If you have a young boy who isn't sure what he'd like to participate in this fall, consider introducing him to Let Me Run, a nonprofit wellness program for boys in third through eighth grade, with teams based everywhere from Washington to Louisiana. The organization was founded by a Girls on the Run volunteer who wanted a similar opportunity for her two sons but then realized none existed. Let Me Run encourages and empowers young boys to be themselves, while helping them develop their mental, physical, emotional and social health. Here are five things you should know about the program before your young runner gets started.
It's More Than Just Running
Your average after-school athletic program might teach your child the value of teamwork and a good stretch, but it won't dive as deep as Let Me Run. Each Let Me Run practice closes with a discussion topic, with subjects including nutrition, respect, positive thinking and the true meaning of success. The coaches kick off the discussions with quotes from role models or short stories, and the runners are encouraged to offer their inputs and insights as they learn together.
Let Me Run is proud to serve boys of all backgrounds―including runners with disabilities, whether cognitive or physical. Children with special needs are welcome to bring a helper to practices so they can receive additional assistance throughout the exercises. If your child has a disability (including non-visible medical conditions like ADHD), let your local Let Me Run coach know prior to the season start date so he or she can help you create the best experience for your runner.
It Creates a Better Way of Competing
When running a marathon, a 5K or even a sprint, there is typically just one winner. Let Me Run doesn't dismiss first place, but it also doesn't emphasize the traditional sense of "winning." Instead, the organization encourages boys to beat their own fastest times and focuses on self-improvement rather than comparison to others. Comparison doesn't just ruin the fun of running―it can also make everything from test scores to outfits feel inadequate. Let Me Run teaches boys to focus on their own growth, and to encourage the growth of their teammates so everyone can celebrate their achievements.
It's a Real Training Program
Let Me Run teams meet twice a week for seven weeks. At the beginning of the season, boys run a preliminary 5K, which their coaches time and record. The runners learn how to set a goal time and work toward improving their speed and endurance over the course of the season. At the end of the seven weeks, local teams come together for a regional Let Me Run 5K where the boys ultimately discover how hard they've worked and how much their skills have improved. Be sure to bring a camera―the runners are beaming when they cross that finish line.
Its Benefits Go Beyond the Track
Let Me Run teams mix boys from different classes and grade levels. This allows them to meet kids from outside their classrooms and build lasting friendships in a playful, active setting. This can be especially beneficial if your child doesn't feel particularly welcome or comfortable among his immediate peers.
Besides helping foster new friendships, Let Me Run also keep boys outside and moving rather than inside in front of a TV, computer or phone screen. This decreased screen time and increased playtime helps your child develop an active lifestyle from a young age and can help combat the health risks associated with sedentary choices. Plus, while most kids eventually stop playing football or baseball, running is an activity that your son can continue to practice for life―all he needs is a pair of sneakers!
READ THIS NEXT: How to Get Your Kids Interested in Running