How to teach proper running to kids


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My new pic taken from my wedding

Do you ever notice how some kids run like the wind-and others like they were knee high in mud?

A lot of coaches think that running style is inherited and there’s not much you can do other than to get in better shape. So coaches in youth sports have their athletes run and run and run.

They are wrong on both accounts. First, there is a lot kids can do to learn to run with better technique. And second, by doing a lot of slow running incorrectly, kids learn to run slowly incorrectly. And worse, they end up hating to run.

In this article I’ll point out some common mistakes kids make on technique and how to correct it. Then I’ll provide some tips on how kids should train to run faster.

Here are four common mistakes kids (and adults) make when they run.

1) Over extending the lead foot. This is in an effort to try to cover more ground. The result though is the athlete continually stops and starts which is very inefficient.

The best cure is to place the foot directly under the hips instead of extending forward. This will result in a much faster and smoother turn over of the legs.

2) Another big mistake is leaning forward at the waist. This prevents efficient use of the leg muscles. It also leads to the athletes running on their heels instead of the forefoot.

To correct this, have the athlete stand tall; ears, shoulders, hips and ankles in line. The knees are slightly bent. From this position, the athlete will lean forward at the ankles so that the heels are barely touching the ground.

This is the angle they should run at, and also where the feet should strike the ground. Have them begin running from this position and maintain the forward lean from the ankles for 20 to 50 yards.

3) A lot of athletes waste energy by swinging their arms or bobbing their head when they run. The previous drill will help with the head position.

To teach the arm swing have the athletes practice “hip to pit”. The hold their arms at ninety degree angles and swing them from the shoulders. The hands will swing from the back pocket up to the hips. Perform some slowly, then increase speed. Finally, add it to the previous drill with the forward lean.

4) The fourth and final fault is trying to push off the leg for distance. They think that by pushing off hard, they will cover more distance. Unfortunately, what happens is their foot stays on the ground for too long.

Teach your athletes to run with a very quick lift of the foot. As soon as the forefoot touches the ground, the heels will lift up towards the hips. The foot will swing forward and touch the ground directly under the hips.

By spending five to ten minutes working on these drills and running technique your athletes will get faster without having to waste a lot of time with long slow runs.

Here are some ways to apply running conditioning to your workouts.

1) Keep distances short. Twenty to fifty yards at the most.
2) Have athletes run at percentages. Easy, medium, fast for younger kids. Older athletes can go at percentages; 70, 80, 90, etc. Athletes should not run at 100%. they should always have a little in reserve.
3) Encourage athletes to always run relaxed at every speed.
4) When their form goes or they are exhausted stop and let them rest. Continually running when tired or with poor form will lead to injuries. It will not make them tougher or faster.
5) Sport athletes need to have a slightly greater knee bend than track athletes. Sport athletes need to be able to accelerate, stop and change direction quickly. Keeping the knees bent will allow them to respond much faster.

In conclusion, running well is technique dominated just like dribbling a ball or shooting a basket. Spend some time teaching it during your workouts and you’ll have a much faster team…and more wins!

UPDATE: This blog posts gets more reads and comments than any post I’ve ever done. Thank you dear readers. For more great articles like this, please go to CoachRonUsher and AthleticSkillsforKids

About Ron Usher

Coach, teacher, and parent specializing in helping parents and their kids become fit and healthy.
This entry was posted in Coaching, kid fitness sports, Performance enhancement. Bookmark the permalink.

69 Responses to How to teach proper running to kids

  1. pearl says:

    Thanks, my little boy runs so slowly, and he throws his arms around like wild.. lol this article helped me to try and teach him to run properly, it makes him faster when he can remember to do it correctly.

  2. Andrea says:

    THANK YOU! My 12 year old has always run flat footed with her head swinging side to side and arms all over the place and I can’t seem to help her. She puts so much ienergy into going nowhere it’s painful to watch!

    This is a great tutorial!

  3. Paul says:

    I coach lower league junior football. (AKA Soccer). A few of our young players need some specific help with their running. Until I read this blog I couldn’t actually see what the problem was. I just felt some of them looked awkward when they ran. Know I know what to look for and I have some basic steps to help them improve. I’ll let you know how I get on. The first thing will be to time them over a short distance so I can show a measured improvement. Then I might even use my phone and video their current running style so they can see for themselves what’s happening and what they need to work on. Thanks, Paul

  4. gabriel says:

    oh wow it works …..

