Category Archives: kids and sport

Sports Day and It’s All In The Genes.

I think I am in the minority where it comes to Sports Day. Most women and mothers I know claim to hate it with a passion. I bloody love Sports Day. I loved it when I was at school (primary and secondary) and I love it now that my children are starting to do it. I think I learnt to love running and racing from a flat sprint of about 50m when I was at primary school. The other girls always towered above me but I was quick to prove that it’s always foolish to dismiss the short, scrappy kids.

I was never very good at team sports. I was ok at hockey, terrible at netball and I wasn’t fussed for football. Schools don’t seem to do a lot of running and athletics outside the annual cross country trial and a touch of token athletics in the summer. Most of my running was done outside of school. So when school sports day came round it was my time to shine, to show the rest of the school that this girl had some running in her legs. However there were many more reasons to love sports day.

An afternoon away from lessons.

An afternoon lounging on the grass with your pals while waiting for your turn.

A chance to cheer on people in your class who it turns out are actually quite good at throwing and jumping but who had never been given the chance to show it before.

I was never arty or musical and probably disctinctly average at my lessons. I never fancied getting up on stage and acting in the school plays or demonstrating my woeful dancing skills in assembly. Sports day was a day for me to get my chance to show what I was good at and I relished every moment of those afternoons because I got to do something I loved. Seriously, if I had been allowed to go for training runs during my P.E lessons or at lunch time I would have!

Luckily for me right now my boys seem to be into running and all things sports day. I had been given strict instructions though not to cheer for my eldest because ‘I might make him stop’. So with every ounce of restraint I stifled my squeals on Tuesday afternoon and watched my eldest take part in his Sports Day. My 3 year old boy also got the chance to run a toddler race. He kept on going and had to be stopped by the teacher, he was focussed on the back fence. He’s obviously got my endurance legs. He won his race and my 5 year old got three firsts and a couple of seconds. Running must be in the genes. He was thrilled, as were we but we still emphasised that it doesn’t matter where he came as long as he tried his best. At this age it shouldn’t be about being overly competitive, just the enjoyment of being outside on a beautiful summer day running around with your best pals.

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The Olympics One Year On: Did they ‘inspire a generation?’

This is my first post for ‘Run With An Idea’, set up by bloggers Carrie and Dashinista with the intention of sparking respectful debate among the running and fitness blogosphere. Each blogger will blog about the same topic and hopefully it will trigger some interesting discussions. This is the first topic ‘The Olympics One Year On: Did they inspire a generation?’.

At the age of 5 my son has a huge awareness of what the Olympics are. He knows which sports are involved and he knows which are not. We live in South Wales, a very rugby orientated region. I’ve offered to take him to minis rugby but he doesn’t want to go because ‘it’s not in the ‘Lympics’. He wants to do swimming, cycling and running because that’s what he saw the most of during those exciting few weeks last Summer.

He watched the London games alongside his Dad and I. He even got to go to a morning of hockey in the Olympic stadium. He knows who Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are and he sets up his own steeplechase track, complete with paddling pool water jump, in the back garden. So when I think has a generation been inspired, I look at my son and think yes, they have.

I don’t just have to use my son as an example though. Just after the Olympics I was training at my local track and commented to the coach how busy it was. There were probably around 50 children aged between 10 and 13 situated at one point at the edge of the track being taught how to warm up and the different drills. I heard people complain about how crowded it was and how these kids didn’t understand track etiquette (i.e. don’t walk on the inside lane!) but I got a pang of excitement thinking that the reason these children were here was because of the London Olympics. So again, do I think a generation has been inspired? Yes I do.

However with anything like this the fever dies down and people become less keen. The usual sports like football and rugby (the professional sports where you earn lots of money) take the focus again and children forget about the other sports that they watched a year ago. Children live very much in the present and if it’s not visible to them regularly they might not remember that only recently they had wanted to be the next Chris Hoy or the next Heather Stanning. And with cuts to school sports and venues such as athletics tracks (three that I know of in the past year since the Olympics) the inspiration can only drive children so far. The inspired generation need somewhere to try the new sports and a new generation of coaches to drive them forwards and motivate them.

In the next couple of weeks we will see the London Anniversary games at the Olympic Stadium. I hope it will bring Olympic fever back and with it the inspiration from last year. But inspiration is one thing. Once the spark of inspiration is there it needs support and resources to turn from dream to reality. I hope there’s some government officials out there who will have the inspiration to stop cutting more and more money from sport otherwise I’m not sure we’ll see many more inspirational British Super Saturdays.

