Do your kids beg you to let them tag along on your runs? If so, pause and give yourself a big pat on the back. Their begging means they look up to you as a strong role model. It also means they notice your healthy lifestyle and want to copy it.
Although having your kids ask to run with you is a major compliment, it can still ignite a bit of stress. After all, running is often the only solitary time for many mom runners and, when you begin to run with kids in tow, it can feel like you’re giving up one more thing for everyone else. Feeling that way is OK. It means you understand the importance of self-care and also that you hold it sacred.
The good news is that you can run with kids occasionally tagging along, teach them valuable life lessons along the journey AND preserve your mom-only running time. You just need to establish some ground rules from the outset. Creating a routine of running with your kids will be unique to your family, but here are some tips to help set you up for success.
Define the Time to Run with Kids
For most mom runners, the #1 ground rule to set before you run with kids is when exactly you will run with them. If you have young children and this ground rule isn’t set, they’ll likely think they get to tag along each time you head out the door for a training run. Cue the whining and tears when they’re told that you’re going for a mommy-only run.
Decide the best time to take your kids running based on your schedule and personal preferences. For some moms, the best time to run with their kids is directly after a solo run for a leisurely cool down jaunt. For others, a run with kids is best done right before running alone as a brief warm up. Other moms take their kids for fun runs during their training rest days. Find what works for you and stick with it.
Follow Their Lead
Kids like to stop and smell the roses. And search for rocks. And talk to people. And get distracted by a million other things. Although it can be painful, resist the urge of pushing them to keep running each time they want to stop. Instead, follow their lead at times and let them enjoy the journey. Doing so will help seed positive memories associated with running. Years from now, those memories will hopefully spur them to continue running and lead healthy lifestyles as adults.
As moms, we often become tightly wound around our schedules and routines because, frankly, they’re the only things that get us through most days. But we can benefit greatly from following the lead of our kids by enjoying the journey of running more often rather than always treating it as one more task to check off the to-do list. Join your kids and smell the roses, search for rocks and talk to strangers.
Give Nuggets of Wisdom
Your kids probably run every day while playing with their friends but running for fitness may be a new concept to them. Treat each run with kids in tow as an opportunity to give them nuggets of wisdom about why you run and how you run. Keep things lighthearted and, rather than making it feel like a lecture, try to naturally weave suggestions into the conversation.
A few useful tips that may be helpful to share with your kids are the importance of pacing rather than trying to run as fast as they can, what endurance is and how to build it, and how to stay safe while running. The nuggets of running wisdom and tips that you decide to pass on to your kids will be unique to your family. Also, the method that you find works best for passing along running knowledge to your kids will be based on their personality, age and other factors.
Bring them to Races
If you participate in running races and haven’t yet let your kids attend, they could benefit greatly from seeing you race. Watching you compete in a race (when races resume in the post-pandemic future) will teach your kids about endurance, the importance of discipline and how to follow through on achieving goals. If allowed by the race organizers, let your kids run the last bit of a race and cross the finish line with you. Doing so will help them feel like part of the action and will, again, build positive memories about running.
When they’re old enough and, if they show interest, enroll your kids in youth races. Participating in youth races can bring a wealth of benefits including learning the importance of winning and losing with grace, building childhood friendships and more.
Making a plan before you run with kids by your side will help set everyone up for success. By clearly defining when your kids are allowed to run with you, following their lead, finding opportune moments to share nuggets of wisdom and including them in races, you’ll build positive memories of running for your children. Those memories may just be what spurs them to continue running and make other healthy life choices through the adolescent years and into adulthood.
Struggling to make space for your running goals within your household’s schedule? Our blog post, What Your Running Habits are Teaching Your Kids, explores why your goals must remain a priority and what your commitment to self-care is teaching your kids.
Have you found a good routine for running with your kids? If so, share it in the comments below!
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