  5. Marnie says:

    I love running and want to teach my children to run. Proper form and technique is essential to joint health, and developing a life long love for this sport! Thank you!

  6. Jose says:

    Well and concisely written. My son has already begun his improvements. There are videos that go well with this article illustrating exercises that can be done in the home. Together he will succeed!

  7. teresaelisan says:

    Thank you, you gave me some great ideas. I teach PE at a small Christian school and I am looking for ways to motivate the students to run.

    • Ron Usher says:

      You’re welcome. Running is a great exercise and activity. As long as it’s fun, kids will do it…and get in shape!

  8. Jerry says:

    Thanks for the info. My son is a big kid for just turning 12. He is 5’6″ 165lb. He is a good athlete, but very slow. We started running today because he has to run an 8 minute mile as one of the criteria to make the middle school basketball team. I noticed in our first mile run, he was a very noisy runner. By noisy, I mean his feet shuffled. I believe he is running with his upperbody way out front. In addition, I think his legs bend very little. Is there a training program you can suggest to hit all these areas or will the items listed above suffice? Thanks for the great info!!

    • Ron Usher says:

      Hi Jerry. The noise is usually from extending the legs too far in front. So make sure he lands under his body. He probably is not lifting his feet enough…most middle school kids I observe do not. Two thoughts…1. Work on one or two things at a time. Don’t try to do it all at once. 2. Don’t run miles. Keep the distances short. Think “form, speed, distance”. That might be controversial…a lot of coaches think that distance comes before speed. I find that for most kids, speed is easier to get…it’s neurological not conditioning. I think the article is a good start for you…let me know how it works and if you need more help, I can send my running ebook to you.

  9. JT says:

    I’ve had a hard time finding specific guidance for kids’ strides, so thank you for posting this. My son is very athletic, loves playing every sport, and will run all day. It appears to me, however, that he takes very short strides. He appears to plod along with a high cadence while other kids blaze by with long, graceful strides. I’ve thought about doing some bounding to have him feel what a longer stride is like, but it really just guess-work on my part. Is it possible that his stride is shorter than it should be, and, if so, how would you lengthen it? I’ve read a lot online about lengthening one’s stride is generally not advised, so I’m cautious about meddling with his natural gate.

  10. Syl says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this article!! My son recently started junior football. After seeing him run next to the other kids we noticed he was struggling to run and it was all in his form. It looked like he was running on his heels. I took him out running to try and teach him but i couldn’t quite explain to him what he was doing wrong in a way he would be able to get it. He was trying but just couldn’t get it. It was painful for him. I was starting to think something was physically wrong with him and was getting ready to take him to the doctors. I got on google to search problems that could cause him to run the way he was running and came across this page. Now I am going to be able to explain it to him. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  11. Terry says:

    Hi there,

    This is a great article. One of my two sons is terribly slow and I think his self-confidence suffers as a result, so he is reluctant to play sports with his friends. When he runs his body is all over the place – feet kicking out to the sides, arms flopping around, etc. We will try these drills.

    I do have two questions:
    1) At what age is it appropriate to start these sorts of drills ? My youngest is 6, the one who is really slow is 8.
    2) Do these tips apply equally for sprints and long-distance running ? Are techniques the same in both ?

    Thanks so much.

  12. Letitia says:

    I have a three year old little boy that I would love to train to learn how to run for track and field. I’m not sure if I’m wanting him to learn to early; since it looks like nobody in North Carolina State trains for track and field before junior high/high school. I figure, though, if they can teach kids at an early age to play soccer and t-ball, then why not get my son to like running early. I have no idea how to train him considering the fact that I am no longer fit enough to run like I used to. I figure this would be a good opportunity to get us both in shape. If anyone knows of any kind of info that can help me train or a good personal trainer that could get me and my son to love running please let me know

  13. rahul says:

    my daughter, 6years old hops while running.It seems she puts less weight on her left leg thus jumping more rather than running making her run slowly and at the same time looking very odd while running though she walks properly.

