My daughter is a natural athlete, but she doesn’t like to work at it. You know, that thing called practice that helps us improve on our skills. She wants to stay in shape for high school sports, but when the season is over, so is her drive. In effort to to motivate her to be more active, I challenged her to a Couch to 5k training program, culminating in us running in a 5k together.
Let’s be clear. I am NOT a runner. So this was a challenge to me, too. My daughter took me up on the challenge, as did my other two children. I thought it would be a great way for us to connect and get fit as a family. The training didn’t go exactly as planned. I was the only one that actually completed the training, while the daughter I challenged did just two of the runs in the training plan. All of us completed the 5k, and both of my girls won medals in their age categories. Fortunately for them, they were the only ones running in their age groups.
Why am I writing about running a 5K?
For starters, childhood obesity is an epidmeic problem. As educators of young children, it’s so important to encourage and support daily physical activity. The challenge, for my daughter and all of us, lies in how to keep children motivated to participate in any type of physical activity. Finding activities that are fun for children, indoors and out, is key to sparking children’s interest in staying active.
Beyond the obesity issue is one of best practice in early childhood education. Brain research tells us that children need to move to make the neural connections necessary for learning to stick. Even our youngest learners need physical activity to help them learn. Rae Pica has long been an advocate for keeping gym and recess in our schools and early childhood programs. She’s written numerous articles and books on the connections between movement and learning.
Beyond the cognitive and physical benefits of being active are the personal benefits of mastering new skills. When a child masters the monkey bars, not only is she preparing for the cognitive tasks of reading and writing, but she gains the sense of accomplishment from mastering a challenging task. That sense of accomplishment helps boost self esteem and encourages children to risks in their learning.
So what did I learn from my C25K training? For starters, I am still NOT a runner. I am a shuffler. Running still does not come easy for me. However, I learned that I really do enjoy being outside. I love to see the change in seasons. I learned that what I like about running is that it’s portable, can be done almost anywhere, and requires no equipment other than a good pair of running shoes. But most important, I learned that with persistence, even this old dog can learn a new trick.
What new activity are you willing to try? And how will you engage your young learners in the pursuit of physical activity?