Running with children

Tips on how to introduce your child to running, even if you’re not a runner yourself!

Tips on getting started running with your kidsRunning is a great activity families can enjoy together. You don’t have to be a marathoner or even a running enthusiast to get started having some fun while being active with your family. It’s also a great opportunity to be a role model of living an active lifestyle. If you’ve never run before, start out slow and work up your stamina.

Here are some tips for getting started running with children:

How young is too young?

There’s no data that shows there is a lower age limit for starting running. That’s best evaluated on an individual basis. A good rule of thumb is to evaluate your child’s interest (they may need a little prompting at first, but remember, this is for fun, not training for the Olympics).

How far, how fast?

Let your child set the pace for the distance and speed. Consider starting off with a combination of walking and running — run a block, walk a block. Then slowly build up so you are running more than walking. As your running progresses, use the 10 percent rule — never increase your distance more than 10 percent per week. Up to second grade, kids should stick to running a mile or so. After that, with training, they can work up to a 5K and more.

How often should you run?

As you are getting started, be sure to not run every day. Take a day off and do something else for fun on those days!

Should we stretch?

Stretching is beneficial before and after a run. Be sure to hold each position for 30 seconds and don’t force yourself beyond the point of comfort.

Do we need special equipment?

Well-fitting sneakers designed for fitness activities (not designed for fashion) are important. Kids feet grow fast, so be sure to check your child’s shoes to make sure that they fit properly. Kids typically outgrow their shoes before they wear them out. For adults, get new shoes every six months or so.

That hurts!

If something hurts, stop. Growing children are more susceptible to injuries at their growth plates, so they may experience heel or knee pain. Take it easy to minimize these injuries. Treat the painful area with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. If the pain persists, see your healthcare provider.

If you’ve never run before, there are great programs you can find online to help get you started. One I really enjoy and have used myself after an injury is Couch-to5K. That program even has a mobile app that you can use on the go. You may not want to work up to an entire 5K, but it helps get you started.

Take the next step:

Ingrid Kraus, MDIngrid Ichesco, MD, is a pediatrician and pediatric sports medicine specialist. She grew up playing sports — soccer, basketball, softball and cross country. She now combines her love of sports and her love for pediatric medicine in her practice. Starting in August 2014, Dr. Kraus will see patients at our general pediatrics clinics at East Ann Arbor, West Ann Arbor, Saline, Ypsilanti, and the outpatient clinic at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.


best children's hospitalsUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.