The JOURNAL OF YOUTH RUNNING is introducing RUNNING SHORTS as a tool to communicate important messages in a timely manner. This addition to our format is triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. It is important that we send the message that the running community is not going to surrender to the crisis. Even with no track season, no road races, and running clubs suspending all activity, runners will not stop running, stop coaching, or stop encouraging others by example to be fit, strong, healthy.
And we, the parents and coaches I depend on, won't quit either. We are taking up the challenge to be the best source of information on the topic of youth and running. As the pandemic rages on, running will change, sacrifices will be made, experiences lost. But this cannot stop us.
It is the commitment of the Journal of Youth Running to share the thoughts of our contributors with our readers on what we can do to keep our children healthy, active and safe. Likewise, we encourage our readers to share with us what they are doing to keep kids active during this crisis. There is an email link on the ABOUT US page.
Douglas Finley, Editor
STAYING AT HOME – STAYING ACTIVE
Date: June 1, 2020
The late George Sheehan, a lifelong runner, physician, past medical editor of Runner’s World magazine, and author of eight best-selling books on running, told us the realization of fitness comes through play. According to Sheehan, we, young and old alike, need to make exercise our play since it is through play that we can realize fitness. “Play, you see, is the process,” Sheehan said. “Fitness is merely the product.”
For seasoned runners, 10 times 800 meters, each at target pace, might be play. It was for the author. Or running a marathon might be play. For youth, play are runs that offer doable challenges, runs that stimulate, runs that kids finish with a smile, runs that are absent of pressure and adult expectations. These were Sheehan’s prescription for fitness. And now, when fun and play are dampened by the pandemic, Sheehan’s words definitely ring true. Play should define our running, for all of us, young and old.
Date: May 25, 2020
Our last post (May 21) introduced a virtual Trail Challenge Team with runners logging miles on a favorite local trail and applying these to a team effort that collectively travels the length of one of our many great national historic or scenic trails. This challenge is perfect for social media. Begin with a “team manager” posting photos of the trail (clipped from the Internet) and a trail map. Make daily notations updating the team’s progress. To add a learning perspective, post the story of the trail. Why it is significant. Next, include photos of runners taken presumably while on the “trail” (sky or trees as background), and stories from the runners about their journey, like what it was like sleeping in a rainstorm deep in the woods or discovering raccoons had carried off their food supply in the night. Kids are into social media, so mugging for the camera and telling stories is what they do. Just remember to feature every runner with a picture or a story or both.
When it is safe again, have an awards banquet, just like high school teams do. For schools where earning a varsity letter is a big thing, give them a team letter -- school colors, but rather than an “E” for Evanston High School, give an “R” for Runner or an “A” for Appalachian (trail that is).
Date: May 21, 2020
Being on a team, being with friends, contending for a place on the varsity -- these experiences were lost to many young runners these past few months. But wait! Maybe our young runners can still be part of a team, working together to cross a finish line with arms raised high.
Start by creating a new team, a virtual Trail Challenge Team. A team where each runner sends their "team manager" how many miles they ran that day. The manager then adds the miles to those of other runners on a virtual run - from start to finish - of one of our great National Trails; the Appalachian Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or one of a hundred more to choose from. When choosing a trail, start with a simple calculation: the number of runners (10), multiplied by the miles estimated that each runner will complete each day (3), multiplied by the number of days they will run (20). With that example (10x3x20), a 600-mile trail is a doable goal for new runners. For a team of 10 seasoned high school runners, finishing a 2,000-mile trail in 30 days is a healthy challenge, but also doable. For schools with lots of runners, spread out the talent and create two or more teams.
Stay tuned for more on this. For major trails and distances, start at…
DATE: May 15, 2020
A new survey tells us that persons who exercised, played a sport, etc., only one day a week before the pandemic are now similarly active but on an average of three days a week. It appears a decline in the hours of work has created more time to be active.
When children have more free time (schools and programs being closed), do they also become more physically active? A separate study says no. The reason is because for most children, physical activity is organized. Heaps of studies say so. When you take team sports, classes and after school programs out of the equation, children spend extraordinarily little time being physically active. If we want our children to be active when schools and programs are shut down, it is up to us, the parents and coaches, to create opportunities for them to be active, to play, to run, and even to get sweaty.
Date: May 9, 2020
This is a follow-up to our May 5th posting on kids undertaking a Charity Challenge. Our example was climbing steps at home to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. If your child takes this as a challenge, work together to create on paper a “thermometer” like you see with many fundraising efforts. To keep it simple, for a 50-step, four-times-a-day goal, use a 12-inch thermometer with crosshatches every inch and a half. To fancy it up, add images off the internet showing how tall the building is above the NY skyline. Encourage your climber to color in the spaces between hatch marks as they move up the building. The more color, the greater the motivation to reach the top. Finished, it goes in their Journal, becoming a lifetime reminder of their accomplishment.
Date: May 5, 2020
Want to get your kids fired up about exercise? And have them doing something to help others? Consider a Charity Challenge. First, let them pick a measurable fitness goal, one they will commit to. Back on April 7th we referenced climbing stairs at home, simulating the trip by stairs to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. That could be the goal, but not all in one day! To make calculating easy, use 1,600 steps -- maybe 50 steps four times a day for eight days.