  14. Collis Brown says:

    Please look at my website and watch the video section. My invention Colliseum promotes proper running mechanics a d the slide helps to maintain the muscle memory by not coming back down the stairs. Up stairs toe Dorsi Flexion Knee 90 degrees Arms Pendulum swing Down stairs Toe Plantar Flexion Knee 45 degrees Arms do nothing also dangerous to come down stairs while fatigued and eccentric forces can cause damage to ligements and joints. Your feed back would be appreciated. Kids as young as 5 are training on it

  15. Jay VanWagner says:

    Hello, our son is 6 and very tall for his age, and has long legs. He has very short steps and short strides, and that making him slower then most other kids. Can we get some suggestions of what to work on with him or as a family?

    • Ron Usher says:

      Sometimes it takes a while for tall kids to catch up to some of the shorter ones. Assuming it’s not a balance issue (because of the short strides), then try to have him do a lot of different movement skills; jumps for distance, jumps for height, skipping, hopping (one foot) for distance, galloping (one foot stays in front of the other), bounding (super exaggerated long steps). Make a game of them and do them frequently for short bursts. The running drills in the article may help, but I think he needs more of these movements. Hope that helps and good luck!

  16. Prasanna says:

    My son is 4.5 yrs old and feel he runs slower compared to kids of his age. Our initial worry is whether we over protected him from falling down thus he is reluctant to run faster. This article gives me a different perspective, Thanks. I will be trying this.

  17. AMI says:

    My daughter just turned 4 last month, and she won’t run. The closest she gets is speed-walking in a heel-toe motion with a lot of swaying in her hips and very little bending in her knees. She has quite a pronounced knock-kneed stance (i.e., her hips-knees-feet form an ‘X’ shape), though they say that’s somewhat normal for her age. She also tires very quickly when “running”.

    She’s a naturally cautious child, but it seems as if she’s actually afraid to run, and I’m not sure whether that fear comes from being afraid to fall (i.e., letting both feet leave the ground to run freely), but I get the sense it’s developed into a fear of trying because she recognizes that she doesn’t move like other children do.

    I’d really appreciate any tips on how to boost her confidence and comfort level with running, and to help her loosen up a bit so she can hopefully start to run and not just speed walk.

    • Ron Usher says:

      Hi. This sounds like a more serious matter than just running technique. I’d be glad to talk about this privately if you’d like. My first concern is how is her balance? Can she stand on one foot without any support? I’d have her practice balancing, jumping, and hopping. She will probably need two hand support to start with. A typical progression is: two hand, one hand, holding on to a finger, child holding on to a rope or string, and then holding on to an “invisible” string.

  18. Amir Rustamkulov says:

    Thanks a lot in my class year 5 I’m the best runner and now I hope I can improve my running because I have learned a lot and also I hope I could win year 6 in my school and I’m 9 years old in May 21 2014 I will be 10 thanks for reading by Amir

  19. Joie's Ma says:

    My 7yr old dtr loves to run and always has. She has an athletic build and is quite tall for her age. (She’s in 1st grade, but is as tall as most of the 5th graders.) I appreciate the tips you gave to promote good form and I plan to give them a try. Do you have any tips for breathing techniques? She has decent form and speed (for her age) when running short distances, but she’ll be running a 2 mile race this spring. What would you advise her to focus on, as this will be significantly farther than she usually runs?

    • Ron Usher says:

      As a swim coach, I have had students who hold their breath when swimming…even very good swimmers may do this and it can make longer swims difficult.

      Here are some tips to try:

      1. Make sure she is not holding her breath.
      2. The most important part is the exhale. Have her try to make a loud “whoosh” sound when she exhales.
      3. Just like in swimming the lips/cheeks need to be relaxed.
      4. Encourage her to run relaxed in the face, arms, hands and shoulders.
      5. Run/walks will help her build up her endurance. If she can run a mile non-stop, she should be able to make the two miles without difficulties.

      Best of luck, and let me know how it went!

  20. TS says:

    My son runs with a very short gait. almost like his knees are connected. He tries real hard but is very slow and gets tired easily. He is almost 5 and I worry for his development for the long run not just athletics but playing with other boys. Any advice on his problem?

