Young Runners: A Media Must For Healthy Track Season

young-runnersMay 18, 2009 I confess, I hate to run…always have. It harkens back to my days in 3rd grade when I was given the moniker ‘paddle foot’ for a goofy gait, and self-consciously abstained from public ridicule in favor of water sports instead…(I grew into my size 9 feet, and those flippers came in handy in the pool!)

When Marc Bloom’s new book Young Runners: The Complete Guide to Healthy Running for Kids from 5 to 18 landed in my mailbox out of the blue, my first policy-thought was:

“I usually don’t do reviews and always donate free books to kids causes” followed by, “but this looks worthy to cover for kids’ sports  injury prevention, shin splints, bone growth rates, and all that pediatric and adolescent track season stuff…but I can’t think of a worse person to write this.” Instead, I called Lisa Izzi, Founder and President of Shaping Youth’s partner org, Girls Are Champions, since Lisa is FAR more qualified than ol’ paddlefoot here, as an NCAA All-American and National Champion gymnast, a Hall of Fame inductee at the University of Utah, and a former gymnastics coach at Stanford University!

I said, “Hey, Coach, this is your gig, not mine, could you read this book so I can grill you on it?”  Being a devoted gal pal and adviser, she agreed. So here’s what young runners should “know as they grow” for a healthy sports mind and body experience inside and out…

Shaping Youth: What does Bloom say about the identity and self-worth stemming from running? Pro and con (paddlefoot flashbacks again)—

Also, I see kids trying to ‘get out of running the mile’ in middle schools yet excelling on the track when challenged. (e.g. my own daughter surprised herself placing first in hurdles which she’d never even tried before in their little Olympic P.E. simulation, but STILL hates doing the mile)

gac-logoGirls Are Champions’ Lisa Izzi:

If you’ve ever felt a natural high, an energy boost from doing something absolutely fun or reaching a personal achievement, well, that’s the feel-good element at work here–Marc Bloom injects this energy into his book in a warm, smart voice that’s uplifting and inspiring—it strikes with the intellectual, emotional, and physical gains that running produces in kids and teens today, even impacting their futures as leaders and achievers.

Bloom DOES talk about the national health issue, with various medical experts who touch on a shift, that youth running—the ‘running revolution’ as he calls it, may even be changing the childhood obesity problem in America.

But mostly, he accentuates the benefits, joy, and zeal for life that kids can experience through running programs and races creating a road map for its audience in reader-friendly form. (facts, research,  interviews with academics, sports professionals, medical doctors etc.)

As for the ‘running revolution’ —though youth running is taking off in some areas across the country, a large number of children are on the obesity track; eating too much and exercising too little; as you’ve said so many times here, obese youth in America have tripled in twenty years. It’s readily apparent to the medical community the increasing health risks for children’s futures if their parents don’t integrate a healthy family lifestyle, now, and not just eating better, but regularly getting the body up, out, and moving.

Shaping Youth: But what about the pushy parents syndrome and the health risks and injury associated with young runners who are encouraged as having ‘scholarship potential’ or are pushed too far?

Does he address the downside of competitive running and body punishment some of these kids endure? Exercise bulimia? Eating disorders?  What’s his coach cred?

kidsrunningGirls Are Champions:

He’s clearly an expert.

Building on his own competitive running, years of reporting and writing books on running, and parenting and coaching, he’s honest and humorous recalling his early years coaching his own 9-year-old daughter, Allison, with way too much intensity. (photo credit at left: kids

After he saw a picture of Allison standing stiff as a brick, tense, at the start of an important race (instead of confident and relaxed), he realized her weak results were due to his own nagging advice and last-minute race strategies…

He talks about her potential, the ‘Olympic dream’, blinding him from the deeper purpose of running. Now, wiser and self-reflecting, Bloom draws us in with his life lessons, acquired knowledge, and real life stories.

He ventures through interviews with doctors, coaches, and kids, attending community fun-runs, school P.E. programs, and very disciplined track practices with ‘zero tolerance’ for laziness and a tough love philosophy.

And since he comes from a personal point of view, he earns readers trust through out the book as he takes on each chapter labeled “Running with”…e.g. “Running with a Head Start” (chapter 1), “Running with Smiles” (chapter 2), “Running with Young Racers (chapter 3), and so on, hitting everything from school programs, to private clubs, to training regimens for every age and level—even gender issues and running for special-needs kids.

He covers a lot of ground…so to speak.

