Have you ever noticed the sheer joy kids find in running? And then as we get older it becomes a form of punishment, either from a sports coach for doing something wrong or from ourselves from that ice cream we had last night (that’s okay, you don’t have to put the spoon down).
I love that ear-to-ear grin kids have when they’re running. And I love helping them find it. For several years, I helped chaperone a week-long cross country camp and I’ve had the opportunity to work with other teams and Girls On The Run groups over the years.
This summer I was invited by a couple of coaches — full disclosure, one is my mother — to come do a half-day mini-camp with their team. It was primarily middle schoolers but a few high school boys as well. It was hot and humid but everyone worked hard and I think they mostly had fun.
Here’s some of what we did in case you have the same opportunity … and if you live in the Louisville area and want me to come do something similar with your team, let me know!
A special thanks to my nutrition sponsor, Hammer Nutrition, for sending goodie bags for all the campers!
9 a.m. — introductions, agenda overview and dynamic warmup. I pulled a lot from the Little Wing routine because it hits all the major muscle groups and isn’t overly technical. However, it took us about 20 minutes to get through it and everyone was already hot and sweaty.
9:30 a.m. — easy jog of .6 mile. Many of them had run the night before, and this was a group with pretty limited endurance anyway. I had kids in the front group walking on this run, so we kept it short.
9:45 a.m. — form drills and discussion of cadence and arm swing. This included some strides, fast feet, butt kicks, high knees, carioca, and backwards running.
10 a.m. — Stretching, strength training and core. We did calf raises, single-leg squats, bridges, planks and side planks. We also did some ankle and big toe flexion and “toe yoga” as we moved into some other stretches — chest, upper back, quads, calves, hamstrings, IT bands, hip flexors, piriformis, butterfly, and seated torso twist. (P.S. Jay Dicharry, mentioned in the toe yoga link above, is the author of “Anatomy for Runners” and one of my resources when putting this session together.)
Then we transitioned to the covered area — everyone was happy about that — for the gear talk. First we talked about safety gear, and I brought my headlamp and blinky light as examples. I encouraged all the kids to get a Road ID and I passed mine around. (They used to provide a coupon code for our cross country camp goers and hopefully I can partner with them again in the future for these type of events!)
I also brought down my collection of self-massage tools — a stick, a Trigger Point Performance Therapy mini-GRID, a regular foam roller and a lacrosse ball. We split up into groups and rotated through using each of them which was a lot of fun. They were … inventive. I guess. To say the least.
Next we talked about wicking running clothes and socks. Some kids were in full-out Nike running gear; another kid (the most enthusiastic of the bunch) was in a cotton tank undershirt, camo denim shorts and a belt.
We moved on to shoes, which is something I can talk about for days. Five years working full time in specialty running retail comes in handy.
I explained the different parts of a shoe and talked about lacing, then we got to the fun part: the wet bag test. You can only talk at kids for a short amount of time and this was a great way to talk about biomechanics while getting them up and moving.
Then we talked about nutrition. Hammer was super awesome and sent me goodie bags for each kid. Hammer has been so good to me as a sponsored athlete — and all their athletes, and even more so their regular customers — and it was great to share their products and philosophy with these kids. Since they practice, and sometimes race, after school, nutrition is really important. And when they race on the weekend, that’s a totally different schedule than their body is used to (since they normally run in the evening).
We talked about Endurolyte Fizz and HEED, and the differences — and why they’re better than Gatorade. I also had Hammer Gels and Recoverite for them, and we talked about when to use those, too. They also got water bottles, stickers and temporary tattoos. It was like Christmas, they were so excited.
To wrap up the serious part of the day, I did a short talk about my own background (complete with the story of how one of my professors told me I wouldn’t qualify for Boston at my first marathon) that led into a talk about logging your running and about motivation. I had them do some thinking about a mantra for the season, and then we did some goal setting. I really enjoyed this part, as I believe the mental aspect is every bit as important as the physical. (I also re-read some favorite parts of “How Bad Do You Want It” by Matt Fitzgerald to frame this in my own mind.)
And, as the kids started to get a little glassy-eyed, I gave them a game to play. We split into relays teams with two challenges. First, each runner had dunk a sponge in water, run down, wring it out, then run back. Then they had to dunk a shirt into a bucket of wet water, put it on, run down and back then give the next person the shirt. You ever try to put on a XXXL shirt while it’s wet? Hysterical. I had my shirt on completely backwards.
Then, we had lunch! Every kid brought a picnic lunch that we had stashed in coolers, and while they ate I hung out and answered questions.
This was a lot of fun and I am excited to see how they do this year. I hope they stay excited about running, and I hope to hear they met some of the goals they set.
And seriously, if you want me to come do this with your team, contact me!
Thank you again for working with our runners! And many thanks to Hammer Nutrition for donating the goodie bags! Yep, that young red-haired athlete in the undershirt and camo shorts is the most enthusiastic of the bunch! The more he can run, and the faster, the happier he is! They really enjoyed the time you spent with them!