Whether for fun or competition, running as a family is great for fitness, bonding

Whether it’s for personal joy or for competitive sport, running can be a great way for moms and dads to incorporate physical activity into family life and bond with their children.

Parents may choose to hit the trails with their children on their own at their leisure, or participate in local races, many of which have family fun runs. The Fredericksburg Area Running Club even has a group specifically for children ages 8 and up, the Rappahannock Ospreys.

“I think running is just amazing and I love helping kids discover the joy of running,” says Dana Mills, a coach for the Ospreys who first began running in high school. Her 12-year-old son is also an avid runner and a member of the Ospreys.

When starting out, Mills suggests parents simply make running a fun experience and avoid pressuring kids to go long distances.

“My son developed an interest when he was five, but we kept our runs to no more than a mile, and I’d always let him set the pace,” she says.

Rachel King, store manager for Virginia Runner, agrees.

“It’s more about living a healthy, active lifestyle,” King says. “Anyone can run. For kids, it should be all about having fun without the pressure to go a specific speed or mileage. Parents should also teach kids to listen to their bodies. They don’t want to run too hard too quickly. That’s a mistake a lot of beginners tend to make.”

Christine Weisman is a marathon runner who has been bringing her 5-year-old daughter with her running since her daughter was born.

“My daughter loves running with me,” Weisman says. “It’s such a great way to be outside, even if it is only thirty minutes. I truly believe that outdoor time and fresh air is such a beautiful thing for kids, and it keeps them healthy. Also, it’s great bonding time for us. I get my workout in while she is having fun, and I’m a better mom and person. Running keeps me sane.”

Weisman’s daughter enjoys competing in smaller kids’ races, which Weisman feels offers her daughter some valuable lessons.

“She is excited when she gets a medal, but she also is learning that it doesn’t matter if you win or not as long as you give it your best,” Weisman says.

As children grow older and are able to run longer distances, finishing a race can give them a sense of accomplishment.

“For my son, racing is a great way to set a goal and have something to work toward,” Mills says. “Every year, he sets his running goals and he posts them in our kitchen. Goal setting is such an important thing for kids to learn and running can be a great way to learn that process. I’ve also found that racing for kids is also a great way to talk through disappointments. When kids end frustrated or disappointed in their times or place, that’s a learning opportunity to talk through handling those emotions.”

Running as a family not only benefits the children, but moms and dads too.

“Now that my son is older and faster than me, I treasure our runs together,” Mills says. “Becoming a running family can be a special time to catch up and just talk. It’s a great time away from technology and other distractions to just connect.”

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Here are just a few upcoming family-friendly races in the Fredericksburg area:

Spring Fever 5K and ½ mile fun run
April 6, 2019
Stafford Hospital

2019 Easter 5K, 10K, and 1M
April 21, 2019
Old Mill Park

2019 Super Hero Dash
April 28, 2019
John Lee Pratt Park

Moss Clinic 5K
April 28, 2019
Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic

25th Annual Great Train Race
May 5, 2019
Downtown Fredericksburg

Civitans 5K
May 26, 2019
Rappahannock Area YMCA