5 Golden Rules of Family Running
Few things in life are more exciting than sharing your passions with the ones you love. And we’re not talking about bombarding your poor family with running anecdotes whenever you get the chance. We’re talking about actually running with them. Especially when everyone involved is having just as much fun as you are. But is that even possible, you ask? Can a family run really take place without any nagging, melt-downs or tears? Yes, it can. And guess what? Most of it is going to depend on you. Here are five golden rules of family running.
1. It’s not about you
Firstly, and most importantly, remember that a family run is not all about you. It’s not about your goal pace or the distance that your running program requires you to cover on a specific day. Instead, it’s about spending time together as a family and having fun. Period.
The quickest way to frustrate everyone on a family running outing, including yourself, is to act as self-appointed drill sergeant. Sure, a little encouragement is a positive thing. But the chances are pretty good that no one in your family can or wants to run at your goal pace. So don’t try to force them. It’s also not fair to expect a young pair of unpractised legs to instantly cover distances that took you months to conquer.
Remember that the goal is for everyone to have fun. So save your more serious workouts for when you can fly solo or train with your club mates.
2. Involve everyone right from the start
Kids tend to gravitate towards activities where they are allowed to call some of the shots. So instead of forcing a pre-planned excursion on them, why not involve them in the planning right from the start? Where would they like to run to? What kind of fuel would they like to take with them? How fast do they want to run? (Your younger family members might need a bit of guidance on this one. They’re notorious fast starters!) And do they want to use a run/walk strategy?
Making your family members a part of the planning process will show them that their needs and preferences are also taken into consideration. And, let’s face it, having a say in how things are done is way more fun than simply tagging along.
3. Make peace with stops and starts
There will be starts and stops. Plenty of it. So do yourself a favor and accept it.
Someone’s shoe laces will come undone and need to be re-tied. The toddler in the stroller will have a poopy diaper that needs to be changed. The chances are good that one of the kids joining you on a scooter will scrape a knee or bump a toe and need a cuddle. And your non-running spouse will most probably get a side stitch that needs to be walked off. So what? Life happens. Even when you’re out there running, right?
So instead of letting it frustrate you, make peace with it even before you head out the door. Stops and starts are as much a part of family running as crazy laughter and gasping for air. Accept it.
4. Stop and smell the roses
There are bound to be some interesting attractions along your way. So instead of speeding past them for the sake of getting in a good run, why not use them to your advantage?
Point out, or stop and chat about that beautiful butterfly/spider’s web/sunrise when you sense that frustration is mounting. It’s a great way to distract attention from tiring legs and burning lungs. Or why not schedule a quick half-time play park break? A bit of laughter and play is sure to invigorate everyone for the final stretch home. A quick mid-run family selfie is also an effective way to prompt some laughter and give everyone a chance to catch up and catch their breath.
5. Change your perspective
Family runs are best regarded as a way of making memories, not clocking serious miles. Sure, it’s an excellent way to lay a foundation for and set an example of healthy, active living. But there’s a very fine line between having active fun together as a family, and trying to push your family to do something that they’re just not ready for. And one of the most certain ways in which to cross that line, is to take the fun out of it and force your family to perform. Don’t.
Keep it fun. Keep it laid-back. And save your PB attempts and tempo runs for days when the family stays at home. And, who knows, you might just be laying the foundations for a life-long love of running in your children that will one day reward you with the best running buddies ever.
So, in a nutshell, family runs are the time to park your own running dreams, ambitions and training programs on the sideline for the sake of building fun, positive, happy memories with your crew. Don’t let it be about speed. And don’t let it be about distance. And be prepared to, on some days, cut it short or skip it altogether. Sure, give encouragement and high-fives where it’s due. But don’t place the emphasis solely on performance.
This is your one chance to share and enjoy with your family the activity that you’re so passionate about. Do it right and you’ll all be rewarded with some of the best family memories you’ll ever have.