There’s a good chance that when you have kids, you picture the perfect Saturday morning going something like this: Wake up early (that won’t change). Drink coffee (that definitely won’t change). Grab the kid and the new (state-of-the-art!) jogging stroller, and head out for 10 blissful miles, followed by a big pancake breakfast and, probably, more coffee.
The more likely scenario? Well, let’s just say it’s a little less blissful and organized – but it can still be blissful, whether your kids are toddlers or teenagers. Sharing your passion for running with your children can be downright thrilling. But if you don’t plan accordingly, it can also be disastrous.
Not quite sure how to navigate the many miles ahead? Heed this advice from parents on the run who have been there, run it, and learned from it.
1. Let them want to run
“Don’t force it,” says Chris Heuisler, father of two. “They’ll learn about the sport by watching you run. However, when the opportunity presents itself, show them what it means to be strong. Show them Shalane Flanagan winning the New York City Marathon, or Meb Kefleighi winning Boston. Bring them into the sport by introducing them to our superstars. The more they see them, the more they’ll understand our passion.”
2. It can be good for the whole family – even the non-runners!
“My wife got me a running stroller for my first Father’s Day, and it’s been a game-changer in our household,” says Ben Kamlet, father to 15-month-old Harlow.
“I love running with my daughter every weekend because it’s an hour that it’s just the two of us. She’s relaxed taking in the sights of the bay and the ocean, and sometimes she naps, but when she’s awake, she loves it! She’s always clapping and waving to people on the route – unreal levels of cute.”
“And while it’s great for me, it’s also great for my wife. She gets some extra time to sleep in or get stuff done without a kid tugging at her. She’s thankful for the brief period of freedom. I hope running becomes something Harlow looks forward to as she grows up; that it teaches her to get up and get moving, and that it can be a fun way to start each weekend and achieve a goal on days when you don’t always have a goal to fulfil.”
3. Make playground stops
“My usual route was to run 1.5 miles to the park, let my son swing in the swings for a while, and then run home,” says Kristin Miller.
4. Always carry cash
“I got a flat on one of the wheels of the jogging stroller when we were a mile from home,” says Miller. “I was 75 cents short to fill the tire with air. Fortunately, a nice man at the gas station happily gave me the change, otherwise I would’ve been stranded!”
5. Save your must-do workout for another time
“I never plan for the run to be a workout,” says Abby Bales, mom to Henry and Caitlyn. “Instead, it’s an easy run for however long my kid will tolerate it. He likes to point out airplanes flying over Central Park and waves to people as we run by. It’s very laid back — and we usually make at least one stop halfway in for him to run his sillies out.”
6. Consider stroller running built-in strength training!
“When you’re running with a stroller, you aren’t looking for speed — but you do gain strength and stamina,” says Shanna Sparks Burnette. “That combined with some fast intervals, and you’ll be a much stronger runner than you were before.”
7. BYO H20, snacks, and diapers
“For the stroller-running set, always pack water, a snack cup, spare diapers, wipes, and a changing pad in the undercarriage,” says Billy Henehan, dad to Violet. “You don’t want to be five miles from home with a suddenly very stinky and uncomfortable toddler.”
8. Adjust your handlebars accordingly
“Change up the handlebar positions every now and then during your run if your stroller allows it,” says Henehan. “And definitely stretch your arms and shoulders after your run. Sometimes I feel like stroller running is more grueling for my arms than it is for my legs!”
9. Embrace your inner tough mom or dad
“If you want to feel really hardcore, sprint up a hill with your full jogging stroller, passing stroller-less runners along the way,” says Henehan. “Then head back down the hill and do it again.”
10. Expect to deal with a range of emotions along the way
“Be prepared to deal with crying, whining kids for some of the runs,” says Lindsey Hein, mom to Marshall, Louis, and Russell. “It’s just gonna happen. YOLO.”
11. Sing at your own risk
“Don’t try and sing your usual lullabies if your kid is getting fussy,” says Molly Tafrate, mom to Trey. “It really messes with your breathing. Trust me.”
12. Just a reminder not to force it
“I grew up running with my parents – getting up early and running before school or work, racing together, even running with my dad after a very late night out once,” says Claire Gallagher, mom to Molly.
“Now that I’m a parent myself, I still enjoy these morning runs, and I like to think my kid does, too, even though she’s still stroller bound. But I never force her to come with me, since I want her to grow up with positive associations of running and sports. I try to plan shorter runs around nearby playgrounds, and longer ones around nap time.”
13. It’s not impossible – promise!
“It is possible to throw a pacifier at your kid in the stroller at mile 3.05 of a 5K and still hit your goal time,” says Tafrate.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.