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Published on February 11, 2020

family running a race together

Get the Whole Family Ready for Race Day

An event – like the Avera Race Against Cancer – can be a great way for the entire family to set a concrete goal and get moving. When it’s on the calendar and mom, dad and the kids all agree it’s a worthy target – what’s next? Just some planning and determination.

“If you’ve never done it before, you have to start small – aim to run three times a week, and start with just 10-minute runs,” said Derek Ferley, PhD, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Distance Running Coach with Avera Sports. “Mom and dad will likely have to lead things, but it’ll take investment from the whole family. Set yourself up for a good 10-12 week training period, and build each day toward the family’s goal.”

The payoff can be considerable: not just more moving and exercise, but a chance to put together and complete a plan as a family. It could also be the beginning of a lifelong shared activity.

One Bite at a Time

The Avera Race offers participants options, including 5- and 10K races, along with walks of 3 and 1.5 miles. But when a family is starting their prep, it’s best to think small.

“It’s easy for anyone to get excited and go out the first day thinking they need to run the full 3.1 or 6.2 miles. But don’t do that – just get going, as a group, and start building a foundation,” Ferley said. “It’s realistic to try to train three days each week.”

While those small doses of running might not seem like much, over the course of 10-12 weeks, they will add up. “Start together and stick together,” said Ferley. “The kids may be excited and start sprinting right away. Blend your family’s strengths – and weaknesses.”

Calendar Plan

Mapping things out on the calendar, as well as good communication as a family, are key.

Work on the foundation as a group for the first three to four weeks, and then start to add intensity and variety. Families can add tweaks such as a mixture of running and walking, or of a pace closer to sprinting than jogging now and again.

“Use weeks three through six to add some harder running, longer distances or interval training with more intensity,” he said. “You can also add more days. If you’ve been sticking with the three days each week approach, add a fourth day.”

Building steadily is more important than a one-off training day, no matter how fast.

“Running for four minutes and walking for one minute is a technique that works for many runners,” Ferley said. “If you need to slow things down, that’s fine. Just keep that sense of scope, and remember your goal is to start and finish as a family.”

That might mean one member of the family is the strongest runner. “Competing as a group can be challenging, but building this bond is worth the work,” he said. “If you’re new to running, just focus on finishing the 5K, and don’t even worry about your time. Working toward that finish should be a fun, active way to spend time together.”

Race Day

Thousands take part in the event, and the excitement of the starting line can be contagious. So remember to stay grounded.

“Newcomers especially are all fired up and go sprinting off right away and a block later, they are huffing and puffing and walking,” said Ferley. “Be ready for that, and for the crowded nature. Hang back if that’s best for you. It’s your Race to run – so be flexible and enjoy what you’ve worked for. Get to the finish line together.”

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