It’s July and, as you know, kids have a lot of free time on their hands. So listen up, dads! No, we aren’t going to tell you to put your kids to work. In fact, I am going to suggest that you dedicate time on a daily basis for regular exercise with your family.

Over 25 years ago, my father and his friend were headed out for a run around the neighborhood and they asked me if I wanted to join them, so I said, “Sure!” I can wholeheartedly say that that experience affected my life in the most positive way possible. I discovered that distance running existed and it was something that immediately connected me to my father in a very unique way. I remember that he was proud to have me run with him that day but was careful not to push it on me the next time his friend and he went out for another run. As it turns out I was the one who asked to join them on that next run.

Anyhow, here I am now, 25 years later, still running and using running as a foundation for just about every aspect of my physically active lifestyle. That afternoon when I first went running with my father might have just led me to where I am now – running, biking, paddle boarding, swimming, completing triathlons, going to the gym, and the list goes on of the many other health and fitness activities I currently take part in. One might argue that my father’s example has even impacted a whole community. I now coach high school kids, started a running program that now serves 85,000 middle school students, created one of the largest networks of free run clubs in South Florida and I helped launch the Miami Marathon, which now hosts over 25,000 runners each year. I am proud to say that all of this is a result of that first run with my father.

Now, I am not suggesting that you insist that your son or daughter join you for a run this afternoon, although that might work, because it is unlikely that they will enjoy the experience. I am, however, suggesting that you think of how you might gradually give to your son or daughter by setting a good example of living a healthy and fit life and taking certain measures to show them the way to running. The results may not be immediate but the chances of a positive effect on the future of not just your children’s lives but on yours will be significantly great. Don’t be disappointed or discouraged if your children don’t turn out to be avid runners; that really shouldn’t be your objective. Instead, be happy if they just make running a part of their overall health and fitness program. Keep in mind that we are living in a slightly different time for fitness than a few years ago, as people don’t seem to be subscribing to just one sport or activity but to multiple fitness mediums.

Here are some ideas of how you can get your family excited about running:

TAKE THEM TO A RACE. Often times the sight of seeing others finish at a local 5K or other running event motivates onlookers because they see average looking people completing the race. These days there are all sorts of concept themed runs that have a fair share of entertainment that make running even more enjoyable.

WATCH A RUNNING RELATED MOVIE. There are several out there. Choose one that is age appropriate and just watch it at home one night. This may get the conversation started about running as a family and how people can develop their cardiovascular system to feel better when they run.

ASK THEM TO GO ON A RUN WITH YOU. Keep the distance short and consider going some place scenic that has a place where you may be able to go for ice cream afterward. Do your best to associate running with something fun or social. You may even consider taking your children with you to your local run club after they have run a few times so that they don’t feel intimidated.

GO WITH THEM TO BUY NEW SHOES. Take the family to a specialty shop to ensure that they are wearing the right gear. The excitement of new stuff to wear will get them that much more interested in going for that run with you.

SIGN UP THE FAMILY FOR A RACE. Take a look at your local calendar and choose a 5K close to home that all of you can do together. Make sure that the race is at least a few weeks away so that you can have the family run together to get ready for it. Don’t make the mistake of running too fast; instead make the effort to stay with the family or family member who is running with you. Don’t be afraid to walk with them; just encourage them to finish.

By the way, I must warn you that by setting the example of running to your family, the result may be that you’ll be more motivated than you ever were to keep your commitment to a healthy fitness lifestyle.

By: Frankie Ruiz