Second, visit your favorite charity on Facebook. Many allow you to create a fundraiser, with a description and starting and ending dates. You can then share the fundraiser and invite friends and family to participate. You never handle any money; all donations go directly to the charity. If your climber gets grandma to donate just a penny a step, the charity gets $16.00. But do not stop there. Think of five sponsors at a penny a step, or ten, or even more.
Date: April 30, 2020
Parents confronted with a stay-at-home mandate may see the treadmill in the basement as a way to get children active, moving, even running. Before parents make that decision, they should know that in the U.S. alone some 24,000 children under the age of 14 are injured on a treadmill every year. 24,000! Although some are infants or preschoolers, most are injuries to older children, the result of unsupervised or permissive use of the treadmill. Simply stated, when kids play on a treadmill, are showing off, or setting the speed faster than what they can run, they are likely to get injured. If the parent allows their child to use the treadmill, it goes with the responsibility of always being present, watching, vigilant, knowing that their child is using it safely.
For young children and treadmill safety, go to…
Date: April 25, 2020
Consider creating noncompetitive Challenge Runs for kids whose school or running team has been shut down. For this, a child simply challenges his or her friends or classmates to do a solo run (not with other runners) that offers a distinct challenge, like up and down the longest or steepest hill in town, say two or three times. Parents are encouraged to take photos or video their young runner to share with the other runners through social media. The next runner to offer a challenge might make it a midnight “Pajama Mile.” For this one a parent might like to jog along. Or 100 repetitions of some exercise, 5 to 10 at a time, while watching American Ninja Warrior Junior on TV. Seriously!
Not familiar with American Ninja Warrior Junior? Check it out at... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWwFXWd1ZxQ
Date: April 22, 2020
The foremost authorities on the COVID-19 crisis agree that everyone, young or old, needs to remain physically active, to get outdoors. For families, consider a parent and child Destination Run. Start at home or drive to some midpoint and go by foot the rest of the way. Maybe to a local landmark or the neighborhood where you once lived. If grandma and grandpa live nearby, they would be overjoyed to see their family, even if only through glass. And make it the child’s day. Parents can talk with each other anytime. A dialog that includes the child will make the distance seem shorter and the child’s memory of the day, longer.
Date: April 19, 2020
The CDC has issued a new report on the COVID-19 risk to children. The positive news, in a broad statistical sense, is that children represent a much smaller percentage of those who are diagnosed with coronavirus than other segments of the population. Unfortunately, for parents whose child is affected, there is little solace in statistics.
The research suggests symptoms are less severe for children than they are for adults, boys are more likely affected than girls, and underlying health issues will make children more vulnerable.
What is still unknown is the role children play in transmitting COVID-19. Could a child spread the virus to others without showing symptoms themselves? With the absence of evidence, either pro or con, the CDC reports children should adhere to strict social distancing and the hygienic practices recommended for adults.
For more, check out at...
Date: April 13, 2020
Keeping their own Fitness Journal may be something children staying at home will enjoy doing. For younger children, it can be simply putting a sticker on a calendar for each day they exercised. For older kids, it could be written notes in a spiral notebook or diary or entries on the computer.
Or get out the art supplies and let the kids create their own journal. To decorate the pages, dig out old issues of running magazines and cut out pictures that inspire being out on the road or trails. What? No old running magazines? Then print images off the computer. Use lots of color and allow plenty of space for recording what the child did each day or each time they exercised. Keep personal records, such as the number of reps of some exercise completed in 30 seconds. Challenge those records each week. Use bright stars for PRs.
Date: April 10, 2020
If you need a little inspiration today, check out PODIUM RUNNER at https://www.podiumrunner.com/culture/terry-foxs-transformational-run/.
It is a timely story and a great website!
Date: April 7, 2020
I am blessed with two wonderful sons. Both are lifetime athletes. And both remember running laps in the house in the dead of winter – through the kitchen, dining room, living room, down the hallway, back through the kitchen. Today we read stories about a guy who ran a marathon in his living room (about a billion loops) or the 13-year-old cancer patient who walked laps around the nurse’s station, completing a marathon before being discharged. In a house without a loop course, it could be climbing the basement stairs to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building -- 1,576 stair steps to be precise. Just start gradually with a few trips up and down the stairs in the morning and again in the afternoon. For those ready to do more, think maybe 50 steps four times a day. At that pace, it will take the climber eight days to reach the 86th floor.
Date: April 4, 2020
With children at home, plan their day to include 10 minutes of physical activity in the morning and again in the afternoon. To do it right, pick a specific time and stick to it. That way it becomes a routine, a part of the day. For young children, keep it simple -- maybe just walking up and down the stairs a few times or standing in place swinging the arms, then the legs; doing toe touches, marching in place, maybe some jumping jacks.
For older children, create a simple 10-minute exercise circuit. Thirty seconds of running in place. Rest 30 seconds. Thirty seconds of bending the knees, lifting a light weight or even a stack of books from off the floor to arms-length overhead, hold it for a second and lower it back down to the floor and start again. Rest 30 seconds. Then maybe do a wall-sit (with no chair), the plank, high knee marching in place, trunk rotations or side lunges, each again for 30 seconds with a 30-second rest in between.
The Journal of Youth Running is supported by the
MICHIGAN RUNNING FOUNDATION