Running with my 12 year old - advice needed

Hi, I've just started using the app with my 12 year old daughter - we are 2 weeks in but repeated week 1. I have been running for over 10 years but she has never been interested until now, so far she is doing well but gets really disheartened if she has a 'bad run' and this results in lots of negative self talk from her. I don't know whether to move on to week 2 or to repeat week 1 again. I know she can do it and I want her to believe in herself and feel proud but I don't want to put her off! Tips please! :)

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19 Replies

  • Did she sustain a running motion throughout each of the run sections? (even if it wasn't faster than her walk, because it doesn't need to be) Has she done this for three complete week 1 sessions? If the answer to both of those is yes, you move on to Week 2 next time out.

  • Her running is good - we have done 2 week 1 sessions so far. I think that the sessions she doesn't enjoy are when she has started out too fast and the can't sustain it so thinks that she is 'rubbish' or when she is just having a negative day lol (and I'm not a great judge because I am used to running) - I need to encourage her to pace herself then she won't get tired too quickly.

  • Hmmmm.... this sounds a bit unusual. Are you doing the NHS C25K programme using the podcasts (or the app)? And is your daughter listening to them for herself? It's based on going out three times (or at most every other day) if you can, rather than going out once a week (but if that's the way you want or need to do it, fair enough, but it will not be a nine week programme, as each 'week' will take a minimum of three weeks)

    If you've successfully completed the Week 1 session on two occasions, then there is definitely one more to go before you move on to doing the Week 2 session. If she has had to stop running before the end of any of the 60 second run segments, then you have more Week 1 sessions to tackle (again, it does not matter how slow the run is, how tiny the steps)

    I am sure she is doing way better than many of us do when we started out - it took me somewhere between 12 and 18 attempts (I lost count) and more than six weeks before I had 3 successful week 1 podcasts under my belt. But it stood me in good stead because all of the others didn't need any extras (weren't all easy, didn't enjoy all of them) And I can run for over two hours now should I so choose.

    If you are with her, you may need to model the 'it's a running motion not a sprint' behaviour.

  • We're using the app, I carry my phone so we can both hear it. We have done week 1 twice (so 6 sessions in the last 2 weeks, as well as some walks on other days) and she has succeeded with all of them (but in her eyes she thinks that she is 'rubbish')! Before we started using the app we had 3 weeks of using lamp posts to run/walk. I try to model a slow run but I think I need to try harder (I'm 5' 11 so my legs are longer than average lol, my daughter is 5'7), I do have a tendency to speed up without realising it! Well done on your 2 hour runs - it's a great feeling isn't it? :)

  • I would move onto week 2 as it would be a shame to demotivate her. Some runs feel harder but that's true for all of us and you will have masses of experience to share with her. I would take each week as it comes.

  • Thanks, that what I thought but was hesitant so reassurance helps! :)

  • Maybe a lot is her age. I found being 12-13 really hard. Maybe encourage her to run with you at probably slightly slower than what you think she can do for week 1 so she doesn't get demotivated. You will probably be finding subsequent runs she will gp a bit faster too. Do you run a set route? I know it's probably really boring but when I did the programme I ran a fixed route and it was pretty good feeling when I was on run 2 or 3 and I had gone slightly further than previous run. Also you mentally know how far you are from home. I struggle a lot with my motivation and have a lot of negative self talk. She is doing brilliant at 12 to stick with it. Good on you what an excellent role model. Mu daughter is only 7 but I hope to encourage her to do the program next year

  • Most of the time we run on the athletics track near our house because it's flat. She is doing fantastic - we actually started nearly 5 weeks ago now but weren't using the app at first, just using lamp posts to run/walk. I am so proud of her, she has covered over 40 miles since we started!

  • Are you involuntarily going too fast for her? If she's struggling the answer is "slow down". She may feel she has to compete with you and is just setting off too fast. If you slow down as much as you can and show her it's OK she may feel better. When I went out with my dad on his 10 mile fast hikes I always felt I had to keep up with him and not show any weakness, when really I would have liked to go a bit slower.

  • You're right, I am trying to slow down but I sometimes get it wrong. I will try harder! :)

  • Make sure that she is running at a pace that she can talk to you quite easily as she runs. This also applies to you!! :)

  • Good point, she usually stops talking when we start to run and I'm the one chatting, then she starts again when we slow to a walk! That's a good measure to use to judge our pace, thanks!

  • Slow up as much as you can, let her set the pace for the runs if you can. Then praise, praise, praise and reward! I'm very proud of someone so young making the effort, it will stand your daughter in good stead, well done!