Shaping Youth: What’s the ‘zinger’ that makes this book different from “healthy-how-to” books? What’s Marc Bloom’s take on the obesity epidemic and causal links? (e.g. is it media/marketing, parents, cutbacks in P.E., safety/access to the outdoors etc.)

Girls Are Champions: Bloom generates the overall philosophy of living smart and healthy, but the zinger in Young Runners is how he shows us over and over that the effects of running is much more profound than physical health.

Regular practice and participation, especially with guidance and support from parents, can help “raise children to respect their bodies, relate better to others, take responsibility for their actions, and treat people with fairness and decency.”  Now, that sounds extraordinary.

burgerA fantastic advocate for this message is Dr. Brenda Armstrong—associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center, dean of admissions at Duke Medical School, and coach and expert in youth running. She sees in her daily pediatric cardiology practice the sad effects of childhood obesity.

Because they receive little or no encouragement to apply healthy habits at home, obese children are put on weight-reduction drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and even getting surgical procedures to protect them from the complications of obesity.

As adults, we have the opportunity to teach kids to incorporate active play, experience the pure fun of running, and allow kids to make progress and choices based on self-fulfillment. In nearly every city across America, the influences of an on-demand, high tech, online social-networking lifestyle pervades the sedentary and often isolated habits of young people.

We aren’t prioritizing health because we’re either too busy achieving or too busy sitting. Bloom speaks up, saying that America can stand to get in touch with family (as in preparing and eating healthy meals together and playing outside together).

Plus, there are many benefits in joining various community events—not to win, or just get out of a chair, but to feel better about yourself and build meaningful relationships.

Shaping Youth: What’s your favorite part of the book?

What really resonated with you as a coach, a parent, a writer and an educator?

runner-bookmarkGirls Are Champions:

My favorite part of the book is in chapter three, “Running with Young Racers” Bloom paints a scene giving us access to a happy, family-scurrying day at Battlefield Park in Manalapan, New Jersey.

On a hot day of 90 degrees-plus, families show up in droves with strollers, toddlers, older kids, water bottles, and hats. The smell of sunblock floats in the air as parents pin on race numbers to their kids’ shirts for the Kids Summer Nights Running Series.

As a reader, I’m tickled with the description of little brothers and sisters holding hands, parents with coolers and goodies, and everyone coming out to cheer on the participants in the “Toddler Trot” (ages 18 mos – 3 yrs), the “50 yard dash” (4 yrs and up), the “100 yard charge, (5 yrs and up), and several other races for older participants (even adults).

What a blast!

Grown-ups lead the little ones in stretching games, like Simon Says ‘touch your toes’ to get the kids limbered up. Each child is dressed in anything moveable, T-shirts, tank shirts, or soccer jerseys.

Bloom writes comprehensively, weaving in helpful tips for running safely in the heat, actual interviews of young athletes with running goals, and a gentle quip about overzealous parents who may scream and overcoach their children (even after the race is over). The message is clear, though—running is FUN! Get out, meet new friends, and truly allow kids to flourish in the environment.

Shaping Youth: With all the P.E. cutbacks and emergence of media and screen time for exergaming to lure kids back into enthusiasm for active pursuits, where does the author stand on physical fitness within school environs?

Girls Are Champions: Actually, in “Running with Healthy Schools,” chapter four, Bloom utilizes a quote from a Virginia P.E. teacher. The simplicity and honesty sets the tone perfectly for this section: Rich Dexter says to his young students, “On spring break, I want you to run. If you run only from the fridge to the couch, that’s enough.” Through out the entire book, readers can feel the heart of this teacher and many other caring adults…

Healthy schools are NOT about a fancy building or expensive equipment.

He talks about a fun run and mega-marathon race enthusiastically attended by local families led by a group of passionate Marines. It coincides with St. Patrick’s Day each year: the color green, four leaf clovers, leprechauns everywhere, even one of the teachers wears a green wig as he prompts the kids to run, run run!

kidstrackTo prepare for the annual race, the school takes on a Fitnessgram Pacer Test to gradually increase their fitness level and endurance capacity. Each child has a fitness portfolio and is regularly challenged in P.E. classes to make improvements and reach higher goals through the year.

The results make you smile, maybe even cry, as you learn about these young children trying their best, and, who don’t even have a pair of running shoes in many cases…As Bloom fills out the chapter with sections on unity and tolerance, community support, and thriving on fitness goals, he wraps it up with a list of 32 straight points on how any school can emulate this same style of motivation and guidance.

