There was a time when exercise would be scheduled around school and work schedules. My husband would hit the gym in the mornings, before the kids even woke up for school. I would stop in for a barre class on my way home from work. Then in those few evening hours we had time to spend with the kids, he would be exhausted from getting up so early and I would be in a rush to get dinner on the table after my class.
It wasn’t until we got an email from the school with sign-ups for after school activities that we found a better solution. A way for our family to exercise and stay active together.
The activity that caught our attention was a running club for our third grader: Girls On the Run (GOTR). The girls trained together a few days a week, and ran a 5k race at the end of the season.
We joined not only because it was a great way to get active, but there are lessons on empowerment and confidence for young girls. I won’t go into the details of GOTR in this post, but if you are intersted in this program, you can read more about it here. With chapters all across the country, there is probably one near you. That first season was the start to how our family has stayed active together with running.
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Start At Any Age
Even infants and toddlers can get out running with you. An inexpensive or used jogging stroller is all you need to get going.
Kindergarteners can handle a 1 mile fun run on their own. Our elementary school has an end-of-year fun run that the entire school runs together. It’s so cute seeing the little ones so proud of what they’ve accomplished at the finish line!
Look for 5k and 10k events that also have a fun run. Run the 1 mile race together and ask friends or family to stay with the kids while you run the longer race.
By 3rd grade, they can be ready to take on a 5k. In 6th grade, our oldest had run her first 10k, but I’ve seen some kids start even younger.
Working towards a goal – Together
Weeks of training that lead to crossing the finish line together is an incredible feeling. The entire process of getting ready for a race something for the entire family:
find a local race
There are many, many races out there! Some are fun (mud runs, holiday-themed races, and those with glow, foam, or color) and some support great charities. Make sure you check Groupon before you buy – they often have great deals on upcoming local races.
make a training plan
There are a lot of traing plans available online, and can vary by experience and race distance. Find a few options at active.com, where we also find a lot of the local races.
encouragement and motivation
Whether you don’t feel like going out that day, need a push of energy during a run, or just need someone to walk with you while you catch your breath, it always helps to do it together.
Running Can Be Done Anywhere
Exercising probably doesn’t sound like anything you really want to do on vacation, but hear me out on this one. When you first arrive to your destination and get into your hotel, you’re exhausted, but also ready to get out to explore. Heading our for a family run will not only give everyone a pop of energy, but you can cruise through the area you are staying to get a lay of the land and quickly scope out places to explore. It’s a win-win!
Plus the distraction of new sights keeps minds busy and endurance up (win-win-win!)
Pro tip: Check in with the front desk at your hotel for route recommendations. They often have maps available with nearby routes.
No Investment Required
All you really need is a good pair of shoes that are made for running. There are definitely a lot of gadgets and gear to make the experience a little better, but they are certainly not necessary purchases.
I recommend holding off until you get a few miles under your belt and see what you need.
A few favorite things we always have on a run with us:
An Arm Band or Waist Band
Hold phones, keys, cash, or any other valuables safely while you run. Keep your phone with you to use apps to track your pace and distance (or find your way back if you get lost – I’ve been there, done that!). We use RunKeeper and MapMyRun.
I switch off between the two, depending on where and how long I’m running. The waistband has more pockets and compartments to carry keys, credit cards, and energy gels for long runs. I like the arm band so I can do a quick check of my time or distance during a run.
Hand-held Water Bottle
Holding a bottle of water while running can be really annoying. But it’s so important to stay hydrated, that you need to keep water with you. This water bottle straps onto your hand and gives you quick access to water when you need it.
This water bottle fits perfectly on your hand instead of carrying water in your hand. It also makes it easy to drink while running so you don’t need to stop and mess with bottle caps. It also comes in larger sizes, but I found the smaller bottle holds just enough water and is easy to carry.
Running doesn’t require a big investment into equiment or gear, or any specialized training. This means that you get your family started today!
[Disclaimer: It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially for kids. He or she may recommend appropriate distances by age and nutrition advice to keep them fueled for their runs.]