Teaching Kids to “Run Properly”

As you can imagine, over the years, I’ve had many conversations with parents about their kids’ running. What comes across in these conversations is firstly, that we’re all trying to do the best for our kids. We all want our kids to be able to perform sporting skills correctly, and not lag behind others on the sports field.

Frequently Voiced Concerns

Some of the more frequently voiced concerns I hear include:

  • ‘My child doesn’t run properly’
  • ‘He runs flat footed”
  • “My child is slow on the soccer field’
  • “She doesn’t have very good technique…I just want her to be able to run properly”

You might have some of these concerns about your own kids.

I’d like to address these concerns in this article, and hopefully put some perspective on it as well.

We all know how to run

Firstly, all kids (and adults for that matter) know how to run. It’s quite a simple activity. We land on one foot, takeoff to be airborne, land on the other foot, and repeat this over and over. Simple.

Running is not a one size fits all activity

As parents, we can start getting concerned because we see our kids looking different to other kids, and perhaps not keeping up with others in their sporting activities.

What’s important to point out here is that this is perfectly normal. Everyone is going to look different when they’re running, even if it’s only slightly different. This is due to the different combination of limb and trunk lengths, and slightly different synchronisation of these body parts as we go through the running cycle described above. Some might look stiff, others gangly. And there is a small minority who look like they were born to run.

Take a look at an elite distance race. You’ll find all shapes and sizes, different heights, different leg lengths. You might find a funny little thing someone does with their left arm, or their right leg. They are all running at incredibly fast speeds, and you might find that the most fluid looking runner, is not the fastest.

If you feel your child looks a bit uncoordinated when they run, this doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘not running properly’. They may be at a different stage of overall development to others, or some parts of their body may be lagging behind other parts on the developmental front.

It’s hard when you see your kids lagging behind others on the sporting field, looking sluggish trying to keep up, but try to keep in mind this might just be a developmental thing, or they simply may not have spent as much time involved in sport as others.

It’s important to give kids time to develop at their own rate. Emphasis needs to be placed on the enjoyment factor. The more they enjoy sport, the better chance of continuing long term, and maximising their physical development.

Helping Kids With Their Technique

We can definitely help kids with their technique, by showing them how to hold their body, where to swing their arms and keeping their body in alignment, however it’s crucial not to over-coach these aspects, as there is a danger of spoiling a child’s natural style of running.

Many coaches (including me) believe we should not tinker too much with running technique. Kids will develop sound technique and their most efficient style simply with more and more activity. The way their body is put together (limb and torso length, flexibility) will determine the technique which suits them best.

So get your kids out there doing as much enjoyable activity as possible.  Let them develop at their own rate, include some appropriate coaching, and they’ll be fine.

Our kids running sessions are aimed at getting kids ready for their school cross country, athletics carnival, or next sporting event. They’re  packed full of fun, interesting and appropriate activities, which will help to improve your child’s technique and running efficiency, whilst laying the foundations for a long term enjoyment of exercise.

I’m always happy to answer any questions you might have about your children’s exercise. Feel free to send me an email richard@hookedonrunning.com.au, or give me a call on 0405575910

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