You’re incredibly passionate about running, but the rest of your family? Not so much. You’d love to get your partners and your kids on board with running, but how?
Here are some ways to successfully run with your family:
- Make it a game, like a race or chase
- Use a running stroller for babies and toddlers
- Go to a place the kids like, such as the park
- Create some friendly competition to inspire better running out of your family
- Let your kids pick out their running gear so they like to wear it
- Keep each run fun to maintain the kids’ interest
- Reward the kids for a job well done
If running with your family sounds like an unattainable dream right now, you’re certainly going to want to keep reading. Ahead, we’ll expound on each of the above 7 tips so you can create an action plan that not only has the whole family running, but enjoying it as well. We’ll also delve into when your kids can begin running and how far they should go at various ages and stages of development.
7 Tips for Running as a Family
Make It a Game
Would the kids rather play a game on PlayStation or Xbox or even on their phone than go outside? This is a common obstacle parents have to face. Video games provide excitement, challenge, and socialization opportunities for kids. To get them to turn the gaming consoles off and get outside, you have to make running just as engaging as video games if not more so.
To that end, we suggest making running itself into a game. When the kids are young or just getting a taste for running, frame running as a challenge. Don’t say “we’re going to run a quarter-mile today,” because of course that would sound boring to any kid. Instead, tell your children that you’re going to run around out in the yard and that it’s their job to catch you.
If you and the kids play like this for a while, you might all run or walk for the equivalent of a quarter-mile but in an informal setting the kids will enjoy.
Bring the Young Ones Along in a Running Stroller
What if you have very young kids? You can take them with you on your runs in a stroller. That said, if you think you can use the same stroller for your toddler that you push them around in when grocery shopping or going to the mall, think again. You need a running/jogging stroller that can handle the bumpy terrain.
BOB Gear Revolution Flex 3.0 Duallie is one of the most renowned options on the market. This two-seated running stroller is intended for babies between zero and eight weeks old who weigh up to 50 pounds. The oversized cargo basket and 10 pockets for storage let you carry all of baby’s essentials as well as what you need for running, such as a water bottle and snacks.
The handlebar is adjustable so you can set it higher or lower, however feels best for you when running. The tires come filled with air for smoothly traveling over a variety of terrain, and a built-in suspension system also adds to the smoothness of the BOB Gear Revolution Flex 3.0 Duallie.
Another pick to consider is the Chicco Activ3 Air Jogging Stroller in that brand’s Q Collection. This running stroller, although intended for one child, also supports up to 50 pounds. Included with the stroller are a sizable storage basket, dual cup holders, and a soft tray. The Flex Core suspension system and tires filled with foam can ride over terrain without bumping baby around. A Control Console in the Activ3 includes brakes and a swivel you can operate by hand for quick stops, turns, and other maneuvers.
We wrote a comprehensive post about running with a stroller. If you missed that, here are a few takeaways you can use right now:
- Make sure your baby is at least six months old before you begin running with them.
- Buy a wrist strap if your running stroller doesn’t have one so you’re still attached to your stroller even if your sweaty hands lose grip.
- Engage your core and your legs as you run and keep your strides shorter to accommodate for the stroller in front of you.
- Lock the front wheel of your running stroller.
- Run on less populated roads and areas so you and baby are at lower risk of accidents.
Pick Places to Run That the Kids Like
Maybe getting your partner on board with the thought of running wasn’t so bad, but you’re still experiencing resistance from the kids. Sure, they’ll chase you around if you ask for it, but you’d like to move on to more structured runs if possible. However, you’re afraid the thought will bore your kids to tears and there’s no way they’ll go for it.
Remember when you signed your kids up for soccer but they dropped out after a season and a half? That wasn’t necessarily because your kids were lazy, but that they didn’t get a say in whether they played soccer. Don’t make that same mistake with running.
Get the kids involved early on. Ask them where they’d like to run and which routes they’d like to take. Does this mean you might go to the same place every day for a few weeks until that area’s fascination wears off on the kids? Yes, but don’t complain. A change of scenery would be nice, but you have to look on the bright side. You’ve gotten your whole family out running, and more than just that, they’re into the idea.
Letting your kids make decisions creates in them a stronger interest in what they’re doing than if they just have to go along for the ride. Even more importantly, a child that can make sound decisions at an early age later becomes an adult who has no problem with deciding on everyday facets of life.
Get a Bit Competitive
If you’re a little bored with your running routine as an adult, trust us when we say that your kids have been bored for far longer. If running becomes something that disinterests them, it’s going to be hard to keep up the running routine you’ve started to establish with the family. Running as a game doesn’t work so well anymore, so how do you keep the idea of running fresh and exciting?
Well, think of what your kids like to do. Whether they’re playing video games with their friends or they’re outside actually playing, kids like being competitive. Seeing who’s the best at various activities motivates a child to try their best.
The same can be true of running. The next time you go running with your partner and your kids, tell them that you want to see who can run the fastest or go the furthest. Then let the kids have at it. Yes, we’re telling you to let the kids win. As an adult, you can obviously outpace them in just about every way, so run a bit slower, pretend your shoelaces keep coming untied, and let your kids feel like they’re number one.
