Most parents face a few problems when trying to maintain a running habit. Finding time away from the kids and their daily schedules is one, but arguably harder is when either your small child simply has to come along, or — best-case scenario — he or she wants to join the fun. Any time your child wants to run with you, it’s great, but it’s certainly not without its challenges.
Here are 10 ways to make it through your runs without any tears — from your child or yourself:
START BY WALKING
If your kids have never run before, start by going on walks as a family, maybe throwing in a few fartlek sprints along the way. Practice running down the block or to the next telephone pole throughout the walk, but stick to a slow, casual pace. The conditioning adds up over a few months, and eventually, those quick run spurts become the norm while the walk breaks begin to decrease. Bonus: Bringing kids along for walking errands helps free up time for your run.
IGNORE THE NUMBERS
Running with a stroller or with your preteen means you may not end up doing the run you wanted to do or hitting a new PR. “Don’t get caught up in numbers, pace, etc.,” says Rachael Mirvish, a runner and mother of two. “You will be stopping lots. Just enjoy that you’re running.” In fact, Jennifer Faraone, author of “The Athletic Mom-To-Be,” says her top tip is to avoid comparing yourself to … yourself. You won’t be the same runner with your kids by your side — and you might have to tamp down the urge to smoke your 9-year-old in a sprint. Just let him win sometimes.
INVEST IN A GOOD JOGGER OR CHARIOT
Every running mom and dad said the same thing: When running with a child small enough to stay in a stroller, invest in a baby jogger or chariot that will last and endure whatever run you’re on. Pro tip from mom Donna Wolf: Plan to leave just ahead of naptime so your little one can snooze in the stroller while you log your long run. Runner mom Krista Allen reminds new moms and dads to remember to put sunscreen on, especially on the tops of their hands and forearms.
PLAN FOR LOTS OF STOPS
Between bathroom breaks and snack stops, you’re not going to be logging super consistent times. You may have to take more breaks — or get sneaky and bring more snacks. “Don’t assume your kid is going to like/do things like someone else’s kids,” says Anna McLoon a mom and runner. “Some infants — once they’re old enough to ride in a stroller — tolerate long runs, but ours did not last much longer than the snacks held out.”
FIND THE FUN RUNS
If you have kids who are on the fence about the whole ‘running thing,’ consider finding a couple local fun runs and sign them up. That way, they can see other kids their age out running and having a good time, and the party atmosphere might just be enough to get them hooked. “It got them excited about achieving something and competing,” adds Cohen. Plus, if you have kids of different ages, this offers a chance for all of them to go out and do something at their own pace.
DON’T PUSH IT
Some kids won’t enjoy running, whether in a stroller or alongside you. You may have visions of the perfect mother-daughter day on the trails, while your daughter would rather cozy up with a good book in a hammock. That’s OK. Don’t try to mold your kid into a runner, let it happen naturally.
ADD A BIKE OR SCOOTER
If you have a teen who can run alongside you and a 7-year-old who can’t quite keep up, grab a prop: With a scooter or a bike, a younger child can keep up. But make sure your little shredder is actually skilled on the scooter before you let him or her rip. If your 5-year-old just learned to ride a bike, she may not be ready to tackle a five-miler.
TRY THE TRACK
Whether you’re pushing a baby jogger, running with a 5-year-old or running with a 7-year-old plus a 14-year-old, a local school’s track might be the perfect solution for combining a hard workout for you with easy family time. Because it’s one oval, your kids can start with you but go off at their own pace if they’d prefer. If they get bored, you can send them to the middle of the track to play with the long jump or just toss a ball around, while you finish with a few hard sprint efforts.
READ MORE > 5 REASONS TRACK RUNNING IS THE BEST
TAKE CARE OF YOU
Running with a stroller or just changing your stride to accommodate shorter legs, can lead to potential injury issues, like IT Band Syndrome or plantar fasciitis. Avoid compensating by being careful with your feet, paying attention to your stride (using the Under Armour HOVR shoes tracks your run stride and cadence) and being even more body aware than usual.
Cohen says her best bonding time with her teenage daughter is when the two of them are running together — a practice she’s been cultivating for 10 years. The time on the trails gives them an opportunity to chat about anything, and for parents looking for better ways to connect with your kids, there’s no better way than getting fresh air, exercise and meditative moments together. Plus, if you end with a mommy-and-me breakfast at the hotspot in town, you’re the cool mom, not just the fit mom.