5 Great Reasons Why Your Kids (and You!) Should Be Running

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Are you as amazed as I am at how much endless energy our kids seem to have? Always running here and there, bounding upstairs or down, dashing in and out the front door.  They aren’t necessarily late for anything, so what’s the hurry?

Quite frankly, it feels really good to run. You don’t have to run miles and miles to gain the benefits of adding a little jog to your step. Kids know this innately, which is why it’s not a surprise that more children than ever are picking up running as a sport.

Benefits of Running

Here are just a few perks to remember when you and your child are considering taking up running:

  • Low “Barrier to Entry.” In other words, it’s pretty cheap to start running! You just need a decent pair of running shoes or cross-trainers. Most kids already have loads of shorts and t-shirts in their closet at home.  “You don’t need a bunch of equipment. Just put on your shoes and run. No going to camps that cost a lot of money. Cross-trainers are fine for most kids – they really don’t need $60 running shoes,” says Jeremy Tacbas, track and cross-country coach for Sisson Middle School in Mt. Shasta, where he is also a school counselor.
  • Teamwork. While running can be viewed as an individual sport, teamwork is a big part of running sports. Laura Bradley, whose 11-year-old daughter Grace runs on Mr. Tacbas’ track and cross-country teams, says she loves watching the camaraderie among the student athletes. “They encourage and support each other from start to finish. There isn’t the same level of pressure with running as there is with some of the other team sports,” says Bradley.
  • Increased Self-esteem. A good coach will encourage kids to have fun and work together, and help them create personal goals to work towards. Many kids who were once shy and insecure blossom into happy, self-assured young humans. According to Claire Johnson, executive director of Girls on the Run of Butte and Glenn Counties, “Power comes from setting realistic goals and achieving them. We teach our girls to say ‘I believe I can.’” Joanne Crosetti, executive director of Girls on the Run of the North State agrees: “You can’t just praise kids or give them a trophy to build self-esteem. They set their own goals, they work hard, and they achieve.”
  • Improves Cardiovascular Health. “As a child’s body is developing, running will help develop and strengthen the cardiac muscle in the heart,” says Dr. Eric Jenkinson, a pediatric sports medicine physician at Shasta Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Redding.  At a time when kids are generally sitting more and exercising less, running can be an activity the whole family can be a part of and benefit from. See SIDEBAR for local family-friendly fun runs info.
  • Beats Stress. It’s hard to get around it; life is full of stress, and kids may face stressful experiences at school and home at an early age. Exercise in general is known to help decrease anxiety, reduce depression and improve mood. Running is an excellent outlet to reduce stress hormones that build up in the body while creating more of the “good” hormones.
  • What are the risks? According to Dr. Jenkinson, whether a child runs alone, with family, or as part of a team, parents and coaches should ensure children balance their running program with cross training. Instructional videos for upper body and core workouts, such as burpees, mountain climbers and plank jacks, can be found on YouTube.

Jenkinson also cautions that children should keep their mileage low until they get into high school: “Keep it fun. Don’t push for extra miles – that can lead to burnout and injuries.”

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Track and Cross-country Running Resources:

Join the school team

  • Contact the principal at your child’s school to find out if they have a track or cross-country team.  Many middle and most high schools in the upper North State have teams and welcome all levels.

Join a class

  • Check out http://www.chicorec.com for their “Little Tracksters” Instructional Program for 1st and 2nd graders as well as a Track and Field Program for 3rd through 8th graders.

Join a club 

  • If you have daughters, Girls on the Run is an amazing national program that combines running and life skills, with the mission of empowering girls. Find programs in Butte, Glenn, Shasta and Tehama Counties at
    http://www.girlsontherun.org.
  • The Chico Running Club is in its 40th year and caters to runners (and walkers) of all ages and abilities.
    They host fun runs/walks for the Chico community. http://www.chicorunningclub.org.
  • Sweat Running Club of Redding is a multi-sport club for all ages and abilities. They host non-competitive fun runs. http://www.sweatrc.com.  

Join a fun run with your family and friends! North State Parent’s Going Places calendar has details for these upcoming North State events:

Whitney Thomas
About Whitney Thomas

Whitney Thomas is a mom, step-mom and wife. She enjoys weekend “fun runs” for the social interaction and people-watching … and thinks the physical benefits are a nice extra.

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