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Anderson teaches local children how to stay active the correct way

Five-year-old Helen Bullen, from left, Wells Linton, 4, Sally-Hudson Linton, 6, Cooper Brumfield, 7, and Reid Burkley, 6, practice running Thursday along the bluff to prepare for a 1-mile fun run in which they’re participating on March 22. (Brittney Lohmiller \ The Natchez Democrat)
Five-year-old Helen Bullen, from left, Wells Linton, 4, Sally-Hudson Linton, 6, Cooper Brumfield, 7, and Reid Burkley, 6, practice running Thursday along the bluff to prepare for a 1-mile fun run in which they’re participating on March 22. (Brittney Lohmiller \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — In order to live a healthy lifestyle, one must walk before they run.

And it also helps to start at a young age.

Former Cathedral School cross-country coach Ashley Anderson came up with the idea to get children outdoors and active at an early age after her experience with children as a track coach.

“When I coached at Cathedral, the younger kids had no teachings of the basics of running, they were just thrown out on the track and didn’t know what to do,” Anderson said. “So I thought I’d target them early so when they get to the competitive level, they would understand the techniques and how to pace and everything that goes into it.”

The Miss-Lou Kids Run the Nation program has an emphasis on developing a healthy lifestyle as well as teaching the fundamentals of running.

Anderson said the objectives of the program are to develop cognitive, physical and social skills.

Participants in the program meet every Tuesday for children from kindergarten to second grade and every Thursday for children third grade through fifth grade.

The weekly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and will end with the Junior Auxiliary Run of The Kids on March 22.

Their first practice was Tuesday, and Anderson said she was happy with the mindset the children had to get active.

“They were excited about it,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to teach because they just want to sprint, but they have to learn the difference (between sprinting and jogging). If they run, they’ll burn out, but teaching them how to pace themselves will teach them how fast they need to run compared to the distance they are running.”

The day started with walking before building up to a jog. Once they learned how to jog, the children were on a full sprint — and they quickly learned what it felt like to be burned out.

But Anderson said the main struggle is not dedication, as the children are willing to run and get active. Staying motivated in the freezing temperatures Natchez experienced recently is the most difficult thing, Anderson said.

“It’s cold right now, and it’s hard to teach some of the techniques like where to keep their arms and their hands because they just want to put their hands in their pockets,” she said.

Anderson said the Junior Auxiliary would be the ultimate test to see the children implement what they’ve learned in the program.

“It’s a 1-mile fun run, and the little ones will be in tip-top shape to run the 1 mile and learn how to pace themselves,” she said. “Some of the fifth graders might be able to do the 5K.”

Anderson said her main purpose for this program is to initiate a healthy lifestyle the children would keep for the rest of their lives.

“I want to pass on that passion to them,” Anderson said. “All you have to do is put on your tennis shoes and go outside.”

For more information about joining the Miss-Lou Kids Run the Nation, call Anderson at 225-931-5144.