|Me with my first borns at the 5K start.|
1) Make sure you can walk 3.1 miles first. One of the first workouts we did was a nature hike. We brought along a list of 20 things we needed to find. We had so much fun looking for the items and were thrilled about what we saw: the snowy egret, the frogs, snakes, turtles, that it wasn't until mile two that they started asking, "Hey, how far are we going?" When we made it back to school and I announced they had just finished 3.1 miles they were surprised and convinced they could also finish their race.
2) Find support and be supportive. I have witnessed some special interactions watching these girls extend themselves to help each other. On our very first training run, the girls--without any prompting from the adult coaches--made a tunnel out of their arms as they finished and cheered for the girls who finished after them. At the end of our class sessions the girls had the opportunity to write something they needed to let go or something they wanted to share with the group. Most of these slips of paper included pats on the back and positive shout-outs for their fellow team members. Some people say that women don't support each other enough, especially in a professional environment. I hope these girls take this camaraderie with them into adulthood.
3) Work your way up. Most of the girls had already run a mile in gym class so we knew that was our base. We set out to cover one mile, then a mile-and-a-half. We did a mile-and-a-half again, then two miles. We did two miles again, then two-and-a-half miles. We did two-and-a-half miles again, then 3.1 miles. As Dori says: Just keep swimmin' (or running, in this case).
4) Shake it up (because girls ages 8-11 love that song). In between those running workouts we explored other routes to fitness: a yoga class, hula hoop class and sessions with the high school dance, softball and basketball teams. Even if you love running, your body benefits from moving in new and different ways. I love running, but I don't love only running all the time.
5) Challenge yourself. One of our favorite workouts was a game called Train. We had groups of 4-5 girls run in a line around the soccer field. When we blew the whistle, the girl in back would run to the front of the line and set the pace. Someone from each group wore a pedometer and the group that took the most steps was the winner (of bragging rights). This was one of our most challenging workouts, but also a lot of fun; a speed workout dressed up as a game (and one that would be fun for the family too, hint hint).
6) Write down your goal and share it. Before the race everyone wrote down their goal on a piece of poster board. The girls made their goals public, which has the effect of making them come to life. Plus, when your support system knows what you want to accomplish, they can help you get there or remind you of what you want if it becomes less important to you (say when you don't feel like training or when you feel too tired to go for it).
7) Race. That's all. This part is easy. Just show up at the starting line. Do your thing and then own your finish.
This particular 5K was far from my fastest, but will be memorable and gratifying for different reasons, namely that I helped usher girls across a finish line that really is so much more than a 5K. It was a doorway into world where they believe in their aspirations, hard work, and capable bodies.
Want more information about 5K training? You'll find a six-step training guide in the Ways to Get Moving section on my website, www.lifeasafitmom.com.