    • Ron Usher says:

      Thanks for your comment. Are there any other developmental issues? The areas I would look at first would be: Balance
      Flexibility/Range of Motion

      For instance can he go up/down stairs and take two steps? When he’s on his back can he do a bicycle kick? Can he stand on a single leg and swing the other leg? Is he able to ride a bike/trike? All of these questions could lead to activities which would help him. If he’s not able to do them, an occupational or physical therapist might be able to recommend some options for you as well.

  21. Krista Grimmett says:

    Great article! My son is 6 and tall for his age, but can’t seem to use that to his advantage. I’ve heard that he needs to run on the ball of his feet, but I’m not sure how I can explain that to him. Do
    you have any suggestions?

    • Ron Usher says:

      Here’s two great drills to work on a good foot strike…
      1. Stand about two feet away from a wall. Fall forward at the ankles (not the waist) and support yourself with both arms against the wall. The heels should barely come up off the ground. Do this drill a few times and then go for a short run.

      2. Stand on the left foot. It’s ok to use a wall for support. Cycle the right foot as if he was biking. The ball of the foot should scrape the ground (not the heel) just along side the other foot. Do a few cycles with the right leg, and few with the left and then try running a short distance.

      These are great drills because they are easy, don’t take long, can be done anywhere and they work. Have fun!

  22. De Juan Byndom says:

    Hello, i have a problem with my nine year old son. He is an normal size kid but he run like a weights a thousand pounds. He run with is legs stiff and do not have a full rotation. But when he is playing around, he will run in perfect form without him realizing it. What can I do to help him?

  23. Ron Usher says:

    This is a great question and I’m not sure what the answer is. I would try having him run with something else to do. For instance, throw a ball and he has to run to it. Or have him carry a ball or something and run, trying to take his mind out of overthinking his technique.

    Let me know if this works or if it’s appropriate. If his running is horrible in game/practice situations it might be because he’s tightening up because of the game. Then it’s more of a psychology problem (and I would go with different advice).

    • De Juan Byndom says:

      He does play football, left corner back, so he does run with the ball at practice but not in good form. I did take him out yesterday to the track and I followed your advise which is in the article. First, I had him to run full sprint ,for 30 yards or so, so I can see his running form. I discovered that he lean from the hips at about 30 or 40 degrees causing his feet to hit the track in front of the hips. That’s the reason for the knee pain. We did some drill and after that I had him to walk beside me with good form. Than we jogged setting up straight and with heels up, we ran medium speed, told him to relax. After a couple of times, he finally got it running with good form with hips up and knees up. What are some things that we can add to the work out?

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  25. Shonda says:

    Thanks for this advice. My 7y/o daughter approached me about training her to run track. Although I am no longer a runner, my father coached my sister and I so I knew most of the information in your post. However, I do have one question. Would be the possible pros and cons of biking next to her as she runs?

  26. David B says:

    My son turned 15 and has played baseball for 11 years and been a hockey goalie competitive for 9. This is he is 5ft9 130 lbs and has long legs. This is his first year that he looks awkward running and has become very slow. I was at a loss until I found this article. We realized (after reading your article) that he had started running with his legs too far forward and his heel was hitting the ground hard when he landed on the front foot. This was due to the fact that he was still trying to run with shorter legs. We worked on this for not very long and now he can run again. This just helped him “grow out if his awkward stage” as everyone said to do. Don’t wait for your teen to grow out of it. Use this article and it will help. Thanks for this as it has helped us 4 yrs later.

  27. Bryony says:

    This is gRead my daughter has a sports day and she wast running right at all,I thought she was but surprisly not and I was running for the sake of it and I was running like her

  28. Steve Lafferty says:

    Hi Ron,
    Thanks for the great tips. My 12 year old daughter plays field hockey. She has a long loping stride which doesn’t produce much acceleration of the mark. So, your comments about reducing the time that the foot is in contact with the ground will be useful. Can you please clarify what you meant with your “hip to pit” technique? I couldn’t work out what you meant about arms being held at 90 degrees and swinging from back pocket to hip. Are you talking about a 90 degree elbow flexion? Back pocket to hip seems like a very short pendulum. I’m sure I’m being dense, but please fill me in.

