Think all 11-year-old boys just want to sit at home and play video games? Not me! My favorite hobby is running, and I think more parents should get their kids off the couch and encourage them to start running, too.
You've probably noticed that kids my age have a lot of energy. And I mean a lot of energy. That's the biggest reason running is so great — it burns off tons of energy, helps us get more fit, and, best of all, makes us happy.
When kids are happy, parents are happy, meaning that running can make the entire family happy. That's a lot of good results from one simple activity!
But here's the problem: Between all the homework and after-school activities we're already doing, how do we find enough time or energy to run?
It isn't easy, but here are three ways parents can help kids fit running into their already busy days:
Parents are really good planners — that's just what parents do. This is so important because kids want to do everything. You probably know our schedules better than we do, so when it comes to organizing all of these activities and balancing them with homework, we could really use your help.
My parents keep a daily and monthly calendar in our kitchen, and it really helps me to be able to see what my week looks like in writing. Before my mom and dad started making these calendars, I would have never imagined there would be enough time to fit running into my schedule. But once all my activities were organized and written down on paper, everything fell into place easily.
In addition to keeping us organized, parents also play a major role in making sure kids are staying healthy. You guys are the food shoppers and personal chefs who provide us with the fuel we need to make it through our busy days, and you're also the ones who tuck us in every night and make sure we're getting enough sleep.
To help us become great runners, you should obviously avoid keeping junk food like cupcakes and soda in the house. My parents keep our house full of healthy snacks like carrots and nuts, and I love drinking protein shakes in the morning — it's almost like having a milkshake, but it's much healthier and gives me lots of energy. At night, we eat delicious meals that usually have chicken, brown rice, and lots of vegetables in them.
One of the most important things parents can do is encourage their kids to find a hobby and not feel too frustrated if the going gets tough. We really look up to you, so it means a lot when you support us, help us focus, and teach us how to deal with any stress we might feel as runners. Kids can get discouraged easily, so it's important to be a positive spark for your child. Our minds are always evolving, so we need you to help us evolve into positive people who are willing to push through the rough times and never give up.
Practice is key to any sport, and kids will feel especially motivated if their parents run with them. Every Saturday, my dad and I run up Torrey Pines Hill in San Diego, and we are always on the lookout for charity runs or walks going on in our area. Running is a great way to bond as a family.
Running is an activity that everyone in my family enjoys doing together — and we all benefit from it! There aren't many other hobbies or activities you can say that about.
If your kid seems interested in running, be sure to get involved in the above three areas. I can almost guarantee that you'll succeed in helping him or her become a great runner who is happier and healthier because of it.
Kenan Pala is a guitarist, triathlete, trumpeter, traveler, and cosmonaut in training. At 11 years old, he’s juggling his education and his passions for music, entrepreneurship, and staying active. He graduated from fifth grade in 2015 and attended NASA’s United States Space Camp over the summer. Triathletes and his entrepreneurial parents inspire Kenan. He likes to go on business trips with his mother and explore historic cities.