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The Car Drive Home

The quickest way to make your kid hate running is to criticize their performance during the drive home from the meet. What exactly is your objective when you point out, with anger, what the runner already knows?

The runner knows that their performance was lacking. The runner has already crossed the finish line with great disappointment. They know they either tactically screwed up, mentally gave up, or had some physical limitation preventing them from their desired goal.

By criticising them the whole way home, you will add unnecessary pressure on them. They will resent you, resent themself, and then logically, over time, grow to resent the sport that causes this conflict and they will quit.

It is also not wise to go to the other extreme and praise them for something they didn’t do. Most athletes know these compliments are made up and will feel embarrassed by them.

Instead, approach your kid with calm recognition of the obvious result. No need to sugarcoat the reality. Have your kid approach you. Let them state what happened. If they don’t open up, nudge them a tad with a, “tough race huh?”

If they are honest, they will tell you exactly what happened out there and you need to reassure them that there will always be another race. If they are dishonest, they will make excuses. Feel free to calmly shut those down.

Ultimately, understand the process of an athlete. Some days are GREAT, some days are HORRIBLE, but most days are OKAY.

As a coach, when I see my runners have a poor race, I note the reason why, and will make adjustments in training during the next week to correct the possible problem if there is one. I also know, that sometimes there isn’t a problem to correct, the runner simply had an “off day” and assuming it was a race of no consequence, there doesn’t need to be some grand adjustment to training nor does there need to be a deep discussion.

We put these kids on so many start lines in a season; many more in a running career, unless there is a constant issue race after race, we need not stress about it. Just calmly note and adjust as the need arises.

Parents, don’t make the car drive home unpleasant. We want your kids to love running forever.

As always…

Eat Well, Train Well, and Rest Well


There are three expected outcomes I envision for my runners going through our program.

  1. They become Olympic Champions

  2. They continue running through high school, college, and late into life.

  3. They check out the sport of running, see that it is not for them, and retire after a season or two.

Our program is designed to allow kids to naturally fall into one of these three possibilities. It may seem obvious that this would be the normal course for all athletes, but that is more than often not the case.

There are many young runners who love the sport early on, but due to poor training, unnecessary stress and pressure put on by parents and coaches, they either mentally burnout or they physically burnout way before they reached their true potential. Basically the sport they once loved became a burden. Today’s youth champions often end up fading in performance once they get to high school or drop out all together due to injury or decreased desire. We are left to wonder how many of these kids, had they been trained and motivated correctly, would have ended up on the world stage of running.

It is our training belief to layer adaptations naturally upon the runner throughout the many seasons they are with us. We do so in a way which keeps runners healthy, injury free, and happy. With the amazing aerobic foundation they develop with us, they will be able to build greatly upon that in high school when their bodies begin to fully mature.

Hopefully with like minded coaching methods in their high school program, they will continue to develop even more endurance, speed, and mental fortitude (grit). By the time they are delivered to college, they should be ready to reach their prime.

Note: I am well aware that my opinion is more philosophical and anecdotal than based off scientific research.

  1. Olympic Champions require three main ingredients: proper training, great desire, and genetics. Lacking one of the ingredients may allow you to compete successfully at the college level, but it will be quite difficult to advance to the Olympic level. Our program can help with the proper training and do what we can with desire (grit), but we won’t be able to help you out in genetics. I believe up to 5% of our runners will have this potential, but ultimately reality will give us less than a 1% chance. There are so many variables that need to align for these runners to eventually stand on the podium. Many years, a handful of different coaches, and the right place and time will all be needed. Saying that, we will train and put in place each runner’s mind, the thought of racing at the highest level.

  2. Runner for Life requires the same ingredients as above, but one can do without the proper genetics. The good news is, that the TRUE RUNNER doesn’t define success in the amount of wins they achieve, but rather the places they explore, the friends they make, and the health they maintain. Naturally there will be periods of time when the amount of running one does decreases and increases. Depending on the period of your life (just having kids, landing a new job), runners may even take a complete break, but in their heart, they are still a runner and it won’t be too long before they are out there claiming miles again. I’m predicting that 74% will end up here and that is great.

  3. Runner for a Season. This one is tricky. I don’t ever want to label a kid a “non runner.” Often a kid that doesn’t “seem” like a runner will bloom later on and prove everybody wrong. Saying that, there are those kids that do come out, may have initial talent or not, but really do not enjoy it. Maybe their parents were forcing them or maybe they were simply trying new things, but at the end of the day, they don’t want anything to do with the sport. I find that this is where 25% will end up no matter how much fun our program is, no matter how many friends they make, or how much talent they have. Though I believe in the underlying belief that we are “Born to Run", not all of us are born to WANT to run.

Our program is relatively new and I have not yet seen the full life cycle of my young runners, but based off how they are performing, bonding, and acting, most will fall in one of the top two categories above.

Time will tell.

Eat Well, Train Well, Rest Well

Shoes: Light, Flat, Flexible, and Wide are Best

Runners have one important consideration when it comes to gear and that of course is their shoes. All the other stuff  is for cosmetic dressing. Before the 1980's, most running shoes were flat bottomed with little to no drop from heel to toe. Injuries like knee issues, shin splints, achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis were rare at that time. Then came two new changes to the running world.

1) The wrong belief that a longer stride equaled a faster time 

2) Running shoes were redesigned to encourage the lengthening of the stride by raising the heel and lowering the forefoot. This drop forced most runners to unconsciously become heel strikers instead of the naturally preferred method of mid foot striking. 

In 2011 a movement back to the old running way was growing popular after a powerful book by Christopher McDougall called "Born to Run" came out. In it, McDougall made the case (now backed by countless studies) that our bodies are already designed to walk and run as efficiently as possible. It's when we try to supplement our feet with foam that our natural ways deteriorate. His argument, and the validation from later studies, pushed the shoe market into offering  "minimal"  alternatives. 

The problem is that the shoe industry forgot the kids. The shoes that are offered to our youth are still the same that I have seen in the 80's, 90's and 00's. 

The best we can do is look for shoes that are neutral, lightweight, flat (meaning not much drop from heel to toes), flexible, and have a wide toe box. Forget about stability shoes and ones that advertise  running on a cloud. That cloud will hide the rock that you end up rolling your ankle on.

Preferable general training shoe - Altra One Jr., Altra One, or other Altra products

If all else fails, just look at the shoe. If it is massive, heavy, and rigid then look around some more. Our kids are still young and adaptable, so if you just bought a pair of clunkers, then keep them. Next time around though, think less is more.