  29. Stefan coleman says:

    My son is 5 he doesnt lift his legs or bend his knees when he runs his arms are going crazy I’ve tried talking and showing him but I have no joy with him is there anything that can help ?

  30. Long John says:

    Hi my boy is 10 and tall for he’s age but when he runs I can only describe it as a dog trying to bit he’s bum lol, I think he is losing confidence because he is a lot slower than he’s friends
    Any advice would be great
    Thank you

    • Ron Usher says:

      You’re probably right about losing confidence about running. My son was the same and I see so many kids in middle school who hate running and playing sports because they run poorly.

      First, does he have enough strength to run well? Many kids lack the core and muscle strength to be even fair runners. Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-up and pull-ups can go a long way to improving running speed.

      Second, if there are any running form problems like in the article, try to correct one or two.

      Finally, have him practice in a non-competitive environment. Play games with him without kids around so that he can start to develop the skills and confidence.

      • Long John says:

        Thanks for your reply, i think he’s strong enough he plays football 3 times a week but you can tell he not running right but I will try your methods and post how I get on
        Thanks again
        Long john

  31. Nick says:

    My 11 year old son loves to run. He has done many 10k and 5k runs. We have trained for a half marathon and will be running it in two weeks. He is at about a 8 min mile pace for a 5k, 8.5 min for a 10k and around 9.5 for our half training. The issue we are having is that he is a heal runner and his shoes show it. How do I teach him how to strike near the ball of his feet? I have worked with him with some drills but it just does not seem to help. If I can get his stride a bit better and longer I am sure his times would get much better. Do you have any suggestions, thank you for your help.

    • Ron Usher says:

      There’s probably two main reasons he’s landing on his heels; he is over-striding and not leaning forward correctly. Telling him to increase his stride length is probably counter productive. He will either land more on his heels by reaching further, or push harder off the power leg which isn’t good for long distance running.

      He has to have his foot land underneath his body, not out in front. He can practice this by taking exaggerated small steps, almost running in place. After some strides, he then starts to take extended strides.

      He also is probably not leaning forward from the ankles. Have him stand about 2 feet from a wall and lean forward from the ankles. His heels should come up slightly and he can feel the proper placement of the landing on the balls of his feet.

      From here, have him run in place with his hands on the wall. He is working on landing on the correct spot.

      When he runs, encourage him to lean forward from the ankles. He will probably like it; it feels like you’re falling down and it will improve not only his foot strike but his stride as well.

      Let me know if it helps,


  32. Nguyen T-E says:

    My son is 4 1/2 year old and he loves to run. He always want to run, which is a good thing, but I’ve read a few articles about how running can be bad for children since their joints are not fully grown. I try to make if fun for my son when we run; we always warm up with high knees, jumping jacks, butt kicks and other leg stretches before we run, and we always run at his pace. He never complain about having pain- our runs are usually 1.3 miles, short ones can be 1/2 mile and long one can be up to 3 miles. I started tracking all his runs, and for two weeks, he ran 20 miles.

    Here is my concern. I’m very happy that my son likes to run, but he say he is not RUNNING, but he is a dragon and he’s flying. When he runs, he is also flapping his wings so he can fly. I feel like his form is not very good, but when I tried to show him, he became quite confused and uncomfortable when he tries to run. I originally thought that kids are natural running and that they run whatever way they are comfortable with so there is no wrong or right way to do it. But it seems what I read online contradict my believe. Should I continue to let my son run the way he likes (which can be considered improper form), or should I just only allow him to run with proper form?

    • Ron Usher says:

      I would keep the runs shorter and encourage him to go fast. I wouldn’t do anything over a 1/4 mile without a lot of rest. I think 20 miles a week is too much. It’s always better to do too little, than to to do too much. If he’s enjoying the running then you can increase it when he’s six or seven. I think his form will improve as he gets older naturally, certainly the arm flapping and pretending he’s a dragon. Let him do that and have fun.

