How to Inspire Your Kids to Run

By Jacky H., Garmin Ambassador

“Your child will follow your example, not your advice.”

I often get asked how I motivate my 5-year-old daughter to run with me. It didn’t just happen by itself, but I was very happy when Eliza started running with me just before her fifth birthday. My kids always came to watch me at races or joined me at the track when I did my track workouts and I think that triggered their running passion. They normally played around the track or cycled around with me. To make it fun they would sometimes race me. Eliza asked me one Sunday morning if she could run with me and that is how our Sunday run tradition started.

We ran one mile every Sunday. I’ve never pushed her to run further or go faster because I believe running should be fun and I want her to love it and not feel pressured. We sometimes stop so that she can catch her breath and sometimes we walk a bit. She is slowly pushing up her distance on her own terms. We have been doing this run every Sunday for about a year now and she hasn’t lost her joy for running yet. She looks forward to running and sometimes we add an extra running day, but I go with what she wants. I leave it up to her to ask me to go for a run.

This is how you can motivate your kids to run:

  1. Most importantly, keep it fun. Talk about their favorite TV show, sing a song or race them. (Make sure if you race them that they win though!)
  2. Let them decide the distance and pace. Never ever tell them how far they should run. It has taken a long time for Eliza to pass the 1-mile mark, but she has done it on her own terms and loved every minute of the journey. This is probably the most important point. They need to create their own passion for it, and if they enjoy it, then they will continue to do it.
  3. Get them something that they can track their progress with. I got Eliza a Garmin vivofit Jr. 2 activity tracker for her running, so she can see how many steps she is doing. She gets excited when she sees how her steps keep going up the longer she runs. It doesn’t have to be a watch. You could use a log book, sticker chart, stopwatch, etc.
  4. A new running outfit always helps, too. I took Eliza shopping for a pair of running shorts and shoes, so she could feel like a real runner. She always wears the same running outfit because that makes her feel proud and motivated (it’s not the brand that matters but the colors!).
  5. Reward them after the run. Eliza always gets chocolate milk after her run and this is something she looks forward to. (Find something that they want to work for.)

Do you run with your kids? Do you have any tips?