It takes some effort, but it’s based on similar methods to structuring a successful academic program. It includes planning, using a solid model for learning, record keeping, a rewards system, community involvement, and ends with a final point on Tradition:

“If you make running a school tradition, kids will look forward to running with little prodding and pass on the running attitude to each succeeding class.” And that’s the truth!

Shaping Youth: Thanks, Lisa, it’s ironic that you and our “Balanced Health and Nutrition” RD Rebecca Scritchfield are both strong runners. I am about as useless in that department as a fish out of water.

But as for water sports…we’ll talk. Can’t wait to get your kids out on the lagoon for some water-training wakeboard/waterski inner-tubing fun and beach volleyball this summer! Looks like the IOM is boosting the need for more Vitamin D/sunshine intake; another great reason to get outdoors!

rebecca-marathonREADERS: Our own S.Y. Correspondent Rebecca Scritchfield (at left) also writes for the network “Women Talk Sports” which should be on your radar if it isn’t already…

RUNNERS: (all ages/stages) Rebecca’s new Elite Nutrition site shows you just how serious she is as a runner and athlete with dietary consulting for the training/triathlete types…Way outta my league. Thrilled to have her onboard here lending us her knowledge and skill sets.

And…Coach Lisa Izzi of Girls Are (always on our sidebar!) will be back in June for ‘part two’ on fitness and athletics for kids, tackling her own coaching roles and first person struggles with body image and women in sports, as we veer towards summer fun and sports safety for the season ahead. (More on this topic re: the Beauty Mark Movie due Sept. 2009 too)

Related Shaping Youth Articles

+3 Network: Social Media Sponsorship Tool for Races!

Kidney Stones in Kindergarten? Put Down the Sports Drink Kiddo

Girls Sports Boosts Preteen Body Image & Self-Worth

Positive Coaching Alliance: Media Tips & Life Lessons

GLTR Girls: Girls Learn to Ride Creates Oceans of Self Esteem

Relevant Posts on Young Runners by Marc Bloom

Run Blog Run: Interview With Author Marc Bloom

Brief Chat w/Marc Bloom: RW Racing World

Teen Vogue: Top Running Tips for Teens/Marc Bloom

Bloom Provides Guide for Young Runners (NBS News)

Young Runners Book Hits All the Right Notes (Runner’s World)

Runner’s Worlds’ Kids Site

FREE Kids’ Running Bookmarks via USA Track & Field

And…A personal pick for inspiration of some ‘ageless’ runners: Washington Post May 5, 2009 by Jennifer LaRue Huget:

After Cancer & Chemo: What’s So Hard About A Little 13.1 Mile Run?

Visual Credits:, graphic



  1. Amy, you definitely were a marketer all these years as you have done an excellent job letting people know about my blogs and such! People can also follow me on Twitter @rebeccasportsRD

    Your post is so thorough I don’t have too much to add… except that kids need 1 hr a day of physical activity and most don’t get that. Schools certainly don’t offer enough phys ed.

    Sports is probably the best thing that can help shift from “screen time” to “green time” – out in the grass, on the track or in the pool. If this is a new change, it’s going to take some getting used to, but the more fun you have the quicker you’ll realize that moving is fun!


    Rebecca Scritchfield’s last blog post..Social Media Insights for Dietitians

  2. You are too funny, Rebecca…I’m proud to have you and Lisa aboard, that’s all…

    As a creative director/marketing type though, you’re right, I DID !go back into the post to add some visuals as it was copy intensive 😉

    That’s my biggest problem here…TOO MUCH INFORMATION! 😉

    Keep up the great work…we need you!

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Young Runners: A Media Must For Healthy Track Season

  3. Hi Amy,

    Thank you for this review. I have been scouring the net looking for just this type of information. Nutrition for young runners is a topic I am starting to look in to and found this article extremely informative.

  4. John Gatesby says

    Hi Amy,

    First time into your blog and the topic and the title of the book is something I relate with strongly. I remember during my teenage days at college, I always had an upset stomach, never went outstation unaccompanied my stomach ache and diarrhea tablets.

    Then I started running regularly, started with half a mile and soon started running 4 miles regularly uninterrupted and within a year all the stomach related issues got sorted out. So its really nice that kids are introduced to the running at a tender age, It will serve them well into their adulthood and they will enjoy good health.

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