Inspiring GOTR Girls to Go the Distance

As Girls on the Run coaches, we’ve all been there: It’s a few weeks into your season, the amount of time spent running is increasing and you start to hear, “Do I realllyyyyy have to run today?”

In my six years of Girls on the Run experience, I’ve noticed many reasons why girls may not want to run. Some girls may feel nervous about running and they’re unsure if they can even complete a full lap — so not trying at all just feels more comfortable.

Oftentimes, a girl doesn’t think she’ll be be able to run as well as another girl. Even though you’ve spent the past few weeks encouraging girls that Girls on the Run (and life) isn’t a competition, but rather about doing their personal best, there are still girls who may feel pressure and stress due to comparison. Sometimes, the girls are simply just tired!

Even the most confident girls can feel overwhelmed by a long-distance run. So, how do we motivate the girls to run or “walk with a purpose,” as I like to say, when that’s the last thing on their mind? Keep reading for ideas to help your girls overcome their resistance to running!

Stick to what already works.

Keep using lap counters that your girls already love! Try giving them motivational popsicle sticks to toss into a bucket for every lap completed. Another fun option is painting a girl’s fingernail for each completed lap. My girls have fun marking their hand or arm with washable markers each time they complete a lap. If you need ideas for lap counters, check out this post!

Have multiple options and let the girls choose.

Let each girl decide how she wants to track her laps and be open to new ideas. Asking for the girls’ input makes them feel like their voice matters and gives validity to their ideas. Giving them this choice gives them a sense of ownership over their goals. This sense of ownership leads to self-accountability and when this happens, kids are more likely persevere toward and meet their goal.

I once had one girl who absolutely loved to draw (she was quite good at it, too), yet she had no interest in running. She would leisurely walk, pick at the trees, draw in the dirt, etc. So, I told her that I wanted her to draw a Girls on the Run-themed picture that we could put on a poster for the 5K. For every lap she ran, she would add to her picture. It took her about four practices to finish the picture, and she ended up running all of her laps every time. Use what you know about your girls — and be creative!

Run with your girls!

I cannot stress this one enough. Run or walk (with a purpose) with your girls, and ask about their day. Ask about their weekend plans, who they like to play with and what they like to do with the people who matter to them. This is a great opportunity to get to know the girls and show them that you value them. Running or walking with them also shows that you value physical activity. Kids model their behavior after the adults in their lives. If they see you running or walking, they’ll be more likely to see it as something positive and beneficial that they should be choosing to do as well.

For those who are limited in physical ability, do what feels comfortable for you. As I recovered from a injury one season, I wasn’t able to run with my girls. Instead, I’d station myself about halfway through the lap and stop the girls as they got to me. I would pick an exercise (squats, lunges, push-ups, etc.) for the girls to do with me before they could pass. Then, I’d encourage them by telling them they were doing great and remind them to finish strong!

So, now that you have these tried and true techniques for motivating your girls, get out there and HAVE FUN!

Interested in inspiring a girl to go the distance — or maybe even challenging yourself ? Click here to learn more about becoming a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run!

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