Today’s guest post is from Sarah at Run, Mommy, Run.
I’ve considered the last six of my 12 years of being a runner to be my “mommy runner” years, meaning I’ve had company with me. And no, not your typical running buddy. My company required snacks, toys, and frequent potty breaks.
It all began in 2006. No longer trying to perfect the art of running with a baby bump, I now had to face the challenge of running with an actual baby. With a husband that works a crazy schedule and no immediate family in my area to help out, leaving the baby at home wasn’t an option. And with running being my go-to stress reliever, means of losing baby weight, and pretty much favorite activity in the world, I wasn’t about to give it up or trade that time in for workout DVDs in my living room while baby napped. And so, a mommy runner was born.
Six years, thousands of miles, and an additional kid later, I’m still running strong. We’ve moved from a single stroller to a double and my 4 year old and 6 year old have not only become Mommy’s running buddies, but my race buddies as well. I’m constantly having other mothers stop and ask, “How do you do that? How can you run so much with them?” The journey to mommy runner hasn’t always been easy and I’ve definitely faced my challenges. But over time we’ve found a nice groove and you can too.
Start young. This is particularly important for new mothers. Start running with your babies while they are young. The earlier you start and make it a routine, the easier it is for your child to adapt and grow to expect it. Running with mommy will just be another part in their day, and if they are used to it they will like it more. That being said, don’t start too young. You want to make sure you’ve gotten the good-to-go from your doctor before you start running for the first time if you have just recently given birth. You also don’t want to plop a newborn baby down in a jogger. It is recommended that you wait until the baby is around 6 months of age and able to sit up and support themselves before running with a stroller. I used the treadmill lot during the first six months. To be on the safe side, be sure to speak with your pediatrician before you begin running with your baby if he or she is under six months of age.
Buy the expensive stroller. Normally I’m all for saving money, but this is one time in your life you are going to want to splurge, especially if you plan on putting a lot of miles on your stroller or plan to race with your stroller. For starters, make sure you get a jogging stroller, which is made for running. Try not to faint at that three digit price tag. Trust me, it’s worth it. Most have only three wheels with the front wheel locked. There are several excellent strollers on the market, and every mama is going to have a different opinion on them. Take the time to try them out and see which one you like best and which one your child likes best. I spent a good hour pushing my daughter around REI in joggers before buying my double. You’ll get some funny looks, but it will be worth it to get the one that best fits your needs.
Don’t be afraid to overpack. There’s nothing more discouraging than getting you and baby all ready for a running, heading out the door, and realizing you forgot something. Pack heavy. Take a water bottle for both you and your kiddo and a few snacks as well. If it’s even slightly chilly pack hats, mittens, jackets, blankets. Whatever you don’t bundle up the munchkin in you can shove in the compartment underneath. In the summer, pack plenty of sunscreen for the both of you. Pack toys and try not to get too upset when the toys are dropped…a lot. And I do mean a lot. You’re going to stop and pick them up at least 10 times. Just try to keep in mind a happy, playing child is better than a screaming, crying child.
Make it fun. The main reason most young children don’t like to ride in the stroller for a long period of time is because it’s boring. My longest run to date was nearly 14 miles and with both kids. That’s a long ways in a small child’s mind. They have to sit still, they can’t get out, and they are there a long time. Try and make the run as fun as you can. Rather than use your iPod headphones, use the speakers and have a sing-a-long while you run. If your child is old enough, make a list of things you might see while on a run and have him or her check them off as you do. Make up games. A favorite game of my daughter is to figure out how many miles we are running total, then figure out how many miles we have left. She counts off each mile and practices a little math without even realizing it. And run in interesting places. This won’t only make the time go by faster for them, it will help you too. Make a habit of literally running errands. Run with your children to the post office grocery store, etc. You’ll make more use out of your time and they will think it’s fun and silly to run to such random places rather than drive the car. It’s also a great way to explore your city. You’ll be amazed at how much small children take in while being a passenger and you may just find some new places to visit.
Reward a long run. And not just for you. If you are having your kiddos sit in the stroller for an hour or more, take a few minutes to let them play at the park when you are done. They can run around and play while you rehydrate and stretch. Almost every one of my weekend long runs that I do with my children finishes at the park for about 30 minutes of play time. They know that and have learned over the years that’s what happens at the end of the run. So gone are the days of “Are we there yet?” They sit patiently (for the most part) knowing that when I’m done they get their turn.
Bribery does not make you a bad mom. In a perfect world, our children would ride in our strollers, happily cheering mommy on as she runs. But in the real world, especially when our children grow older and more vocal, sometimes the only sounds coming from them are whining. There will come a day when you desperately want to run and your child, for whatever reason, feels the need to annoy you. By all means, bribe the kid. It will not make you a bad mom, it will make you a less tense mom who is loving her runner’s high. Your bribe doesn’t have to be big, just something that’s good enough to make the little guy want to sit still just a little bit longer. A personal favorite of mine is ice cream…partially because I like ice cream after I run on a hot day. But even simple things like promising to play a game when we get home tend to get the job done. The thing to remember with a little bit of bribery is that you have to keep your word. Nothing’s going to make your child hate running with mommy more than thinking a ride in the stroller equals disappointment.
Technology does not make you a bad mom either. Sure when we were kids we were forced to sit through hours of boring events without a smart phone to entertain us, but that doesn’t mean our kiddos have to suffer the same fate. They are blessed with a world of technology, and whipping out the iPhone is a surefire way to finish your run. Don’t feel too guilty. I’m sure, if given the chance, our parents would have done the same. I prefer to save technology for only dire circumstances where I feel I have to do something. For example, mile eight of a 12 mile run and a brother and sister that are about to battle to the death. I certainly don’t give them my phone on every run, but at the same time I don’t hesitate when I need to pull out the big guns. If you are still feeling guilty about too much screen time for your little one, find some educational shows or apps so they can learn a little while they play.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, we’d all love it if every run went perfectly and we ran our best. More than likely that won’t happen with a stroller. The sooner you accept it, the happier you’ll be. I’m not saying you won’t PR with a stroller. One of my fastest two mile runs was with the double jogger as well as one of my fastest 10K races. But unfortunately, more often that not, something goes off plan when you are a mommy runner. Something falls out of the stroller, someone has to potty, a baby spits up or needs to nurse, juice gets spilled, diapers need changed, someone wants to run only to discover 10 feet later that they no longer want to run with mommy…the list is endless, really. These things are fine and a normal part of motherhood. Don’t let them discourage you from running with your little one. Remember that one day that little one won’t be so little, and you’ll have lots of time to run solo then. For now, clean up that spilled juice with a smile on your face and keep in mind that pushing a heavy stroller may just make you faster when race day comes. I trained for my first half marathon doing over half of my training runs with my double jogger. I was extremely happy with how well I raced on race day. Although I’ll admit there were several times along the 13.1 mile course that I had to control the need to talk out loud and point out all of the interesting sights.
Just like any other area of motherhood, being a mommy runner is a juggling act and takes a little trial and error. But with practice and patience, you’ll be pushing your happy kiddos and getting plenty of miles in. Over time you’ll be amazed at how much they enjoy going for runs with mommy and you may even surprise yourself with how far you can push that stroller. You’ll smile as other mamas see you out there in all your glory, pushing your little one. And you’ll be filled with pride when the day comes, and it will come, where you pass a group of male runners with your stroller in tow. Feel free to flash them a slightly cocky smile. You earned it.
Thanks so much Sarah for being a Guest Blogger today.
I’ve sure learned what my future running will be like with 2 kiddies in tow.
Don’t forget to check out Run, Mommy, Run – it’s a great blog.