It can be a real challenge to fit in your runs when you have kids. It’s especially difficult when you have young kids who aren’t old enough to be left alone for periods of time.
You don’t have to give up exercise when you have kids. You just have to be creative in finding ways to fit it in.
Will you always be able to run at the time of day you want or for however long you want? No, not necessarily. But, something is better than nothing, and you’ll need to make the most of your time when you do get out.
1. Use a jogging stroller.
If your child or children are young enough to ride in a jogging stroller, do it! There are singles, doubles and even triple strollers available on the market. Start as soon as baby is old enough. Most recommendations are to wait until baby has good head control to ride in a stroller. However, if you use a carseat adapter, you can probably start earlier, pending clearance from your pediatrician.
When your little one gets too big for the carseat, remove the adapter and have him or her ride in the “big kid” part. This is fun for them because now they can see where you’re going.
Running with a stroller is HARD work and an awesome workout. Vary your route and the scenery to keep your little one interested (read: not crying or grumpy). You might be pleasantly surprised that your child begins to enjoy the runs as much as you do. This is a win-win.
2. Have your child ride along with you.
Pending where you live and how safe it is, you can have your older child or children ride their bikes with you as you run. Designated bike paths, rail trails, or quiet back roads are great options for this.
If you have a little and big kid, you can push as stroller and have the older kid(s) ride along. This helps them get their exercise, expel some energy, and learn from the great example you’re setting in fitting in fittness.
3. Fit in a run before anyone is up.
If you can manage to sneak out early in the morning while everyone sleeps, this is a great option to fit in your runs. This, of course, is dependent upon having a spouse or partner holding down the fort while you’re out.
This is a nice option because you can fit in your runs and be back in time for breakfast or getting ready for daycare and/or the school day.
There’s also something to be said for checking exercise off the list first thing before the day gets away from you. It just sets the tone for the day and can give you a sense of accomplishment before breakfast time even rolls around.
4. Run on your lunch break.
If you’re a working parent and have the flexibility to fit in your runs at lunch, take advantage of the time and just do it. This won’t take away from family time and you will have accomplished your exercise for the day.
The only downside: dealing with the sweating and having to shower, or lack thereof, midday. Wipes, powder or a quick splash at the sink should do the trick. If I had to choose between dealing with being sweaty midday or not getting my run in, I’d definitely choose fitting my run in.
5. Run after work but before kid pick-up.
Try to fit in your runs between the time you get out of work and when you need to get your little ones from daycare, school or an after-school program. Bonus if you can sneak out early to squeeze in an extra mile–or two.
Because you’re likely racing the clock to make pick up on time, this can serve to be an extra boost to work on your speed with some sprints, tempo miles or fartleks.
6. Fit in a run at the track.
If the kids are old enough to play independently, they can play in the track and field sand pit or pass a ball around on the field. You’re not going far so you can keep an eye on them the whole time. And they can see you and call to you whenever needed.
Older kids can join you for a lap or two and then stop and rest on the sidelines when they want. This is a great way to get your kids started running with you, and they can do it on their own accord: as much or as little as they want.
This is better than an out-and-back for tiny legs that might tire quickly, or might not! Depends on the day and their atitude, right? If they need a rest, they can stop at any point during the lap and sit and rest.
Running on a track might not be your ideal due to the multiple looping. But if you have been saying you need to get in more quality work outs, here’s your chance.
7. Run after the kids go to bed.
This one works if bedtime goes fairly smoothly for your little ones and if you have, or can muster, enough energy at the end of the day to put in a few miles.
This works great for some, especially those who are night owls. In the summer, you can probably get away with running outside before it gets too dark. As the days shorten, be prepared to run by headlamp or in a well lit area if you live in a city. Make sure to wear reflective or bright colored gear for safety.
8. Have someone else watch your kid(s).
Have your spouse, partner, family member or baby sitter watch your kids. Take turns with your partner if you’re both runners. This can either be on the same day: one of you stays home while the other is out, and then switch. Or, you can simply alternate days. This means you can’t run every day, so make the most of those miles when you can.
Alternatively, you may need to pay a sitter, whether this is a family member or otherwise. This works well for weekend long runs if you’re training for a distance event. You don’t need to rush and can take your long runs at a slower pace, which is typically recommended for training anyways. You can “relax,” relatively speaking, knowing that your kids are in good hands while you’re out.
9. Run on the treadmill.
I know, I know. More like the dreadmill. But if it means being able to fit in your runs or no runs at all, it’s worth putting up with.
If your child is still young enough for a swing or a bouncy seat, set it up next to the treadmill where he/she can see you. You may have to hop off once or twice during your run to tend to baby, but that’s ok. Think of it as interval training!
If you have a young toddler who needs to be somewhat contained for safety reasons, get a decent sized play pen and give him or her books and toys to play with. Keeping them withicldirect line of sight lets you constantly check on them, but also provides them reassurance that you’re right there if needed.
The treadmill isn’t all bad. You can really make the most of your time by doing some intervals or working on your pace. Faster miles = done sooner, and then you can turn your undivided attention back to your kid(s).
The treadmill also works well for many of the above mentioned scenarios: first thing in the morning before anyone is up, on a lunch break, after the kids go to bed or while your significant other or sitter watches the kids.
Maximize your time: Fit in your Runs
When you have kids, your running schedule may look a bit different than it did before. BUT, you can still fit in your runs and be successful in your training. And, just think of the wonderful example you’re setting for your kids to fit in exercise and be healthy! That kind of stuff rubs off and will positively influence them as they grow.
I would love to hear from you. Drop a question or comment below. What things have worked or are currently working for you and your family to fit in your runs?