Running and Raising Boys

I’ve been reading a great deal online in the last few days about how we should speak in front of our daughters with regards to diet and health. I do feel that boys get left out of this a little bit with people forgetting that young boys spend a lot of time with their mothers and can also be influenced by what they see and hear their female role models talking about.

Little boys soon become convinced that boys are better than girls. Boys are stronger, faster, more powerful and generally superior to girls. It’s something that riles me a little bit. People say it’s a rite of passage and that all boys and girls go through this rivalry but I don’t agree that it should do unchecked. Which is probably what led to this exchange one day between my eldest son and I.

5 yo ‘J’s Dad is a really fast runner. He runs really far and he can beat loads of people’.

I happen to know J’s dad. I have discussed running many times with J’s dad. J’s dad also happens to be ex forces, in a regiment well known for physical prowess. I also happen to know the time in which J’s dad runs a marathon. My time is quicker.

Me ‘Actually I’m a faster runner than J’s dad.’

5yo ‘No you’re not because you’re a girl.’

Me ‘Yes I am. I know I’m faster. I ran a marathon faster than J’s dad’

This led on to a conversation about how far a marathon is, the time it took me to run it and comparatively how long it took J’s dad to run it. It could very well have been an educational conversation as well when you consider that we talked about what miles were and how many minutes in an hour etc. But that wasn’t the point I wanted to get home. I wanted him to understand that sometimes girls aren’t slower than boys, girls are equal to boys in many ways and that, actually, sometimes girls can be better at something than boys.

Maybe it was just be being competitive but I don’t want my boys to grow up with this patriarchal rhetoric that because you’re a boy you’re automatically better at something. Maybe I’m taking it too seriously but why shouldn’t boys see that sometimes the female role models in their lives can be just as good or even better at something than the men they know?

I want my boys to see that:

Women can be strong both mentally and physically.

Women can be powerful.

Women are to be respected for their achievements.

Women always deserve respect.

Women are equal to men.

I really hope the boys see all this in their home life, both in the relationship they see between their father and I but also in the things that they see their mother do whether it be work or exercise. Girls are obviously incredibly influenced by what their mothers say and do but so are boys. In a weird way running seems to be a way for me to show them just how strong their mother, a woman, a girl, can be.

Asthma

I wrote this the other day as I was feeling a bit emotional. I wasn’t going to publish it but I think it’s really important that people understand how awful asthma is.

Last night I think my son had an asthma attack. He doesn’t have a diagnosis of asthma yet and I hope I’m wrong but I have a horrible gut feeling that it might be. My gut feeling comes from what I recognised in him last night and similar incidences previous to this. The relentless cough, not eased by water or  slapping on the back. The audible wheeze coming from his chest. The panic and the distress on his face as he tried to gasp and breath. I recognise it because I’ve been through it.

The last bad asthma attack I had was when I was 19. I was away with my family on a tropical holiday in Malaysia. I hadn’t been bothered by my asthma for months, it had been dormant and I just took my inhalers out of habit. Taking them had become an ingrained daily ritual. I didn’t really feel I needed them but I still took them. I don’t know what happened to trigger the attack that night. I don’t know if I ate something or inhaled something but I remember the dream that woke me up.

In my dream I was swimming just off shore of the hotel we were staying at. I was swimming underwater. In this dream I became aware that I needed to come up for air so I tried to swim back to shallow water. But I couldn’t. And the more I tried to swim to the surface the more panicked I became. As I woke from this nightmare I came round to the sound of my own wheezing and my gasps for breath. I took my inhalers but they seemed to do very little to relieve me. That night my mum came to my rescue. She lay in bed with me the rest of the night cradling her 19 year old daughter while I lay propped up in her arms trying to catch my breath.

I’ll never forget that night. It has faded in memory but I remember being truly fearful that I was about to die. Terrified that any moment I would lose consciousness and I would pass away. Terrified that there would be one final gasp and no breath would come. Every breath was a fight against the invisible hands gripping around my chest, choking me of air. This attack lasted for hours but eventually my medication started to work and the attack eased off.

5 year old boys have no comprehension really of life or death or what their breath really means but last night I saw terror in my son’s eyes. I felt helpless. He had been out at a local pond with his friend collecting tadpoles so I assumed he might have had some kind of allergic reaction to something in the environment that had set this attack off. We gave him piriton and as luck would have it this seemed to calm things down.