      Be sure to have him play with balls (catching, throwing, kicking) to develop his hand/eye/foot coordination. Take him to playgrounds and have him go across the bars to develop strength. It sounds like you love him a lot and have a great relationship. Always remember that they are kids…not little adults.

  33. Vatche says:

    Hi Ron,
    I see the deficiency in my 12 year old sons’ running and I am looking of ways to help him out.
    I have a very short video of my son running, how can I send this to you for analysis and feedback?

  34. TAIYO says:

    My oldest son doesn’t kick his feet when running. He seems to shuffle and he can do this with speed but I think that we would be able to run much faster if he was able to kick his feet back when he runs. Any specific drills to correct this?

    • Ron Usher says:

      Two drills I would do with him. The first is to have him stand and lean forward from the ankles (not the waist). This will make it feel like he is falling. Then he should start walking and running trying to get this forward lean from the ankles.

      The second is to have him practice lifting his right heel high to his rear while standing. Then pull the leg forward till the foot is in front of the left knee (keeping the knee bent). Then put the right foot down next to the left. Repeat with the opposite leg. After about 10 repetitions have him walk this way. It’s actually kinda fun to do…looks a bit goofy but it gives the feeling of lifting the foot.

      After walking start running slow and then increase the speed.

      Let me know how it goes!

  35. Kathy Wixted says:

    My daughter is almost 11 and not typically an athletic type. She wanted to play basketball this year and every time I go to the game I get frustrated watching her run. I don’t know how to help her and it’s hard to explain. seems like she leans forward at the waist and her gait is like a slide almost. Seems like her feet don’t come up very far off the floor which to me makes her show and awkward. I have tried to explain this to her but don’t know what to tell her to do as she just doesn’t see it. Please give me any advice you may have.

    • Ron Usher says:

      Hi, the two drills I recommended in the previous reply to Taiyo are the perfect drills for her to practice. Have her practice them at home a few minutes a day. I bet she will learn quickly! Btw, I’ve watched college basketball teams train and half the team couldn’t run. The coach was screaming at them to go faster but their form was so bad they couldn’t.

      Let us know how it goes.
      ps…I’m working on my new running book right now!

  36. Philippa Fisher says:

    My 15yo son has never been able to run! Would love to help him. Have discovered that he breathes very shallow and small. He complains of burning lungs. He is very fit but fails the beep test every time! Now, when he does major hikes – he also falls to the back of the group and struggles to keep up. Wondering if he might be either dyspraxic or have sport induced asthma? Would love some tips on breathing correctly while running.

    • Ron Usher says:

      First, I’m not a doctor of any sort and diagnosing issues like this online isn’t the way to go. However, if he has dyspraxia it probably wouldn’t show up in his running. It would be more a general coordination,strength and ball control issue.

      You might consider taking him to a doctor to make sure there isn’t any structural problems (small lungs/clogged trachea) or heart problems. It also could be a form of asthma. Again, I’m not a doctor but it would be worth the time to go.

      Assuming it’s a breathing issue, he should learn how to do stomach breathing. Here is a video and there’s tons more:

      It is possible to breath like this while running and I recommend learning and practicing it. Start sitting, move to standing and then walking. I like to count steps…four steps in, five steps out. For faster running he will probably want to breathe through his mouth.

      Most likely the problem is that he is too tight and not relaxed. Good runners run relaxed at all speeds and distances (as do good athletes). Have him check his face, shoulders and back to make sure he is relaxed. Start off slow and when he feels tightness, have him back off for a bit. Hope this helps. Let us know how he’s progressing.

  37. Tomeika says:

    Hi Ron. Thanks for this great article. I have been trying to figure out how to help my 11 y/o daughter improve her running. She’s been playing soccer since 7 and now her team is starting to get very competitive and she doesn’t get much playing time now because of her speed and awkwardness. She is very slew – footed, barely bends her knees, lands flat footed and her arms are glued to her side when she’s running. I’m going to try the wall drills you mentioned but how can I help her upper body? Also it doesn’t help her confidence that her 7 y/o sister is extremely athletic, faster than her (it seems like she was born to run and has perfect form) and plays on a soccer team with 10 yr olds. Any advice you have will help. Thanks.

