I'm a big proponent of keeping kids active. And I don't care how gimmicky the premise is, getting kids moving and keeping them moving -- well, that's always a win.
Of course, it's also a challenge. Kids don't want to exercise if they think of it as drudgery. That's just the way they're made. (We adults are made that way too, for that matter, but kids are way more vocal about it). So the challenge becomes finding ways to create forms of physical activity that kids can get excited about. And just about every sport has risen to the occasion on this, developing programs designed to stimulate kids' interests and imaginations.
One of these trends is obstacle course racing or OCR. Or to be more precise, mini-obstacle racing. You've all heard about regular obstacle racing, but this is the junior version of the program, which includes shorter courses and more manageable (translation: less scary) obstacles, so that children can take part. Proponents of OCR say kids see their parents and older siblings competing in adult obstacle races, and want to do the same thing. According to them, it's a way of letting them try their wings in a controlled environment.
The Spartan Kids race, brought to you by the same people who put on the grown-up Spartan races -- has two age-group versions. The Junior Spartans obstacle course race is for kids ages 4-8, and the Varsity Spartans race is for ages 9-13. A video on the site shows kids running up hills and through mud, as well as crawling under and through various obstacles. All kids get a T-shirt and a finisher's medal, and proceeds benefit a charity that supports kids' fitness.
It's not by any means the only event, though. All over, it seems, events are capitalizing on kids' love of getting dirty, having fun and running around. The Dirty Pumpkin Run, for example, features an event for "mini-mudders" ages 4-7.
So there you go. A serious wow factor, and a bragging point for kids to impress their friends at school or on the playground. We've already seen triathlons offered strictly for kids, so perhaps this is another weapon in arsenal when it comes to the war on childhood obesity.
But then again, I'm not a parent. If you are, I'm asking you to check out the site and the video and then to weigh in. Would you encourage your kid to try this out? Would you stick with a more traditional form of exercise? Or would you wait and see if your kid heard about this from a friend or classmate, and wanted to participate? You're the parent - and if you're reading this, you have an interest in fitness too. Let's hear your thoughts.