I certainly am not an expert on running, but I have found over the past couple years that running with my toddlers is easier than trying to find a time to run without them. It is definitely physically harder, but I have found confidence in my strength after every run pushing a giant stroller (aka “the bus”). Here are just a few tips and tricks that I have found to work based on many mistakes and some successes.
1. Start Slow
Before kids, I have dabbled in distance running here and there, but consistently run a few miles a week, but running post kids with a stroller was a new game. About three months ago, I started running with the double stroller, which at first seemed like an impossible task. My first few runs (which were not frequent because of the winter months) were only 1 – 2 miles at a rate that was 1 minute slower than I usually run. I embraced this change because I realized I was pushing 50 pounds of kids plus 33 pounds of a stroller and that was a completely different workout within it self.
After many runs over the past month, I was able to increase my stamina and can run 3 – 4 miles close to the same rate I run without the double stroller. This took a mile increase over the course of 1-2 weeks. I realized that this slow progress actually helped me increase my time on my individual runs that are infrequent. It takes time to adjust mentally and physically; running with either a single or double stroller is not the same, and the distance and pace will not be the same.
2. Be Prepared
My preparation for a run takes what I feel as long as the run. I have at least 3 snack options for each kid and plan it right after nap, so they are hungry. I rarely use all the snack options but a three year old and 18 month old change their minds all the time. One go-to snack that I always have a few pack in the stroller is trail mix; my 3 year old spends most of the run categorizing all the different nuts after he has eaten all the M&Ms and giving his brother the only nuts I allow him to eat. Sometimes Frank helps me prep the snacks while we wait for George to wake up. Yesterday, he wanted a bag of sliced bell pepper instead of apple slices.
I am not against bribes for running either; it is my sanity, and I need my kids to comply for me to be a good mother. My goal for yesterday’s run (pictured above) was 4 miles, but F was insistent on jelly beans (which I bribe him with to take a nap), and I had no jelly beans with me (he only wanted three). Since I was out of trail mix, peppers, and a packet, I was at a loss and realized my run was over. I will definitely be packing jelly beans for all future runs.
I have yet to bring along a tablet or Ipad but think that can be a good idea too. We have been watching enough shows that I hate to start that habit yet, but when nothing else works, I think this is a feasible next best step.
3. Be Flexible
This is hard for a planner like me. When I put this much prep into a run, I want it to be the best run I am going to have. Unfortunately, those with toddlers know this is just like anything in our lives these days. I generally set out on a run with a shorter distance goal (3 miles right now) and a slower pace (10:30 a mile). For yesterday’s run, that was my goal (but I really wanted to get 4 miles in), and I was blindsided by a ravenous jelly bean toddler (story above) and only ran 3.3 miles at an almost 11 minute mile. I had to tell myself that this is about flexibility in my goals, and at least I got a run in!
4. Give Some Control to the Toddlers
I realized during a recent run that Frank was pointing and steering during my runs in the park. I asked him what he was doing, and he proudly told me “driving the stroller”. The next run once we got to a park that has very windy sidewalks and lots of options, I told him to point in the direction he wanted me to go in. This gave me 2 more miles than I expected even if I was running in circles at times.
I make sure that we get to the park before I give that control or sometimes he will navigate towards home far earlier than desired (my husband actually witnessed that). I understand this is not perfect for everyone, but I have enjoyed doing this and it keeps him occupied. Now George is interested is navigating…not sure how this is going to work with two! I will find out!
5. Enjoy Those Solo Runs
This seems obvious, but on the weekends when my husband is around to help, I can barely tie my shoes before I race out the door!