My kids have grown up thinking that physical activity is just another part of life- practically since birth they have been going to the childcare at the gym while Mommy takes a class, or tagging along with Daddy in a bike trailer while he rides the trails. A normal Saturday for us might be taking a trip to the running store for a new pair of shoes, or picking one parent up at the end of a long run and then having a family breakfast. They have been spectators at many a race, and always get excited seeing Mommy or Daddy cross the finish line. They think, like all small children do, that their parents are the best and always want to know if we won! (no, we never win- but we don’t mind if they think we did!)
Now that we are past the baby stage with my youngest, I have started looking for acitivities that we can participate in as a family. Running seemed like a logical place to start, so several months ago I did a Google search for family fun runs in our area. Luckily I came across the Run Like A Mother website ( http://www.runlikeamotherrace.com/ ) and found that they were hosting a women’s Mother’s Day 5k close to my home, with an accompanying kids 1 mile race.
My girls were so excited about the idea of running a race with Mommy! My oldest ( 4 yrs) talked about it for weeks- she told all of her friends and teachers at preschool what we were going to do on Mother’s Day, and repeatedly wanted me to verify that she would get a medal at the end (a medal is VERY important when you are 4).
When the day of the race finally came, the three of us put on our new running skirts, numbers and timing chips ( the organizers of the race made the kids 1 mile just like the real deal- timed age groups and all) and let my husband chauffer us to our first family running event. This race was great from start to finish- they had an instructor led yoga warm up for the kids before the race started and I have to say, seeing my girls try so hard to stand in Warrior Pose was a very proud mommy moment. The girls had such a great time running the kids 1 mile- they both surprised me by running most of the way (I pushed the jogging stroller just in case, and only had to use it to go up a small hill on the course). Of course, the highlight for them was receiving a ribbon at the end- they really felt as though they had “won”. (neither seemed to mind that they didn’t get an actual medal!)
As for the 5k, it was a really lovely women’s only event- all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities were represented. It had been a long time since I had run a race at that distance, and I must admit that I did not feel that great. I am not used to pushing myself so hard, so I really thought that I was running close to 10 minute miles. I remember about ¾ of the way through, I saw my kids and husband cheering me on, and before I passed them I was thinking to myself “Come on, Erika, Speed Up! Give them a show!”- at that point I was finally able to pass the woman I had been trailing for the entire race. To my surprise, I finished the race in 24 min 12 seconds- a personal record for me and a time that really makes me feel validated as a runner. Never in my life would I have expected to run sub 8 minute miles! Having my family there made all the difference in my motivation and self confidence.
I plan on making the Run Like a Mother race a yearly tradition in my family, but I am certainly not going to make that the only thing we do all year. I am already looking into more races we can do together- and I also want to make sure we trying new things too. With the beautiful weather we have been having, I hope to start going on some nature walks with the girls, visiting the pool at my sister’s apartment, and also doing some mommy and me classes at our YMCA. If you are not a runner, even if you have never run a mile in your life- I encourage you to sign up for something with your family. A 5k race is a great place to start- with a little training, 3.1 miles is a very doable distance for almost anyone. Look for one in your town that encourages kids participation, and if they are a little older you could even get them to train and run with you. There is a great training plan called couch-to-5k that many people have had success with- you can get the training plan for free here ( http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml).
Getting active together as a family is good for our physical health, brings us closer together and it is also a whole lot of fun ! These are memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives, and I hope that this encourages you to start making healthy memories as a family too!