Teach Life Skills through Running
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Marie Owens, MEd.
Marie Owens is an education consultant, freelance writer and an overjoyed aunt.
Recently, at the starting line of the Las Vegas Marathon, in the midst of pre-race excitement and anxiety, I saw a young girl holding a bright sign that read “Go Aunt Lainie,” written with a child’s hand and decorated with gobs of glitter. While a large aspect of Auntie-dom is focused on celebrating milestones, assisting with childcare and spoiling our little ones with gifts, another important duty is that of the healthy role model. While we can tell young people what wellness comprises until it becomes a dull soundtrack on repeat, an even more effective (and less annoying) method is to show them how we cultivate health; and one such practice is the simple, and easy to access, act of running.
There is an old phrase in the running world that to call oneself “a runner” the only requirement is to simply put on a pair of stinky running shoes and take the first step. While it may seem overly simplistic, the spirit of the sentiment is that in running, as in life, you have to have the courage to begin if you want to reach any goal. When we as Aunties start anything that may be challenging, we show our nieces and nephews that even as adults, we have to learn new things about ourselves and face challenges that may come up on the path of life. To complete a marathon, be it literal or metaphorical, you have to tie up your laces and know that while the journey may be difficult (and at times you may yearn to quit) if the ultimate finish line is what you, or they, truly want, it is worth the work.
Another life skill that running demonstrates for the young ones in your life is focusing on the things you can control and making sure you do them as best as you can. On a run, that is one’s breath. Breathing is something we all must do from our first moment of life to the last, and yet how we do it can vary greatly. Nieces and nephews who run can learn to effectively breathe during a run so that they feel better, run faster and concentrate on being in the moment. By centering attention on inhaling and exhaling they can see how even though the weather may not cooperate with their plans, or a car might splash some mud on their little legs, there is power in the simple skill that we are all given. In all, teaching this skill and showing how it impacts an individual, is transferable to life’s challenging moments on and off the road.
Additionally, whether finishing a short run or a 26.2 mile marathon, a thought always creeps into my mind: finish strong. This is yet another skill that this Auntie did not invent, but it is one I would teach any niece or nephew and something that can apply to school work, home life, or even the work world. At the end of any act, it can be tempting to just wish to be finished and then to lose some steam or wish it were already completed. Yet when you see the finish line or your front door at the end of the run, you should be at your best: practicing good form, maintaining consistent breathing, and feeling mentally charged from the knowledge that you did the best you possibly could. When we show the young men and women in our lives that they too can complete something and look back on it knowing without a doubt it was their personal best, we give them the gift of true confidence and pride. Finishing strong may not mean finishing first, but it does mean ending with a sense of accomplishment.
In all, while running may not be for every Auntie, niece or nephew, the lessons it can offer are universal and can help equip people with tools to help them on their own trail. Having the courage to start, the power of controlling the things we can, and the will to end something well are nothing but positive skills in life and in sport. As Aunties and role models, we can each be a person who shows through action and hard work how truly anyone can do remarkable things: the kind of person who smiles through the sweat and from time to time may even earn a shiny medal for the effort.
Published: July 9, 2012