  • She's awfully tall for 12!!

    You don't mention her weight, so I'm assuming it's a lack of fitness that's giving her the negative feelings, although self-image is a huge issue at her age.

    What defines a "bad" run for her?

    I wonder what her expectations are. If she's been inspired by your running or perhaps by watching athletics on the TV, she might well be thinking that running is "easy". Try to get the message across that once she can run, you can work together on speed and trying to improve details, but that at the moment the aim is endurance and the specific target of this programme is running for 30 minutes. It doesn't matter how fast (as everyone has said, slower is better), the key is that at the end she will have achieved something amazing. Before she started, she probably thought it would be a case of going out and running, and now she's found that it's not quite that straightforward.

    Not wanting to over-analyse, but if she finds school easy, this could be the first thing that she's found challenging, and these days kids do find that very difficult to cope with. On the other hand, if school is tough for her, maybe she thought this would be something she could do well at, and is disheartened that it's not as "easy" as she thought.

    Whatever is going on, I think encouragement is key. Some on here (I can't remember who) use sticker charts... now she's way past toddler rewards and probably a bit young for such a reversion to childhood ways, but a sheet or spreadsheet recording the number of minutes she's run for (to take the pressure off speed by not worrying about distances covered) could be an incentive, and as the weeks go on she'll be able to see the numbers increase which should be an encouragement. Others on here set themselves a target with an incentive (I'll buy myself some new running shoes if I get to week 5, etc), so some sort of (suitably budgeted) reward system might help.

    Something else that might help is if she can compare it with something that she enjoys doing. For example, if she's a reader, you can compare her "short" times of running (and struggling with it), with those early days of learning the sounds of the letters. Then she learnt to blend them together to make words, and then she could read sentences. She wouldn't be able to read the books she enjoys now (or other suitable skill - learning an instrument or whatever) if she hadn't had time learning those initial sounds. Now she can read any book she wants - and it will be like that with running as once you've cracked that 30 minute run, there are so many options open.

    Hope that helps without being rambling or patronising!

  • She is very tall! (Her brother is 6'4!) She isn't overweight but her BMI is on the cusp and, of course all her friends are skinny so she feels self conscious. Her initial motivation for running was because she has to do it in PE and she feels out of breath very quickly and unable to keep up which makes her feel that people are judging her (I'm sure she isn't the only one who struggles). I offered to teach her because at school they just tell them to run and don't break them in gently or give them any tips so it's no wonder they get disheartened. I am really impressed that she is sticking with it and I want her to see the benefits too! Tbh, I think some of it is about wanting to lose weight too but I am not focusing on that at all.

    She is very negative about herself generally and we are working on that too!

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply :)

  • She'll soon stop growing and her friends will catch her up. By that point, she'll be an elegant young lady, hopefully comfortable in her body and the others will be feeling fat and lumpy and she'll be able to say to them - "you need to try couch to 5k"! :)

    The programme really does have a lot going for it so I hope she sticks with it and feels a sense of achievement after every run. Having you encouraging and helping her will make a huge difference.

    I'm sure she'll soon start noticing an improvement in her fitness (not getting out of breath going upstairs, etc) and this will also encourage her.

    Grrrr. PE. Has a lot to answer for, but hopefully good will come of this particular torture she's having to endure in those lessons!!

  • She has covered 40 miles, that's amazing! Does she realise how far she has run? Maybe you could take her on the train or in your car somewhere 40 miles away so she can experience the distance in a different way.

    Two other ideas:

    * I have a toddler who is learning to put his shoes on. He is highly motivated to earn a golden star every morning. I don't want to belittle your daughter's experience, but I know that in January, I was just as motivated to get my gold stars so that I could buy a new pair of shoes and running watch. A reward could be tricky though, I remember at 12 not wanting to feel like I was jumping through hoops of any sort.

    * I read an article in the Guardian at the weekend about Diana Nyad. This woman was 64! She tried her swim four or five times. Jellyfish! Sharks! Doubters! Seeing what other women achieve in endurance sports can be very inspiring:

    Good luck to your daughter, and you!

  • Great article! Thanks for the ideas :)

  • Yay! She did it! We did week 2 and took it really slow and she managed fine - I didn't tell her what we were doing until we were on our 3rd 90 seconds running, so she could see that she could do it. She also managed to hold a conversation all the way round, which was a really useful measure.

    Onward and upwards, thanks for all the help! :)

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