Whether you’re a committed trail runner or an enthusiastic newcomer to the sport, you may be wanting to get the whole family involved. Trail running has so many benefits to your wellbeing including improved cardiovascular performance, better balance and improved mental health. But running on trails even gives your brain a workout too, as the technical aspects can be quite challenging as you navigate tricky terrain and use different parts of your brain. If you want to share all the benefits of this increasingly popular sport with your kids, here are some tips on how to get them involved:
1. Make it goal based
As adults we know that activities are so much easier to achieve if there’s a specific goal in mind. In the same way, you can make your trail runs with children goal based, offering them a “reward” when it is completed. For example, instead of running round and round in a loop, run on a trail to a waterfall instead and have a swim, or make sure there’s a picnic by a lake at the end, or a specific viewpoint over the mountains to enjoy together at the top. When children know they’re working towards something, they’ll be more motivated and inspired. You could also enter some races, like the Fedhealth Platinum Trail Runhappening this year on 5 June 2022 around the beautiful Buffelspoort Dam in the North West, with views of the Magaliesberg along the route. There’s also a special 2.5km loop designed specifically with kids in mind, with loads of other fun events arranged to keep them busy and entertained.
2. Don’t force the running part
We know this is a trail RUN, but don’t force your kids to run every step of the way, as that will only make it difficult and unenjoyable for them – especially when they’re just starting out. Begin with a combination, perhaps running on the flats and downhills and then walking the uphills? Try setting small goals for each stretch of the run too: maybe it’s a race to that large tree at the bottom, or counting your steps to get to that gate in the far distance (they could borrow your fitness tracking watch for a bit as well).
3. Prioritise nourishment
Hydration is super important, so make sure you pack plenty of water for the whole family, as well as snacks to use as another ‘reward’ along the way. “Once we get to that set of boulders over there we can stop and have some snack bars and iced tea,” you could tell them, as you watch how much faster they complete this part of the trail run! Other good trail running snacks include nuts, raisins, yoghurt-covered rice cakes and fresh fruit. Anything healthy and nutritious that can be carried easily and won’t spoil are good options. Teaching them to carry their own supplies on the trail is also a good skill for them to learn, especially as they get older.
4. Make it fun!
Ultimately you want your kids to really enjoy trail running with you, so it’s important to make the whole experience fun. Invite along friends with kids of similar ages, as the added element of some healthy competition always gets some personalities running faster and for longer! The wonderful thing about trail running is how it exposes you to the beauty of nature – rather than hitting the tarmac, you’re out there in some of the most exquisite scenery our country has to offer. So be sure to stop and appreciate it along the way, looking at any interesting flowers, mosses, insects and animals as you pass them by. You could bring along a small guide book to help you identify things, or use nature apps on your phone like the Roberts Bird Guide or PlantSnap.
Family pursuits like these are a great antidote to screen-based activities, allowing you to bond as a family unit while doing something healthy together in the outdoors. Plus you don’t need much to get them started: a pair of good quality shoes that will reduce slippage and keep them comfortable, plus the will to get out there is enough. Good luck!
Photo by RODNAE Productions: Via Pexels