We don’t have any Concrete Heroes in my family, but I do have an 8-year-old who ran his first 5K race on Memorial Day (within a very respectable time, I might add!). As I’ve been patting him on the back and bragging about his accomplishments, I’ve been thinking about what may have motivated him to do this race and the training leading up to it. Surely, the positive peer pressure of knowing a few friends were running it played a role, but I’d also like to think that my being an avid runner and our family modeling a regular exercise habit may have had something to do with it.
My boys have been exposed to my running since they were little – in fact, even before they were born, since I ran while pregnant with both of them. I like to tell them they actually “ran” my favorite race when they were in utero. They now run the kids’ version of that race and are typically at the finish line to cheer me on in the 10K every year. As soon as they were old enough, I put them in the running stroller and we’d hit the path as many times a week as we could. Now that they’ve outgrown the stroller, they pace me on their bikes when I run. We have a weekend routine that has us running/biking every morning, and the younger one often bikes with me after school during the week. They’ve also learned that less-than-perfect weather isn’t a good enough excuse not to get out and exercise. (When they had bike safety training at school recently, my son was the only one to raise his hand when they asked if anyone rode their bike in the winter.)
All of this got me thinking about my own role models for healthy activity, and I recalled one thing vividly: we were never a particularly athletic family, but when I was in 6th grade my dad, brother and I decided to train for the local 10K, our first. We’d go for our training runs during the week after my dad got home from work, and on Sunday evenings we’d go out and run the actual course. It was something we did as a family, and I think that helped us stay motivated and committed. We tried to get my mom to join in (even buying her her first – and only – pair of running shoes), but she was – and continues to be – an avowed non-exerciser. Apparently, the role model approach doesn’t work for everyone.
Motivating people to do the right things for their health is complicated, and there’s a lot of interest in cracking the code. It’s something we’re starting to tackle here at ConnectedHealth: helping people achieve health and financial security is what we’re all about. Engaging people successfully and motivating them to be healthy is a big part of helping them achieve that goal.
I’m so proud of my son for running his first big race, for so many reasons. The best part for me is not how fast he ran, but the fact that he really had fun and can’t wait to do another one. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a lifelong healthy habit for him.