“Live free, live happy!”
As a child I grew up on a beautiful horse farm in the middle of Oldham County Kentucky. I spent hours outside running, fishing, taking mini adventures through the woods, biking, playing in the creek, making mud pies and digging for worms. I spent few hours indoors watching T.V. I loved every second of it! At times I wished I had neighbors to play with but for the most part I was excited to be alone and able to run free. Now that I have a daughter of my own I find myself looking for ways to integrate the same life style. We live in an urban area filled with sidewalks, traffic and strange people. I am lucky she wants to spend most of her time outside. No matter the weather she will stand at the front door while banging on the glass begging to be set free. My husband and I take her out no matter what (whether it is cold, rainy, hot, sunny or cloudy). We let her determine what we do. Sometimes she brings all of her toys out of the house one by one, other times we play in a small weighted pool, but most of the time we walk. My daughter is only 16 months but can walk/run indefinitely. A couple of weeks ago we walked to Kroger’s, we tried to place her in the stroller but she would not have it. We took the stroller just in case she would get tired. She pushed it all the way to Kroger’s and back. We walked roughly 1.5 miles and she was able to keep up with a big smile plastered on her face. Granted we stopped (a lot) along the way. She loves to collect rocks (if you were to visit our house you would have to watch every step you took in order to avoid the rocks scattered about). She randomly stops to pick up rocks and she places them in the lower basket on the stroller (her face says it all, she looks very proud of every single one she finds). We do not force her in to these journeys, she willing wants to go. I hope this never changes.
One Saturday afternoon we walked to Heine Brothers to get a cup of coffee and have snack time. As we were sitting outside enjoying the day a woman began talking with us. She asked the strangest question, “What is her favorite cartoon?” My child is not even 2 yet and this is the question someone chose to ask us. My husband and I chuckled and responded in unison, “She doesn’t have one. We rarely watch T.V.” The woman was taken a back and smiled. She seemed shocked and finally said, “Oh, well that’s nice,” in an unsure way. I think it is fine for children to watch T.V. however I personally enjoying spending interactive time with my daughter. I hope as she grows and develops she wants to participate in sports and running. I don’t believe a healthy happy child has to partake in organized sports to be athletic. I thinks their development as an athlete starts young with playing outside, taking walks (not sitting in a stroller), and doing whatever they want that does not include sitting.
I recently read a great article in Running Times (June 2011 issue 387) titled Can Too Many Miles Ruin Young Runners? By Jonathan Beverly. In short the answer is no. He references a young athlete, Alana Hadley, who is 14 years old and logs about 70-75 miles a week. A lot of people, runners, coaches, and parents are weighing in on her accumulated mileage. Most of them question if her training program will affect her growth and biomechanical development. They also wonder if she will burn out before she graduates high school. Scientist, doctors, elite trainers and coaches do not believe the high mileage will negatively affect her in anyway (the article provides a great deal of scientific research to back up their conclusion). It goes onto discuss why adults think Alana’s training is a bad thing. When the average adult runs too far or too hard with poor mechanics, they view running as difficult and challenging; therefore they would not want to inflict this pain onto children. A large amount of adults and children view running as punishment (coaches’ make kids run if they have a bad practice or don’t pay attention and most adults run to lose weight). Another reason is our country as a whole has become unfit which forces us to question if running 70 miles a week is safe for a teenager. Children have tons of energy and they are ready and willing to unleash it in any way possible, why not let them through running? In countries such as Kenya children run 5 to 6 miles a day (because their feet are their transportation). Their running ability is formed as a child through physical activity and developed as a teenager through intense training. This combination causes them to adapt into extremely efficient runners (with an amazing VO2 Max). If you are a parent or work with kids I encourage you to read the article in its entirety.
I will continue to allow my daughter to spend hours outside running around and playing in the dirt. It is amazing to watch her little body move so quickly and efficiently as she picks up speed. She is the happiest when she is outside playing. She is independent and seems to enjoy discovering the great outdoors. I look forward to the day when we can take her to Red River Gorge to hike and camp. Let kids be kids and teach them about leading an active life. Allow them to connect with the earth. We live in a time where everyone is connected to a computer, T.V., internet, Playstation, or phone. Sometimes we all need to disconnect and get outside. Playtime is meant for interaction with my child. She gets 100% of my attention while developing her tiny body. Here’s to playing outside!