4 Tactics to Run As a Family (And Enjoy It)

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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4 Tactics to Run As a Family (And Enjoy It)

Summer is here, which means the kids are out of school and constantly looking to you for things to do. This probably complicates your usual training routine, however, it doesn’t have to. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get your family involved while you get your miles in. This doesn’t mean they have to be there for every single run you do — in fact, you may find that some days it is better if you just sneak in some miles before everyone is out of bed.

“I just think keeping things light and fun for your family is key,” shares Carrie Tollefson, a 2004 U.S. Olympian and National Fitness Director for Moms on the Run. “I love to work out but a lot of times it is best for everyone if I just get up and get it done. [It] makes me a better mom and wife and leaves the rest of the day for my kids to take center stage when need be.”

For the days you aren’t early to rise, here are a few tips and tricks from runners and coaches — who are also moms — on how to make your family an integral part of your training:



There are more ways to keep your kids close during a run than just having them trail you on a bike. That is a great option, however, and one many families do to get the whole family involved in a workout. It works for Tollefson and her family and she likens them to a ‘circus show’ when they’re out together.

“We have a tandem bike that my husband and oldest daughter will ride and then they pull the two little guys in the stroller,” she reveals. “It is quite the scene but it works — and occasionally we will take a dip in the splash pad or stop for some ice cream if it fits in after the run, as well.”

If your children are too young or all ride at different speeds, running at a track is a great option. The kids can keep themselves occupied by playing on the grass and you can keep a close eye on them as you run laps. A key part of this is to explain track etiquette to them so they don’t run in front of anyone who may be doing intervals and avoid a potential collision.

“Set up a play area for your kids at the track infield to entertain themselves while you run laps around the track,” suggests Shelly Binsfeld, a mom, running coach and founder of Running Coach Shelly. “When interested, invite them to join you even if you need to slow your pace.  Once they tire, they can walk back to their play area.”

If neither of those options work for you, you always have the option of stroller running or even running during after-school or weekend sports practices. Keep an extra pair of running shoes in your car at all times in case the opportunity to get in a few strides or extra miles presents itself.



Of course, biking alongside you is more fun if your kids and husband truly feel like they are an integral part of your training. If they can’t join you on the run itself, especially if it is a high-mileage day that will take awhile to complete, you can have them join you for some strength training in front of your house afterward.

“Plyometrics and strengthening exercises are usually done in one location and can be adapted to each person’s fitness level,” notes Binsfeld. “Demonstrating for your family and then creating a circuit, relay race or an obstacle course can drive interest and create memories.”

Of course, anyone who has children knows it can be difficult to get time in with your spouse or significant other, so using some of your training runs to catch up with one another is a great way to get in your training and get some kid-free time.

“We pay for a sitter to go for a run and maybe grab dinner even if we are a little sweaty after,” shares Tollefson. “Nice way to get it all in!”



The most challenging run to fit in with a full schedule — and kids — is the long run. When training for a marathon, this one run can take hours, which means more time away and a potentially very early wake up. Organization and prioritizing is key when prepping for this run because of possible time constraints.

“The night before a long run, I like to have my clothes, gear and fuel all laid out and ready to go,” explains Tia Stone, running coach and voice behind Arkansas Runner Mom. “This minimizes the prep time in the morning. Long runs take the longest amount of time but if you are organized and have support from family, you can get it done.”

Tollefson shares that she takes it a step further and will often sleep in her running clothes to minimize prep time getting out the door for a long run.

Another key is to remember that long runs don’t have to only be done on the weekend. It may require some extra creativity when planning your family schedule, but a mid-week long run is completely doable if necessary. Binsfeld even suggests splitting up your long run, if needed, into two smaller runs in one day, in order to get your mileage in.

“Don’t forget the advantage of doubles; two runs a day or a late evening run followed by an early morning run,” she explains. “You can induce adaptation by covering 1/2–2/3 of the distance during your first run, finishing the miles on a second run. For example, run your usual 6 mile morning run and then at lunch or in the afternoon, run 4 miles to add up for a total of 10 miles for the day.”



Finally, a great way to have your kids involved in your training is to make them a part of your race day. Many races have a kid’s race attached to the event, should your kids not be old enough to run an entire race with you, such as a 5K.

“My kids have all run their first few races with a parent; when they are very young this might include running in a fun run attached to a 5K or 10K that I’m doing,” notes Stone. “When they are a little older, I find race distances better suited to them such as a 1-mile race, 2-mile race or a 5K when they are ready. I also try to find a race that I have done in the past so I know it is safe and well organized.”

The main thing to remember when helping your kids train for a race of their own is to keep it light and fun. Additionally, don’t feel the need to police their form or speed; they will probably run too fast and move awkwardly, but at their age it is completely OK and they will develop the right technique and pacing over time.

“Don’t worry if your children don’t know how to pace themselves and only run fast,” reassures Binsfeld. “The development of speed throughout childhood will be advantageous when they are in their teen and adult years. When being active with children, use it as a time to learn about their lives and interests. Treat the time together as a chance to make memories and grow your friendship.”


About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.


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