Training doesn’t have to take away from family life! As promised in our previous post, this article will outline some very practical ways that we balance life and fitness with small children.
If you don’t have children, would you mind sharing this article with someone who does? We hope to support our friends in all walks of life and fitness. As always, we love topic suggestions! Please let us know in the comments below or contact us directly.
“Do it. It’s not going to be perfect. They are going to whine and cry. But, the more you do it, the more opportunities to enjoy it. I think having a long view is key. Just because one bike ride/run isn’t fun, doesn’t mean they all will be that way. There will be lots of sweet moments as you learn and grow as a family.”Nicole Dufendach, mother of 4
Parenting is hard. We often post the smiley photos of our runs, but there are just as many times the kids cry, we lose toys out of the jogger, and we struggle to make it out the door due to an explosive diaper or a toddler tantrum.
This is meant to equip and encourage. Because it’s so worth it!
The Park Run
Don’t want to skip out on the family for the evening? Bring them along. If one of us needs to run again, we like to go to a park as a family. Zach, for instance, will run around the park where the kids and I can see him. The kids cheer and Zach gives high-fives, and the kids still get to play at the park.
We’ve found the park run to be a good way to minimize the absence that sometimes high mileage training creates.
Proximity offers connection. Plus, this gets us all out of the house and is usually quite easy on both parents.
The Track Day
Similar to park runs, family track days are a fun option for the whole family. Except we use this one when we both need to run.
Our criteria for The Track Day is
- an empty and fenced in track,
- our kids are in decent moods, and
- our workouts are flexible.
Bring some toys to play on the field. If the kids play soccer, have them practice their drills. If both parents are running, the key is to alternate repeats on the track so that during your “rest lap” you can attend to kids if need be. It is a priority for kids to stay safe and out of other runners way. Often we are the only people on the track in a given evening, so this works for us because we can see and attend to our children at any moment.
Of course, for the ages of our children (1.5yr & 3yr), there must always be a plan B (usually a stoller run).
Most recently, we spent an evening just jogging about the track. Zach did some of his run barefoot in the grass for some active recovery. We both were able to attend to the kids since we didn’t have any intense repetitions. They really didn’t need too much attention though. The boys were highly entertained by the toys, snacks, and squirt bottles we brought for them (it was hot!).
The Bike + Run
Whether you have a bike trailer, older kids on bikes, or a spouse or family member riding alongside you during a run, adding a relational component will help with balance.
We have drawn on the wisdom of experts to help with tips for those who have kids who are able to cycle.
Based on their reflections I have put together a list.
- Motivate with a destination. “Reward your little bikers with a desirable destination like the park, dinner out, or the ice cream shop. This breaks up the trip and provides extra motivation.” – Eliza Owens, mother of 3
- Find a paved trail. Seems like just about everywhere we travel, we have little trouble finding a good bike path.
- Hold expectations loosely. TIP: You may not want to choose a day where high mileage or a certain pace is required. “It’s helpful to have proper expectations with what your kids are capable of as well as equipping them to succeed.” – Nicole Brunner, mother of 3
- Plan an appropriate duration. “Keep the duration age-appropriate. Since we still have a little one in the bike cart, we found our family does well with a 40 minute bike ride and a break in between. We plan to adjust as our kids grow and mature.” – Owens
- Consider safety solutions.
“Invest in a tagalong bike or two. We love these because the kids can exercise as little or as much as they’d like. It allows kids to develop balance and coordination, and it leaves the parents in control of their safety (e.g Keeping out of trail traffic’s way and stopping at stop signs).” – Owens
“My kids are at the stage where they can all bike faster than I can run. So I have them bike and I run. They will circle me (large circles) or just wait at the next stop sign.” – Brunner
The Stroller Run
At face value, a stroller run may not be very relational, but chatting with our boys and singing along to music we all love definitely help.
Also, ending at a park or ice cream really incentivizes the stroller run for our little family. Bribery has been clutch to making the stroller run more attractive for our boys.
Here’s how we make it work…
- Make a plan.
- End at a park? Ice cream? Will you need to be near a bathroom for potty training?
- Avoid roads without a shoulder.
- Avoid dirt roads. (I did a 20-mile run pushing Miles on dirt and gravel when he was little. It was really hilly too. Please learn from my mistake/suffering! Choose paved trails for strollers!)
- Avoid tire trouble.
- Make sure you have full tires. It’s soooo hard to push a stroller with flat tires (just ask Zach…).
- Lock your front tire. Although a swiveling wheel is much easier for walking (especially in a crowd) locking the front tire adds to the stability of your stroller when you are running.
- Buckle up!
- I know this seems super obvious. True confession: one time on a short walk we did not buckle Miles. We were only going across the parking lot. He, of course, tried to climb out and got whacked by the stroller.
- If you no longer need the red strap for a car seat, you can use it to keep toys strapped in.
THINGS TO BRING
- Diapers and wipes
- Spray bottle
- Money (because it’s bad form to promise ice cream to children but have no way to buy it for them.)
Anything else you bring along for the kids? We have found the joggers to be one of the most important investments for our running and health as parents. We have done hundreds of stroller miles in the past three years. In that time, we’ve both trained for marathons. Running without the jogger is important too and that is why we have included The Park Run and The Track Day suggestions. Although this isn’t a whole family event, I strongly advocate doing a running group as well.
And one more compelling way to maximize strollers: food delivery. Zach has been seen, on several occasions, pushing strollers laden with Little Caesar’s Pizza, Burger Shack burgers and fries, and even fajitas. It’s amazing how much fits in the undercarriage of a B.O.B. Revolution.
The Social Stroll
If both you and your spouse run, try finding other couples or families who are interested in doing the same. The added value of building friendships and relationships will help avoid distance running isolation. Zach and I have discovered an imbalance in our lives at times. In the past, we have forfeited nurturing our friendships. In more recent days, we have tried to cultivate friendships by running with others.
As we mentioned in our previous post The Balance: Life & Fitness, we recently went on a short stroller run with friends and had dinner after. This was a much better solution than saying, “No. Zach needs to run.” Thankfully, our friends are flexible and have similar family goals.
The Healthy Extras
I have neglected the maintenance part of running to hurry back to children. Anyone else guilty of this? I have spent far too much time regretting that I didn’t stretch after a run.
News alert. Your children may love doing it with you, or at least climbing all over you while you stretch, do drills, and other exercises. Miles has started asking me to do yoga. I have finally discovered I can include the boys in my pre- & post-run routines.
If your kids are NOT having it, there are other solutions. I observed a friend yesterday load up the kids, and then do a little stretching by the vehicle before taking off. Again, using snacks and other distractions can help you get a moment or two of exercises.
BONUS TIP: Music seems to create more contented kids while we are doing stretches and exercises. It may work for your kiddos too!
As always, we welcome your input and suggestions. Have an idea for a blog post? We would love to hear from you.
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