How Can I Get My Teenager to Listen to My Training Advice?

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Dear Dumb Runner,
I used to be pretty quick. Like, 1:28 half-marathon quick. I ran both track and cross country in university. I seriously know about running! But I sort of wrecked myself three years ago trying to qualify for Boston. Since then, it's been a frustrating start and stop as a new injury would crop up as soon as we fixed one. I've been doing hot yoga for a year. A YEAR.

Enter my 14-year-old daughter, who started running three years ago. She has already notched a national title in her age group for trail racing, and had a ton of cross country success. I can't keep up with her. She laps me in mile repeats and smacks me in the butt.  

Whenever I try to offer training advice to her, she and my ex-husband both roll their eyes. It's like they don't remember that I. USED.TO.BE.FAST! How can I get that credibility back without looking like a total loser with my "remember when you were 6 and I won that half-marathon?" Help me recapture my former glory so my kid will listen to me!—Trish, Calgary, Canada
 

Dear Trish,
Your question actually appears to be three questions, all intertwined. 

First, it sounds like you want advice on how to return to your days of 1:28 half-marathons. Second, and related to that, is how to shake those stubborn injuries once and for all. And third, ultimately, how to re-establish your fast-runner bona fides with your family.

The answer to the first question is, "You probably can't, exactly—but with time and patience I bet you'll come close." The answer to the second is, "I know next to nothing about injuries except that they require time, sometimes lots of it, to heal." (See answer to first question.)

If it's any consolation, I do have some thoughts on the third thing—regaining the respect of your daughter. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Stressing to your teenage daughter that you "used to be fast" will get you nowhere. In fact, the louder and more insistent you are about it, I suspect, the harder she will roll her eyes. And, as you suggest, you'll demean yourself in the bargain. So forget that approach.
  • You might consider the possibility that your daughter's behavior has less to do with running than it does with her own life stage. Teens aren't too keen on taking any sort of advice from their parents, are they?
  • Not to go all talk-therapy on you, but are you sure it's your daughter's and ex-husband's respect you're seeking? Or is it your own? I imagine it's very discouraging to go from being "pretty quick" to having chronic injuries force you into hot yoga for a year. (A YEAR!) Just growing older and slower naturally is hard enough—and I say that from experience, not my imagination.

Here's where I'm going with all of this: You might do well to lay off the training advice. At least for a while. Give your daughter some room, even if that means making a few mistakes. Over time—especially as you heal and get back into running, which I hope you will—I bet your daughter will come around. Who knows? Someday she may even approach you and ask for your advice.

I hope this helps! Good luck to you.

Yours,
Mark


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