AUT Millennium, a New Zealand resource for active kids, cites these benefits of competition in children.
- Generates smarter thinking: If your child wants to win the so-called race between you and the rest of your family members, what do they have to do? Their motivation to be the best will spur smarter thinking on their part.
- Presents a good chance to practice emotional control: Your child can’t think clearly about how to achieve victory if they’re upset, angry, or frustrated. Once they realize this, they’ll get better about regulating their emotions, thinking clear-headedly so they can win.
- It’s fun: There’s a reason your kids can sit and play Fortnite with their friends and online strangers all day. The element of competition is fun.
- Introduces play: Competition isn’t all serious, though. There’s also room to play in competition, which is important in keeping kids interested.
A bit of healthy competition here and there is okay, but do make sure you don’t make running too dependent on there being winners and losers. AUT Millennium also mentions that competition can have downsides. These include the pain of failure, the opportunity for aggression and hostility, and the risk of the child quitting if they feel like they’re not good enough.
Your child can even take competition too far by pushing themselves to an injury. Watch how competitive your kids get and curtail bad behavior before it gets too serious. Also, be careful with how you talk about winning versus losing. You have a valuable chance to teach your children that yes, they will lose in life, but they should be good sports, dust themselves off, and keep on going.
Let Your Kids Have a Say in Their Running Gear
Another area where you want to let your kids take the reins is in choosing their running gear. As the parent, you should still have the final say over the gear, but don’t necessarily pick out and buy running gear and then tell the kids that’s what they’re wearing. This will bring back bad memories of them being forced into wearing their soccer uniform or whatever sport they tried and quit.
Whether you shop online or in a store, bring your kids along. If they don’t like shopping, then pick out three or four pairs of running shoes or running jackets from listings online. Then show each option to your child and let them select what they like the most.
One of the best parts of becoming an adult is being able to have a total say over your wardrobe. Your kids aren’t quite to that point yet, but they will definitely more like wearing something they selected than what you picked for them.
Make It Fun
Is running with your whole family always easy? Of course not! You’re a trained runner who has been at this for a while. You have the stamina, drive, and motivation to run far while your partner and the kids might not. You can also run circles around them, which often means slowing down your pace to match theirs.
Make sure you do your best not to get frustrated and upset with your family. Outbursts can tarnish the whole day and create bad feelings around running that will make your kids or partner want to withdrawal from the activity.
Do you recall how you felt when you first started running? You might have needed motivation to keep going. Be that motivation for your family. Act as their cheerleader, pushing them to do more, go further, and be better. Always maintain an upbeat attitude so your kids and partner realize that running is fun.
Reward the Family for a Job Well Done
Our last tip is an important one, make sure you’re rewarding your family. Some days after a strenuous run, you can stop and have ice cream together. This will be a nice capper on what was otherwise a great outing together. On your recovery days, you can do a family movie night or lounge in the yard, maybe hanging out in the pool.
Rewards can be verbal too. Telling your partner and children what a great job they’re doing and how proud you are of them goes a long way towards motivating them to keep up with running. This is known as positive reinforcement.
Although you see positive reinforcement often with dog training, it works just as well with people. Everyone likes feeling good, animals and humans alike. When we do something and we earn praise for it, we’re more likely to want to repeat that behavior.
According to this article from PositivePsychology.com on positive reinforcement, when children are praised this way, their learning outcomes may be better and they tend to feel more competent. Give it a try!
How Far Should Children Run?
Now that you have some tips for running with your family, we wanted to wrap up by presenting guidelines for children looking to get into running. Since they’re not fully grown yet, you have to be cautious about how long and far your kids run.
This Healthline article mentions that kids can start exercising as young as three years old. A child’s natural curiosity for the world at this age will keep them active, but you should foster further activity as well.
If your child is between three and six years old, they’re not doing any formal runs on a trail or at the park yet. They’re chasing you, the parent, around in the backyard. They should run for no more than 20 seconds at a clip with a minute or two of walking in between before they start running again.
Once your child turns seven years old until about nine years old, they can run a quarter of a mile with some time and training. Add time to their weekly runs by periods of two minutes. Your child will eventually get to the point where they can run a mile, then another mile, then maybe even three miles.
Their running-to-walking pace should be 10 to 20 seconds of running or jogging followed by walking for 40 seconds, then repeat. As your child becomes a more seasoned runner, they can run for 30 seconds and then walk for 30 seconds.
Children who are 10 or older can walk half-miles with little difficulty, at least in most cases. You might even be able to do a 10K with your child someday. Before you get to that point, keep their running-to-walking pace at one minute of running, then one minute of walking. The goal is to get your child to two minutes of running to one minute of walking or even four minutes of running to one minute of walking.
These guidelines are just that, not necessarily rules set in stone. It’s okay if your child goes at a slower pace or a faster one. Check in with your child after each run to see what they think of their progress and if there’s anything that’s holding them back. Then work together to make your child a more efficient runner.
Running with the family is a great form of exercise and provides a wonderful chance to bond. Whether it’s a reluctant spouse or partner you’re trying to get into running or it’s your kids who don’t want to run, with the tips and suggestions in this guide, you can all start running as a family!
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