ZOE joined us today for our stroller run, and it was the best – just like old times!
Zoe was my first little running buddy. I ran with her starting when she was six months old. I trained for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon with her sitting in the stroller.
However, lately, when I run with the double BOB, it‚Äôs just Ava in there. Why? Well for one, instead of swapping out for my single, the double is way more convenient. And two, the last time I ran with both girls, I ended in a major time crunch which left me stressed and caused Zoe to have a total melt down. It was so bad, that I told myself, ‚ÄúTHAT IS IT!!!” Zoe has out grown stroller running, and our running journey has come to an end. I remember whispering under my breath, ‚ÄúI‚Äôll just take Ava with me, for now on.‚ÄĚ
Stroller running is easy and fun when you have one child under 18 months old. But when you have two children along for the ride, and one is over the age of two, it is HARD and extremely TIME consuming. The simple days of lacing up my shoes and running out my front door is long gone. I now have to bring all the stuff and gear, and enough time to avoid a tantrum.
Today, however, we had no obligations and all the time in the world. The sun was shining and although a little cold, there was no snow, ice, rain … it was actually perfect weather for a nice winter run.
When Zoe woke up she asked me, ‚ÄúMommy, What are we going to do today?‚ÄĚ I told her, ‚ÄúWe are going to hit up the running trail. It‚Äôs too gorgeous of a winter day, to not go. I don‚Äôt want you to miss out.‚ÄĚ I told her, that it’s been a long time since we ran together, and that I miss running with her. I told her that I love running with her and that she makes me so happy when she comes along.
Then we started our day. I filled her belly with a bagel. We went to Barnes & Noble on her request to play with the toys and books. After I gave her, her turn, I told her it was time for my turn, and off to the running trail we went.
I let her bring crayons and paper so she would keep busy. I bundled Ava up, and wrapped Zoe in a blanket and placed them both in the running stroller.
I then placed the weather shield over the stroller to shield the cold and the wind. I told Zoe it was her little fort. She called it her tent and was super excited to try it for the first time.
The combination of having a full belly and being warm and cozy under the weather shield, wrapped in a blanket made her happy and comfortable. Plus having crayons kept her busy.
Yay! It worked. Zoe was happy in the stroller. Ava fell asleep. And, I had a lovely successful run, with my two girls. It was definitely hard work pushing my three year old and my ten month old, but totally worth it.
I personally will never give my child an iPad while running. (If you do, you do you!) But for me, No, I won’t do it! In my eyes, there is just something so wrong about being glued to an iPad while playing outside.
Plus, there are a couple of lessons I’m trying to teach my girls by running.
First things first, PASSION. I’m trying to show my daughters what it means to live a healthy active lifestyle. I’m teaching them what it means to be passionate about something, in hopes that they will follow their passions one day. When I train for races, I’m teaching them about goal setting, hard work, and commitment. When I told a non mother runner, this, she chuckled – but guess what, it’s never to early or young to teach these things.
Second thing, PATIENCE. I’m teaching patience, sometimes in life we need to wait. The longest stroller run I have done is 8 miles, however, normally I’m taking the babes with me on short 3-5 mile runs, saving my long runs for my “me time” on the weekends.
30-50 minutes is not that long at all. Any child can sit patiently for 30-50 minutes, plus I normally take a sip of water half way, if the babes are not napping by then, I check on them, and tell them the plan. “Mommy’s drinking water, and turning around now to head back to the car/home.” I offer them a drink and snack before turning back.
Third lesson is taking turns. Lately, instead of heading out for a run first thing in the morning, I’ve been spending the morning focused on what my babes want to do – Playing at Barnes and Noble, going to Story Time at the Library, etc. Then I tell them, “Okay, you had your turn, now it’s mommy’s turn.” I also tell them if we hurry and get our running done, we can go to the playground after if we have time. No problem at all with bribing them with the playground.
With all that being said, I have had a lot of people ask me tips to share of how I get Zoe my three year old to sit patiently in the stroller while I run.
We definitely went through a phase around two years old, where she did not want to sit in the stroller. She wanted to do the running part. The minute we arrived to the trail, she would tell me, “I’m going to walk, mommy! Okay?” When I would try to put her in the stroller she would fight it, and pout. Sometimes, she didn’t want to get buckled in and she would try to stand up in the stroller. It finally came to the days where I was running with her less and less, because it became so time consuming and it was an exhausting and a challenge just to get her to sit down and stay seated for 30 minutes. That was two, and that was a phase. Again I never handed her an iPad, I actually just stop taking her. I would arrange my runs later in the day when my husband was home.
Now that she is three years old things are much different. She really gets the concept of taking turns. I can reason with her much easier. So let’s get to it…
These are the TIPS that have worked best for my babes and I.
One – PREPARE: Zoe is three years old. No matter the age, days always go much smoother if we follow a regular routine. At age three, she feels comfortable and confident when she knows what we are doing for the day, our schedule, our plan. I spend the hours leading up to the time we run, preparing her, letting her know that we are going to the running trail, and running a couple of miles. I tell her what I expect from her. If we are going early morning, I let her know the night before, and go over the plan as part of her bedtime routine.
