30 Mar

Starting Early

Jo paveyI don’t know about you - but my 2-year-old son runs everywhere, writes Louise Sylvester. To the kitchen for ‘treats’, to the bath, to nursery, and of course to ‘say hello’ to the birds in the park. It is second nature to him. Since taking those first tentative steps he has realised that walking is for amateurs and he is the pro of pros!

It got me thinking that now’s the time to encourage this ball of energy and show him that being fit and active is completely normal. The hope is that nurturing his desire to be active, while he is still so young, will have a positive influence on the way he views sport and keeping fit in the years ahead.

Historically, running was something that school-age kids might be encouraged to do in PE lessons and if they liked could become more involved with at a local athletics club. My personal experience was a lot of running up and down my street, a bit of running on school sports days, mild involvement with a local club (when I realised I was ‘not too bad’ at hurdles) and then, when I hit high school, I became one of those girls who didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard. It was at this point that my love affair with running ended and it stayed that way until my late twenties!

Nowadays, you can encourage a love of running from a much younger age thanks to a range of events and initiatives up and down the country where there is a strong emphasis on the two F’s – Family and Fun. At these events, young runners are actively encouraged to do what they love best. What could be better than putting all that running to good use in an organised, fun environment where there will be no hollers of: “STOP THERE. NOW!”

It is fair to say that in these early years, the emphasis should be on having fun rather than how far or how quick they can go. Encouraging that love of running from as young an age as possible is key to kids believing as a matter of course that running (and exercise in general) is fun and not something to shy away from.

It is the fun factor (more than anything) that you have to exploit, as
the understanding that running is good for them is not something your average three year old is going to ‘get’.

That said, it is important for you the adult to remember that their running will indeed have a positive impact on their overall health and wellbeing as well as their muscular strength and flexibility. It will also enhance their agility, balance and coordination at an age when their bodies are most receptive to ‘learning’ - meaning these motor skills will be with them for life.

As they move from toddlerhood into the school years, it will improve their abilities in a range of other sports as well – be that rugby, hockey or gymnastics!

And it’s not just physical benefits that will be instilled in your young sprinter – by taking them along to events weekly or monthly, they will eventually see that the more effort they put in, the better they get: a valuable life lesson learned in practice rather than spelled out in the classroom.