child.

3. Play fun activities that involve running

Give your children the chance to run free in the backyard, or in the parks and outdoor spaces that surround you. Start out with light-hearted activities that can be played with friends and family members. 

Informal games that involve short bursts of running are ideal, such as tag. Or try kite flying, tee ball, Frisbee throwing or beach cricket. Kids have a short attention span, so keep things fun, friendly and fast moving.

4. Encourage sports participation

Organised sport is a great way to get your kids to run more. Team sports such as netball, soccer, and football are all centred on running, and your child will soon learn the importance of fitness and speed. 

If solo activities are more your child's style, look towards tennis or athletics. Up until the age of 10, focus on enjoyment rather than winning, and try out a variety of activities to increase the chances of finding a sport your child really enjoys.

5. Use technology

Most kids love gadgets, and there is plenty of wearable technology available for runners, including pedometers, fitness bands, smartphone apps and GPS tracking devices. 

Having a measure of your speed, distance and time provides great feedback, and a mark to improve upon in the future. It makes it easy to set mini goals, such as a time trial or personal best run. 

These devices also make great gifts for aspiring runners, and may help to further tweak their interest.

6. Build up to a challenge or event

Having a training goal, such as competing in a 5 or 10K run, can be a great source of inspiration for your child. Most running events and fun runs have shorter distances for kids, and it's a great activity to enjoy with the whole family. 

The chance to mingle with other runners and set a benchmark time can encourage your child to push themselves and improve. They may also get a ribbon, certificate, T-shirt or medal, which is a nice reward for their efforts.

7. Be a running role model

By setting a good example, parents have a unique opportunity to be a positive influence on their children's activity levels. 

Kids are good learners, and they learn by what they see. If you as a parent run regularly and demonstrate the benefits it can offer, your child will soon get the message. 

It's a classic case of monkey see, monkey do. They will see that healthy behaviour such as running is important for adults, and develop a positive association towards exercise for the rest of their lives.