    • Ron Usher says:

      Thanks for the great comment…Made my day! Her upper body…is it the arm movement or just upper body strength? For the arm movement, I talk about arm pumps in the article. Keep the arms at about 90 degrees and have them go from “hip to pit”. For strength, push-ups, planks, sit-ups, pull-ups (probably modified because most kids can’t do them) are all great exercises to do. Can she do another sport? As she gets older, it’s going to be harder and harder to be competitive and more difficult to find a team. A sport like swimming might provide more opportunity for her to be successful.

      • Tomeika says:

        Thanks for the reply. She doesn’t swing her arms when she runs. She tried volleyball and did much better. We also started swimming and she picked that up easily. I’ve been trying to encourage her to focus more on these two but she’s been with her soccer team so long that she doesn’t want to leave her friends so….. I’m going to try to work with her running using your tips and just hope that eventually she’ll stick with volleyball and leave soccer.

  38. Evelyn says:

    Hi Ron. My 8yr old daughter is more of an artist rather than an athlete. She likes swimming and ballet but hates anything that makes her “puffed out”. At school they are currently training for the annual “cross country event” – in two weeks – which is essentially running around the soccer field 4 times. She’s dreading the upcoming event and already expecting to come last (as she did last year). Reassuring her that it doesn’t matter that she is not as fast as others won’t work anymore – she does want to be faster but simply does not think she could do it. It breaks my heart to hear and see her like that. I’ve never been much of a runner myself but am wondering how I can help her in these next two weeks to become more enthusiastic about running and the upcoming event and most of all – more confident about herself as I am sure that her negative attitude won’t help either…

    • Ron Usher says:

      Hi Evelyn, I was about to go workout but wanted to respond as quick as possible. I have some ideas that might help her.
      1. Go for run/walks with her as much as possible (daily). Keep them short and fun. If she gets tired, she walks.

      2. Have a song or something to think about or sing out loud as she runs. Frozen would be a great one. This will take her mind off of the parts of running
      she doesn’t like. It will also help with her breathing. If she’s too out of breath to sing, she has to walk. Or, when she’s done with a verse, she walks. Also, besides running, have her skip, gallop and side-straddle for a bit. Besides breaking up the running, it will incorporate more muscles and make it more fun.

      3. It’s probably a mile run. So that would take 15 to 20 minutes assuming a walk. I doubt if she will be able to run the whole way after two weeks of running (though if she was really motivated, maybe). Set a goal for her to run the long parts and walk the short parts.

      4. Have her collect money from friends/family for doing the run. The money will go to a charity of her choice. Doing things for others, tends to make us focus on others and we will do more for others than ourselves.

      5. Have her focus on running the last portion of the race. That way she finishes hard and strong and can be proud for completing the race. On a similar note, can the teacher and her friends come back and finish the race with her? My mom did a triathlon when she was 68 and the winner of the race, came back to finish with her. It was pretty awesome!

      6. I’m assuming there’s nothing wrong with her technique or general physical condition. If there is, let me know and we can address those issues. Make sure she has proper clothes and shoes as well. I see kids running in the worst shoes (Uggs!) all the time and there’s no way they can run well.

      Hope this helps and best of luck to her.

      • Evelyn says:

        Hi Ron. Thank you so much for your speedy reply and your great suggestions. Just what I needed! I had planned to get out there with her in the next two weeks to work on some fun running activities so your suggestions will certainly help me with some ideas. Singing or just making her think of something else will be a good one I think, as she has this instant reluctance when she knows it’s time to go running… I like the fundraising idea as well – she’s animal mad, so a fundraiser for the local SPCA will definitely be a motivation factor. She has no physical disabilities at all, just very long skinny legs and she’s quite finely built. She’s got great running/trailing shoes, light, well-fitting and comfortable, but was still complaining about sore feet after running, so when I get out with her I will have a look at her form and how her foot touches the ground. Thanks to your tips on positioning of the body and feet I should be able to help her with that issue. I was also thinking a sticker chart or similar recording progress over the next two weeks might help… Thanks again for your help, let’s hope the weather will be on our side so that we get lots of chances to pratice!

