Toddlers Can Be Difficult Running Partners.
If you are mom of small kids and a runner, the only way to run is to tow along the baby or toddler. Running when my little girl was a baby was a lot easier because she would sleep most of the time. However, I soon found out that running with a toddler was a whole different story. They don’t sleep and they don’t like to sit still! At least mine doesn’t. It started becoming too frustrating for her and therefore frustrating for me. I finally found a way to make it work and so I am sharing my best running tips for running with a toddler.
Like most toddlers, mine is full of energy and does not like to be strapped in for extended periods of time. That did not work well when I aimed to run at least six-miles at a time (not to mention while pushing 40 lbs plus the weight of the jogging stroller). The temptation was there to just stick an iPad in front of her and let her watch a cartoon or play a game so that I could complete my work-out. Although I did do that once or twice, I cringed because I wanted her to enjoy being outside as much as I do. I finally found techniques that worked. I don’t always use all of them but a combination of a few of these allows both of us to get as much out of this mommy-daughter time.
1. Stop to Stretch.
After the first mile or two, we always stop to stretch. There is two reasons for this. First is to break up the time and give her a chance to get out of the jogging stroller and stretch with me. The other reason is that it is good for me and can prevent injury. It is so incredibly cute to see her copy me and try to do everything I do. I also like to add a couple of silly things such as, “Reach your hands all the way up to the sky!” or “Hop on one foot!” or “Do the wiggle!” When we stretch together, it seems as though she sees herself as part of the run and she is more likely to be calm during most of our six-mile loop if she feels that she is part of the process.
2. Have a Conversation.
I often find that my little girl will sit and enjoy nature if I talk to her about it. We look for birds, search for crazy looking trees, and point out beautiful flowers. We talk about how God created them and what our favorites are of each kind. It is also a great time to practice basic skills. If I am running near the lake, we’ll identify the colors of the kayaks or count the number of bike riders that pass us by.
I know this means I can’t turn up the volume on my iPod and zone out, but I have found that if we talk for 10 minutes, she will sit on her own and enjoy the view for another 10. Then I can enjoy a song or two. But even if she does not, she gets so much out of me engaging her in conversation and if I listen, I get a lot out of it too.
3. Sing Songs.
Since I lack any singing genes, this may not be so enjoyable for anyone else that may be sharing the running path with me, but my toddler gets a kick out of it. Usually, she picks the songs and we have a blast with our renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” and “Jesus Loves Me.”
4. Identify Reachable Mile Stones and Let Them Play.
I really hated to stop while running mostly because I hated the feeling I got when I started running again after a long break. However, when I was running by the lake, I felt a little selfish strapping my kid in and not letting THEM enjoy being there as well. Now, during our run, we make two stops. One of them is to just throw rocks into the water. The other one is to explore one of their piers. I feel this works because if she has something to look forward to, she will sit and wait. On one occasion, I was feeling very tired and wasn’t planning on doing more than two miles. However, because she insisted on hitting one of our mile stones, I managed to run four-miles instead. My little three-year-old ended up being a great encouragement and helped me push myself.
If you are really hard core, and don’t want the interruption in the work out, this might be a good time to do push ups, squats, or burpees while your little one runs around and burns energy.
5. Have Them Run With You.
Little kids are more likely to sit still if they are tired. Sometimes, and if she is up to it, she runs along side of me. Kids are imitators and especially at that age they just want to do everything you do. She enjoys the idea of “running” just like me and I like it because I feel like I am instilling in her a love for running. After a block or two of sprints and stops and pretending that she is just too fast for me she is wore out and will remain in the jogging stroller until the end of our run.
6. Bring 2 or 3 Figurines, Small Dolls, etc.
Although I will not bring the iPad, I do keep a few toys handy. It grabs her attention and she will sit in the stroller and put her imagination into high gear. It is another simple way of keeping her entertained and it gives me the time to keep on trekking.
7. Bring a Healthy Snack.
I tend to run mid-morning which coincides with snack time. To avoid a meltdown, I always make sure to have a good healthy snack on hand for her. It gives her yet another thing to look forward to as we make progress.
Some of you may not like the idea of having interruptions while running and you certainly can ignore that advice. I myself was very hesitant at first and it is what led to my frustrations. However, I found that I get as much of a workout with the interruptions as without them. More importantly, my toddler now looks forward to our runs instead of dreading them, and that just makes life so much easier for the both of us.
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