I really hope this is a one off and that he doesn’t develop full blown asthma like I did. When people drop into a conversation that they have a ‘touch of asthma’ I always wonder if they experienced the same thing as I did and my mother before me. The sleepless nights sitting up in bed, scared to lie flat as it made everything feel like it was closing in on you. Hearing the crackling and wheezing off your chest, not believing that this horrible noise is coming from you. Coughing and coughing and coughing because for a moment each time it helps you get some breath, not realising that in fact coughing makes your airways spasm even more. That is my experience of asthma.

Why would I write about this on my running blog? Because I really believe that running and being a sporty child helped my asthma. I think being fitter and stronger gave me some reserves to cope when I had a bad attacks (Doctors often recommend swimming to children with asthma and I was in a club for a while but it turned out chemicals in the water exacerbated my condition).  I truly believe that running helped it and without it I may have had more attacks and importantly asthma never prevented me from training or competing unless I was really unwell.

 Thankfully I grew out of my asthma and my attack at age 19 seemed to be the beginning of the end of it. I know asthma can recur but I really hope it doesn’t. More than anything though I hope my son doesn’t take after me. He can have my running genes, he can have my stubborn genes but I certainly hope that he gets to skip my asthma genes. If it does so happen that he takes after me I will make sure he stays fit to fight it through his love of cycling and swimming, hopefully with a bit of running thrown in too.

My New Running Buddy Age (Almost) 5

For ages and ages my eldest son has been asking to come running with me. I haven’t taken him because I felt he was too small and he might not manage an actual ‘run’ run. I was concerned that we’d get out and he’d complain after about 100 metres and whinge to be taken home. But on the second day of our Cornish holiday, as I was getting ready to go to the beach for a run my not quite 5 year old asked to come with me. And I said yes.

He wanted to stretch before hand ‘because that’s what runner’s do’.

20130324_152532We jogged down the road to the beach, facing the traffic, my son keeping to the inside of the road. There was no whinging, no demands to go home, no declarations of boredom and he wasn’t slow either!

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We stopped a couple of times to look at the view and for some photo opps to document the occasion. Natch.

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20130324_153902People obviously looked at us running. They probably thought I was some die hard, pushy, evil mother with her eyes on gold medals in 2024 or 2030. I wanted to stop and tell them ‘he wanted to do this. It’s all him, I tried to persuade him not to!’.

The road back to the cottage was all uphill and he did have to walk a little bit but I think that’s fair for a little boy who had just run 2km. Still though there was no whinging or complaining. This boy was tougher than I thought!

He was thrilled that he had come running with me and wrote about it in his holiday diary. For me I was proud and so happy to have shared my love of running with my child. We may not do it again. He may hate running as he gets older but for that short time in Cornwall my beloved little boy in his ‘super fast running shoes’ was my running buddy.

Big Runners, Little Runners

My 4 year old wasn’t overly enamoured by the fact his class mates were going to a minis rugby session. Despite having a father who is a massive rugby fan and being born in Wales he’s really not fussed by the game with the funny shaped ball. In fact the other night he said to me:

‘Mum, I don’t want to do rugby or football. I can ride my bike now, I can swim and I can run so I want to do the ‘Lympics’.

I wasn’t sure whether he meant as individual sports or altogether. Does he know what a triathlon is? I’m sure he doesn’t but who knows, we were avid watchers of the Olympics last summer and we watched triathlon so maybe it’s hidden away in his subconscious.

Anyhow I’m not going to push him. He loves swimming and he’ll carry on doing it for as long as he loves it . He still asks to come running with me but he’s a bit small yet. In the meantime I’ve bought him his own little trainers which he’s christened his ‘Super Fast Running Shoes’. I’m sure when the time comes and he’s old enough he won’t be interested in running with me any more!

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A Spark and A Bike.

For weeks, months after we began practising, invisible to the naked eye, little connections were being made. Neuronal connections, dendrite cell electro stimulation, action potentials and neurotransmitters all becoming stronger and more efficient. Systems beginning to integrate and share information like a series of super computers. The control centre sending out messages and receiving replies from many sources.

Connections continued to grow, silent neurones awakened, motor neurones stimulated increasing the strength of the muscles they sat within. The control centre buzzing, changing, adapting and growing with the new information being fed back into it. A map being written and re-written, over and over.

And then, with the last connection made, the last required muscle fibre grown and stimulated there was a spark. That spark lit up the control centre and the map. All systems came together, working as one. And with no awareness of any of this magic taking place little boy, not yet 5, had learnt to ride his bike without his stabilisers.

Off he went down the quiet cul de sac, legs pedalling furiously, head and body trying to keep his balance. I danced around for him, doing mini air punches in celebration of his achievement. A world of childhood adventure had opened up to him and I am thrilled for him.