      • Ron Usher says:

        Hi Evelyn, I had some other thoughts. First, try doing exercises and indoor running/moving/dancing activities. Besides helping her in the running it will also make it easier to transition to outdoor running once she is used to the schedule. It will help all aspects of her running; strength, endurance, form and probably be fun. Another thing to try is headphones and some music when she runs.

        And when you do go for a run, make it a game. Here are some ideas…1) Run to a tree as fast as possible, then walk 2) Run in a circle 3)Try to mimic other runners that are out there. 4) Run like different animals. For instance, a giraffe would run different than a cheetah which would run different than an elephant. 5) Use a dice or cards to randomize things. For instance have a different form of movement for each number (run, walk, walk backwards, gallop, skip). Then she has to perform the corresponding number for a set distance (25-50 yards).

        Finally, keep the distances short. Frequency is more important than trying to get the distance. Good luck and let us know how it works out!

  39. Mrsjaime_jor says:

    My 11 year old daughter is involved and skilled in multiple sports and has a strong athletic build, but she has become noticeably more awkward and slower in the last two years. I’m certain this has something to do with prepubescent growth/development but she is struggling. Specifically she runs bent forward from the waist up, flat footed, to the point that her feet slip out behind her, almost making her fall, and her arms and waist sort of twist. Your #2 suggestion seems right on with her. Any additional tips we can try? She’s also not very flexible; I’ve often wondered if that comes into play?

    • Ron Usher says:

      Hi, flexibility could be an issue, especially for athletic kids who do a lot of sports. Dynamic leg swings and stretching the hamstrings might help. Without knowing what and how much she’s doing, I’m wondering if it’s over-training. If kids are doing multiple sports where they are always having to run, she might go into this running form as a way to survive the workout. Also, a lot of coaches do slow jog type running for workouts which would tend to reinforce this form. Could this be it?

      If so, the solution would be more rest and less slow running for distance. Also, encourage her to run fast but for short distances (20 to 40 Yards) and not many repeats. She wants to run fast and be relaxed while running.

      Hope this helps. Feel free to follow up on this.

      I’m also wondering about her back strength and muscle engagement. Most sports develop the anterior chain (front of the body)and don’t work on the posterior chain (back of the body). The forward lean, flat foot and lack of flexibility make me think this has something to do with it. Supermans (lie on stomach, lift shoulders and legs off ground) and hip lifts (on back, knees bent. Lift hips up off the ground) are two great exercises to develop the back. Gi

      • Mrsjaime_jor says:

        Thank you! I’m going to film her run to try to get a better look at it and then start breaking it down to correct the form as you suggested in the article. I’ll also try to find a fun way to incorporate some daily stretching and strength training we can do together. Summer is a great time for this! I will certainly follow-up and appreciate the advice.

  40. Timothy Topicz says:

    Thanks for the great insight! My son is 11 and just started track. He has always had a different running style 🙂 but at this juncture it seems as if it is an abnormal gait. Like a hop or a hitch. Both of his legs are the same length and he says there is no clicking in his hips. Sometimes it is very prominent and other times it disappears. He is very determined so I am wondering if this is something that can be corrected.

    • Ron Usher says:

      Hi, and a happy Father’s Day to you too! Without seeing him run it’s kinda difficult to say, but here’s my thoughts…
      1. I’m sure his track coach will know more and be able to help so be sure to go by his recommendations.

      2. It could be that he’s lacking strength in one leg or hip. Or, he’s lacking some core strength at some point. Either way, I would approach it the same way…
      a. General body weight exercises; push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, step-ups. Lunges and step-ups are single leg exercises which might highlight some imbalances.

      3. Have him do some wall running. Both arms on the wall at about a 80 degree angle and run. The extra support from the wall will make it easier to focus on his legs. He could do this at home or before practice to reinforce good technique. It could also be done when he goes back to the hitch gait.

      4. I would try to not have him run with the hitch gait. When it happen, give him rest and try some wall runs. I’m not a big fan of practicing the wrong technique just to get conditioned.

      5. I’d look for some something that’s causing the hitch gait too. Is it at a certain distance, pace or fatigue level?

      6. Finally, make sure he stretches and does flexibility/mobility exercises. Eleven is about when kids start getting tight.

      Hope this helps. Let me know how it goes.

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