Two – Engagement: If I find that Zoe is getting bored while we are out on the run, I start engaging with her, maybe even play a game of Eye Spy, pointing out different things on the trail. I’m hoping once Ava gets a couple months older the two sisters will engage with each other.
Three – Play Games: As I said above, one of our favorite things to do is play Eye Spy. We have seen plenty of baby ducks, turtles, spider webs, interesting flowers, birds, and even a snake, while playing Eye Spy. Another fun game is Simon Says.
Four – Taking Turns: At three years old, especially because Zoe goes to preschool, she understands that it’s mommy’s turn to do something. Or I will tell her that her sister, Ava, is just a baby and loves stroller rides... “It’s Ava’s turn, now!”
Five – Bribery: Sometimes I need to use good old fashion bribery. I tell Zoe that after our run, I’ll give her a special treat. Normally it’s a trip to the playground, or we will go feed the ducks, or I’ll give her a small piece of chocolate.
Six – Snacks: I always make sure Zoe has a snack to munch on, or just ate so her belly is full. During the summer to keep her cool, I give her a popsicle. It becomes a huge sticky mess, but she loves it. I just wipe her and the stroller down after.
Seven – Activity: I let her bring an activity, such as a small note book with stickers or crayons. Play dough to sculpt or during the summer, bubbles to blow. Sometimes bubbles spill and get messy, but it doesn’t bother me, I just wipe her down after. Again an activity will keep her busy.
Eight – Helper: Some days I’ll ask Zoe to be my helper. I’ll let her carry and keep track of my water bottle.
Nine – Seasons: In the DC area we have four distinct seasons. I run through all of them. This winter, I started using the weather shield on the stroller, Zoe loves it and calls it her tent. In the spring, the weather will be nice, and I’ll point out beautiful flowers on the trail. Zoe normally loves going on runs with me on beautiful days. In the hot summer, I normally take off her shoes and put cold water where her feet rest on the stroller. It creates a pool for her feet where she can splash. In the fall, I normally point out the different colors the trees have turned and I let her pick out a cool, colorful leaf.
Ten – Nap Time: Not all three years olds are still napping, but if we had a busy morning of playing, or I just picked up Zoe from preschool, sometimes she will get tired and fall asleep in the stroller. Most of time on our stroller runs, Ava is snoozing. So some days, it’s all about choosing the right time to run.
Eleven – Independence + Inclusion: I let Zoe climb into get stroller herself, and buckle herself in. Honestly, she is a little big now, so some days I let her sit without being buckled. I also let her choose the direction we run in. “Which way should we go?” “Should I turn around or keep going!?”
Twelve – Variety: If possible we change our running route. This keeps things interesting.
Thirteen – Communication + Listening: Most of the time, when Zoe has a meltdown it’s because of a miscommunication or I wasn’t listening. One time, we had a lovely run on the trail, I let her out of the stroller to pick some fall leaves, then she climbed back in her stroller and we headed back to the car. Once we were back at the car, she had a meltdown, and didn’t want to go home, didn’t want to leave the trail, didn’t want to get buckled in her car seat. Turns out after all the kicking and screaming, all she wanted to do was run herself. She told me she didn’t get a turn to run, and that all she wants was to run with me. A tantrum could have been avoided if I had understood that she expected to do some of her own running after I was finished with mine.
Fourteen – Safety: When Zoe requests to get out of the stroller, in the middle of a run, in most cases I have to say no. When she asks why, I explain to her the running trail is to dangerous because there are cyclists or bike commuters. Or it could be getting dark and I need to get us back to the car before the sun sets. If we aren’t on the trail and we are doing city or neighborhood running, I talk about the dangers of busy roads and cars. The stroller keeps you safe.
Fifteen – Thankful: I always tell Zoe how much I love running with her. I always thank her after for coming along.
*A tip that I have yet to try is time. I have thought about giving Zoe a watch or timer so she can be a part of keeping track of how much time we run. Counting the numbers go down, or waiting for the timer to go off is another way she could be engaged, and included. I love numbers and watching my pace or time on my watch, so why wouldn’t she?!
So those are the things I have tried, and found successful!
Also remember I have been running with Zoe since she was six month old, so she is pretty use to the idea of stroller running. I have been running with Ava since she was 8 weeks old and she absolutely loves it. I find the sooner you start running with them and make it part of your morning routine the more successful you will be.
Good luck and always remember if you want to stroller run with your toddler, make sure you have plenty of time, just in case things don’t go as planned.
Also if you are having a difficult time convincing a toddler to sit patiently or come along with you, some mother runners just don’t give their child a choice. It’s time to run, and that’s that! I understand that this is the only option for single mamas, parents that run together and don’t have child care, or just a parenting style. Personally, my goal is to never make the stroller or running a negative experience so that doesn’t work for us.
With that being said, don’t give up! If you are having a difficult time convincing a toddler to sit in the stroller and go running with you, it may just be a phase. If possible give running together a break and then randomly try it again. I find that around age two, kids want to do all the running and walking by themselves, but around age three they cry and pout that they don’t want to walk and are excited to climb in their stroller and take a seat. So don’t give up. Kids go through phases. Try again. One day they may hate it or just don’t feel like going along, but another day they might love it!
Good luck! Hope this helps! Happy Running!