Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tips on running more than 2 miles with a toddler, and other such seemingly impossible feats.

I basically took off the entire winter from running. Besides random short treadmill runs during naptime and running during our three weeks in California, I hardly ran at all. It was just too darn cold this winter to even go alone ( I hate being cold). And I could definitely not take CJ out in the cold. When he was a litttle guy, I could cover in in blankets except for a hole for his nose, and he would be content and warm. Well, that no longer satisfies him, he must be eating or reading a book for his entire stay in the stroller. It's hard to eat with bulky gloves on, and he's pretty cold-intolerant like myself, so the running would have to wait. The last winter run I took him on I felt so guilty, because he was perfectly still with his bright purple hands (since he refused to wear gloves) sticking out to the side in total misery. I felt like a terrible mother! I flew home and defrosted him, babied him, and tended his every wish that day.

So this spring, I have been so excited to get out the door with him again. Talk about a shock though...he must have gained 15 pounds since the last time I ran with him. Try pushing a 30lb toddler up miles worth of hills in a 45lb + stroller carrying water, a phone, two baby books, snacks, a small gun, etc. OH HELP. Why can't my road be flat?? If you ever want to really feel the burn in your legs, do what I do. It is ROUGH. Anyway...as CJ has not been in the stroller for months, my first run with him in it was very interesting.
We get out onto the road, and about 20 ft into the run, he is all done with his popcorn and insists I take it from him.
Then he needs to wipe off his hands.
Then he'd like his water.
Then he'd like his popcorn again.
Never mind! He wants to get out.
So he stands up facing me and talking to me incessantly about the birds and demanding answers or recognition of whatever he says (as I am dying pushing his weight and not really feeling too chatty).
Then he squeals hello at the creepy neighbor guy that I always avoid and try to sneak past.
After being buckled (I decide to strap him down), the popcorn scene ensues again.

Needless to say, my 4 mile run turned into an out-and-back 2 miler, because my brain was going to pop open. CJ needed something every 15 seconds, so I had to stop every 15 seconds. He was definitely not used to this stroller thing, and it was very discouraging. How on earth would I get my runs in if he couldn't handle it?
But I went again anyway. And again and again. And I discovered that with each little stroller run, CJ grew more and more accustomed to it. Like muscle memory. And yes, although he needs some maintenance every seven or eight minutes, he knows now that it's not the end of the world to sit there for 30 minutes or so eating popcorn and fruit and drinking juice.
So now that I've gabbed on forever, here are some pointers I've figured out for running with a toddler successfully. If you are a serious runner, as in training for a race and timing your paces, intervals, and splits, I would not recommend stroller running. You need a konked out kid that weighs less than 10 pounds to get an "normal" seeming mile times.

What I've learned while running with an opinionated toddler:
(not in order, as usual)

1. Bring more than one snack. My go-to since he learned to love it has been popcorn with coconut oil, nutritional yeast and salt, which is one of CJ's all-time favorite foods. Now that his palate has expanded, he gets bored with this. So I bring other options...either sliced fruit, a granola bar, or actual granola that he has to pick up with his fingers, therefore being more time-consuming to eat. This keeps him interested.
2. Something to sip on! I used to just bring water, but now I've discovered that if he has a bottle of juice with a straw, he is entertained with that for several minutes.
3. His favorite book. CJ has one book he is always excited to read. It has about a hundred different photos of planes, trains, tractors, 4 wheelers, trucks, dirt bikes, etc. If he decides to be completely dissinterested in any kind of food, I hand him this and it *usually* does the trick.
4. Biggest tip of all! This should be number 1, but I don't feel like rearranging everything. I never feed CJ a meal or snack within an hour or two of when we got running. Might sound cruel. But if he has eaten too recently, he doesnt' care at all about his stroller snacks and is much more difficult to entertain for a few miles. When I say we're going to go running, he knows it means it's time to eat and he is excited to go.
5. An electronic device. If I had a tablet of some form, I would never go running without it. Whenever I want to run a little longer and CJ has no interest in the options before him, I give him my phone and let him watch old video clips of himself. He loves it. It's a last resort though, because I usually use my phone for music.
6. An open mind. Maybe this should be number 1. Hmmmm. If you are going to be running with your baby or toddler most of the time, don't ever, ever, ever expect to not be interrupted! A short 3 mile run will take you at least 10 or 15 minutes longer. It might get frustrating, but once you train your own mind (as you train their's), it's not so bad. The way I see it, is I am blessed to have a good running stroller, I'm getting a much harder workout having to push the weight of a large dog, my baby is breathing in fresh air, and... I'm doing what I love. I cannot tell you how many times I had to stop and nurse CJ on my first ventures out when he was just a teeny little thing. At times it can be frustrating... I just want to run x-amount of miles and be done! But it's not that way, and it's okay. Start off small, and once your kid gets used to it--and likes it-- go farther.

Of course the obvious solution is to get a babysitter. All of my sitters (who are all family) live close to twenty minutes away, so I prefer not to do the whole ordeal of driving there, running, socializing, driving home, and having a huge chunk of my day taken out. I did this quite a bit when he was an infant, but for day-to-day running, I just need to be able to walk out my door and go.
We'll see how it goes with two little humans to push in a few months. I'm not expecting good things, but hey... many have done it before me and many will after me. CJ has helped me rack up experience for the last 2 years, and maybe that will help. Maybe this next baby will be a quiet little mouse type so CJ can talk it's ear off. :)

Was he not just the sweetest little running buddy ever?!


  1. Hi Hannah,
    It was nice seeing you back in Dec. and chatting! Good to see you posting again :) Congratulatuons on 'Teddy' - I'm looking forward to seeing him/her!
    ~Holly Shaw

  2. Hi Holly, thanks for the virtual "wave". :) It was great talking to you girls. When we left the wedding Clint was telling me how sweet he thought you girls were. You should come visit good ol' TN sometime! Just don't come in the winter, whatever you do. ;-)