Running with your toddler should be mutually beneficial; you want to keep him happy, while making sure you log all your miles.
There is no right way to do this – you have to figure out what works best for you and your child. And what worked great one day may not the next – it is always good to have several tricks up your sleeve when you are out and away from the house.
Present it as “mommy and me” time
Making the jogging stroller a fun place to have “special time” was the key to my jogging success. I trained for multiple half marathons pushing one or two kiddos. We learned quickly, each of our limits. We were able to work up to about 8 miles together – but I was pushing my luck trying to go further.
Find a good jogging stroller
You have to find the one that works best for you! There are always great deals on used ones to be had, since kiddos tend to grow out of them around age 4 or 5.
Be creative and flexible
One thing I did not fully think about was the transitioning from a single to a double jogger and then the need to go back to a single. We immediately sold our single stroller to help pay for the double. However, the oldest then started to go to pre-school, leaving me pushing a double with one child. I would have preferred to go back to the single as the double tends to veer to the side when off balance. We made it work. She was able to bring multiple favorite stuffed animals or dolls who all were able to buckle in their own seat. She also got to invite a real friend on occasion. It was fun listening to her tell her friend the rules of the games and what to look for up ahead. And then she loved racing her play date at the end of our run.
Getting your child in the stroller
We had a routine – we’d both put on our running shoes and running outfit together and then I would ask my child to pick a “friend” (stuffed animal or doll) for a stroller playdate. She also got to pick out a snack – something that was not part of the normal snack regiment – it was only available to her when in the jogger. (She loved a cereal mix where I threw in a few marshmallows and chocolate chips). Little did she know, I also packed a few emergency treats, in case her attitude went south while we were far from home. It was rare that I had to pull out the lollipop. (Please remember, they will remember that they had the lollipop and will try to get it each time, so only bring out when you are both at your breaking point).
The first half mile is your key to success – your body needs to warm up and your kiddo needs to get excited to be strapped in (and boy, does that jogger always feel heavy and awkward at first!). Sing songs with your toddler, play peak-a-boo with the jogger’s sun visor, or play crazy stroller where you pop wheelies, swerve the stroller or pretend to go off course. If you both start off happy, you already are setting the tone for a great workout together.
Keep it fun
I had several routes based off my distances. One day while playing I Spy on our run, we discovered that there were fire hydrants everywhere – so together we named the route by how many fire hydrants were on each of my routes. As children cannot really tell time, I think this visual really helped my daughter understand how much time she had in the jogger and knew what streets and views to look anticipate. She always loved the eight fire hydrant route because it took her past a horse farm.
Our favorite game in the stroller was the scavenger hunt. I created a one page laminated sheet with drawing of the many animals, flowers, and scenery we might encounter on the run. She would hold that paper and look and look for all the creatures. Then we would keep count of everything we’d see – 5 birds, 3 ants, 7 squirrels, 3 birdhouse, etc. This also would help my daughter in her counting and memory skills. Also when she got bored, I would create excitement by creating anticipation, “I think I heard a dark bark up ahead let’s keep our eyes out for it.” Then the next time it was time to get in the stroller, just me saying, “I hope we get to see more yellow flowers on our run today,” would get her excited to jump back in and strap up.
Allow them to run too!
Give yourself your own cool down/slowdown in your last mile – sometimes you may have to bring back the warm up games as they will notice you slowing down. Then find a safe spot close to your home that your child can recognize as the “My turn” spot. When you get there, allow them to get out and jog, skip, jump or race you home. I attribute this to why my now 10-year-old wakes up with me at 6 a.m. to join me on a run.