Who taught you how to run as a child?
You were always good at sport. During your formative years, you participated in everything from running to rounders, soccer to touch rugby. You and your friends even made up your own games. You may not have been the best but for as far back as you can remember, you were always involved in sports. You participated in a number of after school clubs and enjoyed the team work and the competition.
Now you have kids of your own and you would like them to enjoy the benefits that participating in sports brings to both mind and body.
But there is a small problem.
“My kid can’t run, can’t catch, can’t throw and can’t kick!”.
Looking at them run you are bewildered at the lack of coordination. Their limbs are all moving in different directions and they keep stopping. Slow is an understatement! You wonder if there is something physically wrong.
You don’t necessarily want them to excel at sport or be a professional soccer player. It would help, but not a priority right now! You just want them to be fit and healthy.
Then there is the psychological effect. Because they know that they can’t run fast, can’t catch, can’t throw and can’t kick, they don’t want to participate in sport.
This is all because we are in the middle of what is being called an “unfitness epidemic”. Did you know that over 70% of kids between the ages of 6 and 16 do not do enough rigorous exercise to keep healthy let alone stay fit?
Most youngsters are now linked to the internet through their umbilical cord. It’s as if they are born attached to some piece of technology. They grow up with it, eat with it, sit with it, sleep with it and if they are not wasting time making “non-friends” on social media, they are watching TV.
Children need two to three hours of activity per day to stay healthy with at least one hour at high intensity.
So, what do you do?
How do you get them from sitting in a chair to running in a field?
The first thing to do is not panic:
Not all children are the same and they don’t all develop at the same physical rate. You may have two 8-year olds who have the same chronological age, but biologically one is two years ahead of the other.
So, comparing them with school friends and peers will not help you or the child because they will have varying abilities. In many instances, sport is not the answer, despite many governments promoting it as the answer to everything.
The reason is this:
The stats from most countries show that over 70% of children will stop participating in sport by the age of 14 if they feel they are not good at it.
The three, key physical “life skills” we can teach a child are:
These three activities will develop their gross motor skills, help their nervous system to develop and more importantly develop their brain and produce endorphins which will make them move better, feel better, and think better.
The more walking, running and jumping they do when they are young, the more they will want to do when they are older. Particularly if these activities are outside in nature.
As parents, we think:
“Yes, it would be good to get the kids into running. It’ll be great for them to get some time away from the TV and computer screen if nothing else (not to mention hopefully wearing them out so they’ll go to sleep earlier)”.
And then there’s Sports Day coming up! You don’t want them coming in last in the race…
So, next time you go out you take them with you to the park and watch them shuffle along the ground, just like you, with occasional bursts of speed, arms flailing like an octopus, just like you, co-ordination all over the place. It’s going great, for about three minutes, and then they start saying they’re tired and have had enough. Already!
This is no good, you don’t want them to get in the habit of giving up too soon. So, you begin the advice:
“You can’t be tired already, try and keep going just a bit more,” you say. And then it’s, “No! Not like that… Faster… Stop swinging from side to side… No! Stop thumping the ground…”.
Your instinct as a parent is correct. Our kids do spend too much time sitting on their backsides every day, watching TV, on the internet, playing computer games, in class, being driven around. This is changing their biomechanics – the way they move and the way they hold themselves – and even their moods and ability to concentrate.
So, running is a good habit for them to pick up early in life.
But, stop and think for a moment, who taught you to run?
Chances are, nobody did. You just got up and ran.
Keep an eye out for our next blog post when we’ll be discussing how youngsters learn a particular movement pattern and how we can change their running technique in around 60 minutes. Want to know more, right away? Call us for a Free 15 min consultation and we’ll guide you in the right direction.
Mike Antoniades is the Performance& Rehabilitation Director of The Movement & Running School which has franchises across the UK and Europe and in Japan.
The Running School is a unique centre dedicated to teaching people of all ages ‘How to Run’. A detailed biomechanical assessment is carried out and then the next five sessions are devoted to teaching and coaching running technique, based on fitness levels and what you want to achieve. Courses start weekly from 8 years old to 80.
For more information on improving your running and on franchise information visit www.runningschool.co.uk.