Becoming A Runner ~ Couch to 5K With The Kids

A few weeks ago, I decided that my kids would like to start the Couch to 5K running program.

(Kind of me, don’t you think?)

Why did I decide this? Simply, I wanted to add a new activity to gym class in our home school curriculum and I felt the need for a third party to defer to in times of resistance by the participants!

I know for a fact that both my children are great runners. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes – beautiful, natural, easy stride. Especially my daughter, the eldest. It’s enviable.

They’ve taken track & field camps before. Those kids can run.

However, for some *strange* reason, when mom wants them to “go for a run”, it’s a whole different story. The whiny pants come out… the “I can’t”s are uttered… the “I’m so tired” is dramatically expressed. Brother. Whose children are these?!

I decided they should take a more serious crack at running. Shoot, if they were in school they’d have to, right?

Thankfully, it’s about more than just “keeping up with the conventionally schooled Jones-es”! I’d love for them to someday love running like I do.

Yes, it’s for their health. But more importantly, God willing, it’s something they can always do… always count on… always have for their own, no matter where they go or what they do. (Same is true of walking, of course.) All they need is some decent shoes and they’re good-to-go.

Running is my number one activity of choice for freedom, stress reduction, pain reduction (yes, you read that correctly!), processing, burning off steam, anger management, “me time”, prayer time, thinking, and creativity….

I often joke that, if I could just run more, I’d soon solve all the problems of the world… and write more books! (My first two books and several other products were “written” or created as I was running. I dictated them into a small digital recorder to be transcribed later.)

I also made it through my mom’s sickness, and eventual passing, by becoming what I consider a “real” runner… someone who truly loves to run… craves running. I credit God and running for teaching me how to take things (literally) one step at a time and to take notice of the blessings along the way… no matter how small or well hidden they may be.

This is what I look forward to when I run.

I want my kids to have something like that as they get older… something that connects them to what’s big and important.

So, why did I choose Couch to 5K (C25K)? I didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about this or researching it. I have several friends who did the C25K program and loved it. These are all people who swore they’d never be runners. And now they run. I think they even smile when they do it!

It’s a super simple program to turn a non-runner into a happy runner!

Even though the kids run, per say, like kids do… when they feel like it, I wanted them to learn to push themselves.

So, we’ve been hitting the trails for the last 5 weeks.

Heading out for a run...!

I learned really quickly that the BIGGEST CHALLENGE is not at all about the physical act of running. It’s all about “head space”. Self talk.

I did not anticipate that I’d be granted such a perfect opportunity to work with the kids on this through this program! (And to work on improving my own skills in this area, of course!)

This has actually become our primary ‘theme’ of our running time – to control our thoughts and self talk – to intentionally “plant positives”. Science has proven for years that our thoughts effect our physiological function – whiny, negative thoughts lead to poor performance and physical difficulties, while positive, empowering thoughts enhance performance and function.

Plus, let’s not overlook the obvious here: thinking in a more positive, empowering way just FEELS better! Duh.

Being intentional with our thoughts and self talk is the name of the game. How well they run – time & distance – although an important part of their physical education and health, is secondary to becoming the master of their own mental and emotional domain!

We use running as our time to practice this with the intention to apply it in other (less-controlled and predictable) areas of our life.

We’ve failed miserably at times… and the whining takes over… or the former-coach mom becomes a little too intense for a moment or two… or ten. But, each time, we talk (pre, post and during the run) about intentionally placing proactive thoughts in our head and playing an active role in creating our reality. We get back on track.

It has been extraordinary to watch the kids grow into runners in just a few weeks. They are unequivocally better runners, but it’s the secondary effects of running that have made their mom proud. They’re both more confident, more positive, more determined… and I haven’t heard “I can’t” since week one.

I’ve taught them how to find that elusive “groove” when running – the place where your body takes over, your mind relaxes, there is no pain, and you could go on forever. We tend to find that groove when we’ve gotten our self talk on the right track and we’re nicely distracted – having a nice conversation, or taking notice of nature around us, or singing, or talking about something funny… that works most of the time… until the laughing becomes too intense and mom is bent over at the waist in a fit of laughter.

It happens. These people are funny!

Several times now, each one of them has confided in me during a run that they “feel like a real runner”. It’s an awesome thing to witness!

They are runners. They met the goal of the entire 9 week program in week 3 – to run 30 minutes or 5 Kilometers without stopping. I just wanted them to know they could do it, so I pushed them beyond the outline of the program… just for fun! They were SO proud of themselves – it was great!  They’ve done that a couple of times since then, but mostly I just let them follow the general flow of the program now… enjoying their running time.

Oh, my favorite quote of our running so far?

On one rather warm day when we were all pretty saturated after the run, I made a request to cease excessive bodily contact with the coach due to the sweaty condition of all participants.

My son responded with, “Mom, this isn’t sweat… it’s AWESOME SAUCE!”


* * *

How about YOU? If you’re a runner, what do YOU love about it?

If you’re not a runner, is it on your to-do list?

What’s YOUR stress-busting exercise of choice?

Please share!

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  1. Sonia says

    Hi, I just found your blog today and I am so thankful! Sorry you were hacked and all the chaos it created for you. I tried to sign up for your newsletter, but I’m unable to do so. I keep getting a message that the feed isn’t set up to enable e-mail sign-ups. (something like that) So, if you can, could you please add me to your e-mail list for newsletters and updates? My e-mail is Thank you and God bless, Sonia Powell

    • says

      Ho Sonia ~
      Thanks for your comments. It has been a stressful few months dealing with this. Still have a little work to do, desperately trying to get a backup of all my archived posts (a few years worth, ugh!). Anyhoooo, I fixed the email signup so you can try again. Thanks for the heads-up.
      Best Regards,
      Dr. Colleen

  2. Mary says

    Found you through google search of “Couch to 5K kids” – glad to have read it! We homeschool as well, so that was a bonus when I started reading your post. How old were your kids when they did the program? My son always says he wants to run with me, but I’m not sure when to let him start. He’ll be 6 in July, so I thought he might be ok with the couch to 5k program, maybe tweaked if need be. Anyway, thanks for the post, loved reading it :)

  3. T. R. Cipra says

    Thanks for these positive thoughts. I am heading into the couch to 5k program and was wondering if it was okay for my healthy 3rd grader to run with me. I think it will definitely work now.

  4. Bianca says

    You said you did this in just a few weeks. I’m overweight, have never run, and would like to get my son started with me because (although he loves it) he’s having a hard time with soccer because he doesn’t have stamina to keep up offensively. I can’t even say that I’m in walking condition. Suggestions?

    • says

      Hi Bianca!
      You can tweak the Couch to 5K program any way you like. You can do a lot more walking than the program recommends at first, if that’s what it takes. This is about the rest of your life… NOT the Couch to 5K program!! Make it your own – do what feels best and sustainable to YOU. The important thing is to become a “mover” for life. Not only does your “physical body” love it, but you brain DEMANDS it! Motion stimulates proprioception (movement neurology) that’s like the “go” switch for you brain! Don’t worry about staying 100% on track with the specifics of the program – just use it as an outline, if need be.
      Let me know if that helps, Bianca!
      Dr. Colleen

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