Run Club Tips: A Doctor's Journey & Advice

AMA Youth Run Club Blog – Aug. 4/15
By Dr. Kim Kelly

As I recover from today’s 2-mile run, I consider my recent interest in running. It all began when I got involved as an assistant coach with my son’s AMA Youth Run Club at Belgravia Elementary in the spring of 2013. 

Running has been an unexpected new activity for me. I have shocked many family members and friends, as well as myself, due to my past muttered statements that went something like, “I hate running! I am never going to run.” Hmmmmm… note to self… never say never.

Over time, I have experienced firsthand the many benefits of running including the obvious ones:  increased fitness and endurance, but also the less obvious benefits of socialization, decreased overall body aches, and stress relief. By making time in my daily schedule for some sort of exercise, I realize that I am role modeling healthy behaviour and hopefully influencing my children, my peers and my neighbours.

In my role as assistant coach of my local school’s run club, I learned many things. I would like to share five of these tips with you. 

1.    You don’t have to be an expert.

I took my role seriously but I thought I knew nothing about running and felt ill-prepared. The weekend before our first session, I read through my AMA YRC coach’s manual and discovered it to be an excellent resource. It was full of games, information on how to coach, and specifics on physical activities for kids. It definitely increased my comfort level with the task at hand.

I confess, I also reviewed what to do in case a child had an asthma attack, or fractured their tibia, or suffered a head injury (sidewalk curbs would be involved, right?). Did I mention that I’m also a physician and a mom?

As the Grade 4, 5 and 6 students gradually filed into the gym on day 1 - some wearing UGGs and long necklaces I might add - I quickly discovered that being an expert was not part of my job description. Common sense and enthusiasm would be sufficient for me to do a good job.

2.    Enjoy the outdoors and make use of your local resources.

A gym may be your only option but if possible, try to get the kids outside. Kids are naturally more active and playful outside, and who doesn’t like to breathe in fresh air? 

In the past, our teacher/coach had been unable to make use of our beautiful river valley due to a lack of adult supervision. With my participation as a parent volunteer, we were able to take our students into the nearby river valley. This really enriched their experiences and was absolutely FREE!!

3.    Share the fun!

We encouraged parents and younger siblings to join us along the route.  Our runs became more of a community affair rather than a training session. Our run club also helped support a fun run fundraiser put on by our playschool and community league. You may wish to consider how to get your greater community involved with your run club.

4.    Be creative.

We wanted to continue our run club over the winter but were limited by the size of our gym. One of our parents came up with a great idea for an Adventure Club. Our goals for this club were to get kids outside and to have fun doing winter activities. We hoped that these activities would carry over to weekend and after school hours spent with family and friends. We were excited to learn that this indeed occurred!

Some different activities we organized included orienteering, snowshoeing, skating, capture the flag, broomball, quidditch, and kicksledding (kicksleds loaned to us by the City of Edmonton recreation program). Adventure Club ended up being one of our most popular clubs to date, as rated by students, teachers and parents!

5.    You are a role model.

By showing up and participating you are positively affecting kids and adults, often in ways you will never realize. YOU are inspiring personal triumphs! In turn, the rewards you will receive are many. I savour the smiles, hugs, and silliness that I shared with the 25 kids in our run club.

In conclusion, I discovered that being part of an AMA Youth Run Club was not hard. Kids naturally want to be active and have fun. My role was simply to be myself, to help guide the activity, and to ensure that kids were safe. Somewhere along the way I was inspired in ways that surprised me. I hope that you will be too!