Like a lot of life’s grand plans, my idea to train for a running race with my toddler and a jogging stroller started with the promise of good weather. It was this past April, and I was motivated by a stretch of unseasonably warm days in my hometown just north of Chicago. I was determined to stay out of the house all day long if I could manage it, so I borrowed a jogging stroller from a friend, packed snacks, and set off. As I ran, it was as if a weight I didn’t know I’d been carrying for the year since my son was born was suddenly lifted.
I felt free.
But let’s back up a bit: it might help you understand my feelings if you know a little bit about me, my family, and my son. I’m an ex-Division 1 athlete, a work-from-home mom, and a (former) avid runner. My husband travels and works long hours, including weekends and holidays, and my son is, shall we say, just as energetic as we are. He was a terribly colicky baby, a very early walker, and a never-great sleeper.
Basically, before I ran with him in the stroller, keeping him entertained, smiling, and alive took all of my time and energy, especially that which I used to use for exercise. I secretly envied the moms I knew who dropped off their kids in the gym childcare or worked out while their kids slept peacefully in the other room. For a long time, my excuses – “I’m too tired” and “he’s too attached” – kept me from working out, something that is a huge part of who I am and that I knew I loved and missed.
When I ran with my son in that stroller, however, something changed for us.
I was doing what I loved, and he was right there with me. As he slept and giggled (he loved it!), I realized I didn’t have an excuse to stop — and I didn’t want one. Let’s just say it wasn’t long before I purchased a three-wheeled stroller of my own and signed us up for a 10k. As spring arrived and for the first time since I became a mother, with my new stroller and a lot of Goldfish crackers, I was ready to train for a race.
Of course, I learned quickly that running while pushing an extra 40+lbs isn’t the same as running alone. It took me weeks to get used to the change in my gait and the arm swing limitations, let alone be strong enough to cover the miles I needed to in order to truly “train.” I struggled on anything uphill or downhill or whenever I had to make a turn. It was grueling and frustrating but rewarding. I was happy to be back running and proud of my improvements. It was hard work, but the endorphins were irresistible.
There were other positives to jogging with a stroller too. For one, there was storage space! Throughout my training, I ran with my wallet, phone, keys, diapers, wipes, snacks, toys, water, and extra clothing. Part of that was just good ole’ preparation, but mostly, it meant we could easily make stops along my favorite running routes or run to and from destinations like the beach, the park, the mall, play dates, the grocery store, or even to meet up with friends for lunch. Another unexpected positive I found during training was that my son would nap while I ran. In short, we would both arrive home in a much better mood and the rest of the day would breeze by.
After a few months, I ran a very crowded race (on a very hot day) and finished with a smile on my face — and a happy toddler in tow.
If you want to start running with your baby, I highly recommend it. Sure, you’ll have to deal with tire and brake issues, cupholders, diaper changes, and wind resistance, but it will be worth it, I promise. I keep our distances short (under an hour) and am careful to avoid being caught in nasty weather, but running is by far my favorite mother-son activity.
It has made me a stronger parent both physically and emotionally, and I don’t plan to stop any time soon.
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