When I initially started running again (after a hiatus of about one year), my only goal was to get back to my old mile time. Then summer break happened. I thought, “No more time to myself, no more lengthy runs, no more progress.” Right? Wrong. So wrong! I didn’t have to give up running, I just had to give up running alone.
When school let out, I was so excited to be with my family again. I said goodbye to my students and coworkers, moved from my teacher housing an hour and a half away from home, and prepared for a wonderful summer break solidifying the bonds between the members of my family. It was in an afterthought that I realized my workouts and runs might be coming to an end. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve continued my routine runs with Skyler right beside me. It has benefited us tremendously to run together. We’d encourage you to get out there with your kiddo too, for the reasons listed below! 🙂
1. You can get a great workout even at your kid’s pace.
At first, this is where my dilemma came in. Remember, I was aiming for my previously achieved mile time. I knew that expecting Skyler to run a mile with me right off the bat was unrealistic; he runs in bursts because he’s “the Flash,” who apparently has no concept of pacing. Plus, he’s only five. (When I pitched the idea of running together to my husband, he talked my ear off about how he ran 5k races all the time at five, but he’s a genetic abnormality.) My compromise and recommendation for beginner kids: interval workouts.
Interval workouts involve alternating periods of high and low intensity activities. In running, this means a run or jog followed by a jog or walk, then another run, another walk, etc. The intervals can be based on time or distance to suit individual needs, and as a whole, they help to increase endurance while optimizing or shortening recovery time.
For many kids, this is a perfect fit! They get to run like the Flash when it’s time, and together you’ll manage to go a decent distance in the process, giving you the quality work out you want.
2. Running is a great physical outlet, which can improve behavior.
If your kiddos are anything like Skyler, their tiny bodies are constantly ready to explode with energy. Skyler is 110% energized all day, every day. A typical morning for us used to go something like this…
I wake up to let the dogs outside. Skyler baby talks the puppy for what feels like an eternity (and by baby talk I mean he makes high-pitched noises with no discernible meaning). The dogs go out. Skyler narrates their every move, including the intricate details of both dogs’ peeing and pooping activities. Skyler wants a jump hug. Skyler hangs on my leg like a monkey. Skyler runs up the stairs to brush his teeth, trips, and falls. Cries. Sees himself in the mirror. Cries turn to maniacal laughter in light of the many faces he’s capable of making at himself. And so on.
I am not a morning person! It takes me a solid hour to get functional after waking up, and I am less than receptive to his needs when being bombarded with morning energy that I simply cannot reciprocate. I needed to find an outlet for him that would be plausible to provide each morning, not just every now and then. Luckily, I am capable of running in the morning. (If we go early enough, I don’t have enough time or mental function to convince myself that I don’t need to).
Pinpoint when your children peak in their energy levels, and plan to run around that time if possible. Kids have lots of energy and don’t always know how to direct it into something productive. Help them out by providing the outlet they need for that excess energy! Skyler’s most mismanaged energy used to be in the morning, but since we began running together, the entire day goes much smoother. He now has direction when getting ready after he wakes up, and he comes back to our house post-run physically tired enough to sit for extended periods of time, allowing us to effectively complete other activities together. His mouth doesn’t get tired, but I’ll take what I can get.
3. Running has countless long-term benefits.
The two former rationales for running with your kids are primarily based on short-term benefits. In the short-term, I need a good workout and Skyler needs to expel his energy before it bubbles over into mischief. These benefits are compounded when you consider the long-term merits that come from consistent, day-to-day, physical activity.
For instance, the U.S. National Library of Medicine lists stress relief, increased confidence, better bone and muscle development, and improved sleep as some of the many positive effects experienced by physically active children. In a similar vein, advantages for adults include lower risks for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers; improved mental health and mood; strengthened bones and muscles; and increased longevity.
In addition to the health benefits, exercising together can be a wonderful bonding activity for families, and has even been shown to significantly improve familial relationships. Skyler and I usually run with just the two of us, because my husband is working. However, when Fabian is home, we go as a family and bring the dog. There is a unique satisfaction that comes along with reaching a goal in collaboration with other people, and we’ve become a closer family as a result of pushing and encouraging each other during our morning runs.
In sum, if you’ve been wondering if you should take your kiddos running with you, the chances are likely yes yes yes! Get active together and enjoy yourselves. If you’ve given this a try, feel free to share your experience below 🙂
Medical disclaimer: As always, consult a physician before you and/or your child begin an exercise regimen. The general information above is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you experience any problems or have concerns when engaging in physical activity, stop and contact a doctor before proceeding with additional workouts.