Whether a fundraiser, fun run or team-building event, 5Ks offer people a chance to set a goal and work toward it.
A 5K is 3.1 miles, which can be intimidating for new runners.
“Running 3 miles right away is almost impossible,” said Laura Lillie of the High Voltage Youth Running Club, a free service offered to families in southwest Iowa.
When you involve children, it can make things tougher, though maybe more rewarding.
Here are some tips on how to train for a 5K with your family:
“We have a lot of people who will show up with little kids,” said Mick Freeman with the Bluffs Track Club. Freeman was the cross country coach at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs for many years. “They will run with them at their own pace.
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“Don’t overdo it. Start out on a short distance and see how they can handle it.”
Freeman recommends making the first goal a half-mile or 1 mile, and to build from there.
“It’s better to start slow and work your way up and build slow to avoid getting hurt or burnt out,” Lillie said. “There are tons of online 'Couch to 5K' programs and most will work. The most important part is to come up with a plan to just keep running.
“It’s tough, because kids might say their legs hurt. Don’t ignore injuries, but know that running doesn’t always feel good. It’s somewhat individualized, how you kind of know your kid.”
Celebrate little wins
“Maybe one day you run one lap around the track and in three days, you’re going to do two laps; celebrate when you reach little milestones,” Lillie said. “A 5K is a far distance so I think it’s important to do that.
“When you have a bad day, you can go back and say ‘Hey, remember last week when we ran three laps without stopping?’ (Your kids) can kind of go back and remember that.”
Do it together
A friend or an accountability partner makes parent-child running time even better, Lillie said.
“Kids like that and have more fun if you have another mom or dad and their son or daughter,” she said.
Make it fun
When walking/running with his daughters, Marc Bierbaum said they have built up very slowly, whether walking, running or biking. They also started using time for fun, realizing it helped with motivation.
“Most kids like competition,” said Bierbaum, the cross country and track and field coach at Iowa Western Community College. “They really get into it. Keep it lively, change goals, write things down and create excitement."
Pick the right 5K
“There’s a lot of really cool, fun things out there, but there are also some hard courses out there,” Bierbaum said. “Pick the right one and involve some friends.”
Tying in a trip could also build excitement for the event, he said. Red Oak, Iowa, hosts a 5K during its Junction Days celebration, for example.
“You don’t have to do local, you could go somewhere that has some sort of attraction,” he said.
Let them get tired
“Kids are inherently good runners,” Lillie said. “They like to run and they have more energy than us. Let them run, but when they’re getting tired, kind of let that happen.”
Know when to keep going.
“Once they get to a certain level and you know they’re able to make the distance, it’s important to have the kids keep running, even if it’s the slowest jog ever,” Lillie said. “If you can, keep running through a little bit of pain.”
Naturally, Lillie said there is a balance to it, as you don’t want to encourage injuries or foster a dislike of running. It’s important to kind of gauge where the child is at in their training, she said.
Don’t push it
Freeman cautions parents to be careful in their approach.
“You don’t want to discourage them from trying it again when they grow up. As long as you’re running along with them, that would be a great incentive,” he said.
Some days might be more productive than others and that’s normal.
“I think sometimes parents and kids get too much into having to train for it,” Bierbaum said. “It’s 3 miles … run, walk and go have some fun. Maybe, after that, it drives up interesting in running.”
Improve, don’t compare
“It’s important not to compare yourself to others, but to push yourself to be the best you can be,” Lillie said. “Tons of self-esteem comes with that if you can find that kind of balance. There’s nothing better to build self-esteem and confidence than to run a mile, or a 5K.”
Not only is training a fun bonding experience between parents and their children, it’s an opportunity to teach important life lessons.
“You can’t just run 3 miles without teaching yourself that you have to practice every day,” Lillie said. “It teaches discipline.”
There’s also a lot of camaraderie, whether between families or others.
Lillie said that her children are all faster than her now, but when they would run together, so much conversation happened.
“It’s hard work,” she said. “Learning to overcome some short term pain to reach a goal is a huge advantage. Exercise is a benefit in and of itself.”