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My daughter is struggling with her training runs. She’s going into eighth grade, and like most kids her age, she blames almost everything that goes wrong on somebody else. She’ll be walking across the kitchen and a fork slips off her plate. Embarrassed about the situation, the next word out of her mouth is an accusatory “Dad!” As if bearing witness to the event makes me somehow responsible.

Earlier this week she was feeling really good about her track workout. But, after running a few easy miles yesterday, she came home feeling frustrated. She wasn’t motivated, cramping made her stop and walk, and her easy run seemed way too hard. Worst of all, when she decided to charge up a hill on the last mile, her little brother made it to the top first. Ohhh… the humanity!

So, we talked a bit about running. Well, mostly I listened. Then, we talked about running. The solution to her frustration and discomfort is not to run harder, but to run smarter. Here are some of the ways to make running a more enjoyable experience:

  1. Run with a purpose. Before you start a training program, you should have a clear goal or purpose in mind. Everyday that you head out the door you want to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it’s going to help you reach your goal. You can use that goal as a motivational tool when things get tough.

  2. Run with a friend. Find a friend that you like to spend time with, who also runs at your level. Be sure to set clear expectations about pace and distance so that there are no surprises.

  3. Pay attention to your running form. Run tall with your hips under your shoulders so that you open up your lungs. Keep your arms down so that your hands pass by the tops of your hips to improve your efficiency. Take shorter, quicker strides and try to land with your feet underneath your body.

  4. Listen to your body, but think with your mind. You’ll get tired, your muscles will ache, your lungs may burn, cramps will come and go, but you can keep going if you remind yourself who’s in charge. Serious discomfort requires attention, but don’t let the little things throw you off your game. They usually work themselves out after the first mile or two.

  5. Enjoy your surroundings. Movement. Freedom. Fresh air. Enjoy the experience and sight-see along the way. Notice what changes are happening in your neighborhood, look for animals along the trail, or people watch if you’re in an urban setting. Running is a great way to realize your place in the larger world around you.

As parents (and coaches) we can learn a lot by listening. I gave my daughter some practical running advice, but she gave me perspective and understanding.

Thoughts?