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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

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.