A blog by runners. For runners.

Training with tots: fitting in running with a family


In addition to a house, two cars, a bank account, and a child, my husband Stephen and I share a passion for running. The sport has been a part of our relationship since the beginning — in fact, it’s one of the reasons he asked me out to begin with. Race bibs lined the walls of my studio apartment, and that’s, he says, when he knew he really liked me.

How romantic, right?

Throughout the years we’ve been together, we’ve both trained for a lot of races, big and small. We’ve been through it all, in sickness (injury, DNFs) and health (PRs and first place finishes). What we weren’t prepared for, however, was how adding a child to the mix might change things with our favorite hobby.

I’ll be the first to admit it was a rocky start, but now that our daughter is nearing age 2, we’ve found our stride, so to speak.

  • Train together, if you can. Now, this tip doesn’t always work for us because Stephen is usually a top 10 finisher whereas I’m somewhere in the middle. Still, if we can get at least one run in together a week, it really eases the crazy night routine. For us, an easy 3 to 5 miler works best. He slows down a bit, I speed up.
  • Learn to love the jogger. One of the wisest investments running couples with kids can make is in a good quality running stroller. You may have guessed that to run together — unless we have childcare — there has to be someone watching the baby. Enter the jogger! Other days, one of us will run an easy run with the stroller while the other does speedwork alone, etc. Our daughter Ada has her limits, but is usually good for a run up to 1 hour in her chariot.
  • Consider running different events. There are some big races that Stephen and I both do, and getting in all the hard training can be difficult. So, recently we’ve started switching off. It means our peak training weeks don’t coincide. Better yet? There’s built-in babysitting for the day of the event, which is always stressful to coordinate.
  • Stagger tough workouts. When we do run the same races, getting in those key runs usually happens by chatting about our training plans and seeing where things can be moved around. For example, both of us running a long run on the same day just doesn’t work anymore. It takes a huge chunk out of our weekend when we’d rather spend time together as a family. So, I’ve switched my LSDs to Saturdays or even Monday afternoons.
  • Get a babysitter. When all else fails, think about asking a family member or friend to watch your little ones for a few hours. Make it a date — go to your favorite park, get in your run, and go out for drinks (smoothies, not vodka) afterward.
  • Be realistic, too. Sometimes your child will be sick or you’ll be tired from a sleepless night. Sometimes you will miss or want to skip runs. Honestly, though we train hard, we are both running fewer races than we did in the past. It’s all a balancing act with the new joys and demands that come along with parenting.

Juggling training for races and caring for a family can be tricky, but we’ve found that where there’s a will, there’s a way. My biggest piece of advice is to not get discouraged. With time, you will figure out what works best for you and your goals.

The good news: Since having our daughter, running has proven an excellent way to relax, spend time together as a couple and as a family, and we’re both hitting faster race times than ever. It can be done!

Article and photo by  Ashley Marcin.

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