5 Tips for Running with Older Kids (Or, What to do When Your Kid No Longer Fits Into a Stroller)

Because running isn’t crazy enough, let’s throw some kids into the mix!  Running with kids is hard.  Often rewarding, but hard.  I always see moms discussing the best way of keeping their kids entertained in their strollers while running, but what happens when your kids no longer fit in a stroller?  My kids love running with me… wait, let me rephrase that: My girls love getting dressed in their running clothes, stealing all my running gear, running for about 3 minutes, and rolling down ditches and jumping off every rock they can find.  My boy just goes with the flow.  And jumps off rocks.

They love the idea of running with me and of completing 5k races.  Let’s be honest though, they just don’t have the drive to run for that long (even though I know they have the endurance.  After all, they run back and forth across the house all day long!).  And to be even more honest?  I don’t actually like getting up at 5 am to run before they wake up.  I do it most days, but sometimes I’d like to have the option getting in a couple of miles with my kids later in the day.  So how do you get your kids to the point of being able to run with you?  Here are a few things that have helped us:

  1.  Run to a destination.  Do you have a park nearby? Run there! We have a park close to our house, so we like to run there, stop to play for a bit, then run home.  If we’re pressed for time, we have some other landmarks that we run to.  There’s a giant bird sculpture about a mile from our house that my 4 year old loves.  We run there, take some selfies with it, and run home.  Knowing the route, and knowing there’s something fun halfway along it, helps a lot.  
  2. Intervals.  Remember when you were first running, how daunting the prospect of running more than a couple of minutes was?  Kids can be like that too.  Not necessarily because they lack the physical ability, but because it just sounds like forever.  Breaking it up into walk/run intervals keeps it in manageable chunks.  When my 8 year old was training for her first 5k, she used a Couch to 5k app.  It was perfect for her, because she could visually see how much she had done, and how much she had left.  It helped her to keep focused.  She could look at it and say “I’ve done 5 60 second intervals, only 3 left!  That’s only 3 more minutes total!” That made things seem much more doable. 
  3. Carrot on a Stick.  Ok, maybe not a carrot…but you get the idea! My kids love the idea of “runner’s food”.  Whether it’s a sports drink, gummy chews, or Nutella, it’s good motivation.  I keep a supply of Gatorade chews around (they’re just $1!) just for this occasion.  At our halfway point we rest and “refuel” with a couple chews, some pretzels and sports drink.  When we get home? You’d better believe we’re having a post run snack!  Usually Nutella and banana.  Mainly because I want the excuse to eat Nutella 😉
  4. Audiobooks.  Exercise and learning? It’s a win-win. A good story will help keep the kids distracted for quite a while.  I usually download an audiobook onto my phone and just play it through my phone’s speaker so that we can all hear it.  It’s not always easy to hear if there’s a lot of traffic, but I don’t like the idea of my kids having headphones on while we are running.  (have any solutions for me? Let me know in the comments!)  
  5. Games. Playing things like “20 Questions” or “Would You Rather” can help keep their minds occupied. (Bonus – it helps you make sure you aren’t running too hard as well!) We also like to do scavenger hunts and have begun making our own. (Find them here!) Think of the games you used to play as a kid during long road trips, many of those could work for running with your kids!

Do you run with your older kids?  What kind of tricks to you use to help keep them going?

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