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Most kids naturally love to run. And encouraging exercise is one of the best things a parent can do for their child's long-term health. Where we have to be careful is that our adult enthusiasm can easily turn what was once fun for our kids into work.
Unless your child is specifically looking for guidance on becoming a better runner – and it does happen - six is probably too young to begin “training.” However, it's not too young for you to be there to answer questions when they come up.
A number of all-round training books, such as Patricia G. Avila's “Fitness for Sports and Health,” include some information on breathing techniques. Many yoga books also contain a great deal of information on breathing that you may find helpful.
For more general information on cross country for younger runners, there are a number of books available, such as “Training for Young Distance Runners” by Laurence S. Greene.
If your child is truly interested in running cross country at such a young age, by all means, encourage her or him. Better yet, run with your child… but keep the speed and distance age-appropriate. That is, fairly slow and fairly short.
Learn what you can about the sport, and be ready with answers. But be careful not to volunteer too much advice or set your child's expectations for her. An over-eager parent can inadvertantly quash a child's enthusiasm for an activity.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|