Friday, November 21, 2014

Inspiring the next Generation of Trail Runners ... maybe

My daughter is in 4th grade in elementary school. Her teacher stumbled across this blog and asked me if I would like to come to school and share my passion for trail running with the class and maybe take them out for a little dash through the forest. I happily agreed and then it dawned on me that I should probably be able to share some of the reasons why trail running is awesome and why the children should get into it. The more I thought about my presentation the more I came to realize that the children's reasons for running are vastly different from my own. I personally didn't get seriously into trail running until a few years ago.The kids don't look at running as exercise. It's part of their everyday play along with doing monkey bars, squatting, hiding, bushwhacking, scooting and biking. Too often our adult exercise is highly structured, scheduled and more often then not measured and analyzed. It's the exact opposite of what kids do. Once you take the playful nature of their pursuit out of the equation and turn the run or hike into a structured activity the child's motivation will usually flat line. That's the thing though. If done right trail running can induce the feeling of freedom and playfulness. In essence it should feel like recess. Trail running is my moving meditation at times or my exploration at other times. It's my time to be with myself and work through my everyday issues or just to find the perspective to let go of them. Sometimes it's my time to socialize with friends, explore the mountains or push myself in a competition.

While looking for ways to communicate these feelings I remembered this video featuring Adam Campbell and it really sums up everything I could possibly try to explain to the kids. So I decided to share it along with some personal pictures to hopefully motivate the children to give exercising in nature a second look.

The kids were awesome actually and they were very involved in sharing stories about their favourite places in nature and we found out together that humans are pretty well equipped to run long distances due to the fact that we can cool off by sweating and we have big butts (glutes) to power our strides while running, although these muscles are pretty useless for walking. I would like to tell you that I converted the whole class into nature lovers and explorers, but I am not sure if I managed to reach that lofty goal. That's just the thing with parenting. You never know what will inspire your children and what's essentially just a waste of your time and effort. In the end the best I think I can do is to just keep exposing them to the things I think are worth pursuing and hope some of it sticks with them.

Here are a few of the pictures I shared with the kids with the subtitles indicating the comments to go with them:

I run because I am not very good at other sports
Sometimes I run to be alone

Sometimes I run to be above the clouds

Sometimes I run to find a sea of mountains
Sometimes I run to find the sea behind the mountains
Sometimes I run to find tall trees
If you know where to look you can even find other cool things (plane wreck)
I will visit the classroom one more time to actually take the children for a run or hike. Maybe that'll inspire a few more of them to choose spending time in nature over spending time in front of the TV or with other electronics.

And if all of this doesn't get them on board maybe the fact that burping and snot rockets are perfectly acceptable during trail runs will. You just never know.