The Kids Are Out of School! How Am I Supposed to Run?

It doesn’t feel this way during those years, but when our kids are babies running is easy. You can put them in a stroller and go. When they go to school running is easy because, well, they’re in school! Before they’re old enough to stay home alone for an hour, finding time to run when school-aged kids are home for the summer can be quite a challenge. The good news is that it’s not impossible.

Down here in South Texas, we refer to the season as “summer-er”. It’s 85° by 9 AM, and if the sun isn’t boiling us, the humidity is so thick it’s hard to inhale. The kids are done with school, and their insistence on needing to be fed and entertained usually throws a kink in my running schedule. This summer in particular, I’m training pretty intensely for some 5Ks and 10Ks, and my husband’s work travel schedule has intensified to the point where he will only be home when we’re on vacation and the week we move to Dallas. As you can imagine, I’ve had to get creative with my running. Here are some strategies that are working for me, and I hope they can help you too!

Running Stroller

Unfortunately, this is no longer an option for me (sniff) and most of us with kids, but if your youngins are still of age, the jogging stroller is a godsend for summer break. Here are some tips to keep the kids cool in the jogger:

  • give them popsicles or frozen fruit in mesh strainers if they’re really young
  • invest in a clip-on stroller fan
  • pick a route that goes through sprinklers
  • start and/or finish at a pool
  • dress them in bathing suits and let them squirt water bottles on themselves (my kids LOVED this)

Babysitter

While not the most economical solution, hiring a babysitter for a few hours can be a lifesaver. When I trained for my first marathon, I followed Pete Pfitzinger’s 18-week plan from his book Advanced Marathoning. He is a big advocate of the mid-week long run, and I was just not willing to run 14 miles in the heat of the day with a stroller. I had a friend who would come over at 6:00 a.m. for a few hours once a week. She enjoyed the extra cash, I got a run in, and the kids got to sleep in. Win-win-win. A high school student home and bored for the summer may appreciate having a part-time summer job!

Pro-tip: A cheaper alternative is a gym with childcare. Many YMCA’s also offer fun classes or programs for kids along with child watch so you can run while your kids get in some fun.

Bonus Tip!Do you have other friends with kids who run? If so, consider forming a running parent co-op! You can meet at someone’s house or a park and take turns going for runs, while the other parents watch the kids. Everyone gets a break from their kids and no one has to pay a sitter!

Treadmill

I am #blessed that my husband got me a treadmill for my birthday one year, because without it I would hardly be able to run in the summer. It’s not the most fun way to run, but I can get up early and get the miles in without disturbing the kids. If you don’t have your own treadmill, there’s always one at your local gym, which has the added bonus of childcare (see above!).

Pro-tip: We have a whole slew of treadmill tips here to jazz up your runs while you stare at a wall!

Track

The track is awesome because for most of them you can see your kids the whole time and the kids can even hop in and run with you as much as they want. This is the first year I’ve been brave enough to bring my kids to the track, and I’m happy to report it’s gone pretty well! I was worried the kids would be bored but they’ve been fine (thanks iPad). Here are some quick tips for keeping them happy while you’re on the track:

  • Water is key. The first week I did this, they drank all my water before I was done with my second repeat, which made for a great workout. Bring more than you think you’ll all need.
  • Squirt guns on a hot day are also a great way to keep them entertained and keep everyone cool.
  • Can they play on the field? If so, try bubbles, any kind of ball, or hula hoops.
  • Are there bleachers? If so, set them up in the shade with books and any kind of technology you’re happy bribing them with.
  • Give them jobs like recording your splits or handing you water when you need it.

Bikes!

Mine aren’t quite ready for this one yet, but a lot of running parents take their kids and bikes along for an easy run. Maybe if your kids are on the older side they could keep up with a tempo or hang in there for a longer run, but most younger school-aged kids probably don’t have the attention span to go more than 45 minutes to an hour tops and even at an easy pace will likely whine about being soooooooo tiiiiiirrrrrreeedd.

  • A designated bike path is optimal. Sidewalks can be narrow or bumpy, and it’ll stress you out trying to manage your little cyclist among the vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
  • A path with long stretches of visibility, particularly one not heavily populated, is great for letting your little ones zoom up ahead when the feeling strikes.
  • Avoid monster hills obvs.
  • Be mentally prepared to stop and start.
  • Bring the water.
  • Think of something fun to talk about to get through whiny patches.
  • Tell your kid how awesome bricks are and let her off her bike to run a little with you at the end!
Sometimes I trade in the running shoes for a kayak.

More Summer Break Running Tips

  • Train for a shorter distance, like a 5K or 10K. You’ll still have the intensity and structure of a training plan, but the workouts won’t require the amount of time that they would if you were training for a half or full marathon.
  • Use summer as a time to try out cross-training. Sometimes it’s easier to go for a swim or bike ride with the kids than a run. Or, if you can’t stand the treadmill again, try out a group fitness class while the kids are in the gym child center.
  • Run in the “ghost” hours when everyone is asleep. I go early morning but I have friends who go after bedtime. You can get runs in and not have to worry about the kids.
  • Check out local Vacation Bible Schools or day camps! I’m not saying to put your kids in camp just so you can run, but I’m saying it’s not the worst idea either.

What are your best tips for running when the kids are off school?

I am a stay at home mom and group fitness instructor from South Texas. I love reading, wine, and travel. I write about trends, injury prevention and maintenance, and satire. I am training to break 1:30 in the half marathon sometime soon, and for the 2017 Boston Marathon.

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3 comments

  1. My running life has improved so much now that my kids are old enough to be left alone for a little bit at a time. I can do a 2, 3 or 4 mile loop near my house and check in to make sure everyone is still alive… and then go back out. One of my tips on one of your tips… make sure the child watch at your gym allows you to leave the grounds. I had an incident once where I checked my baby into the Y and went out on a nearby bikepath for a run… and something happened where they were trying to find me but couldn’t, and were actually on the phone with the police when I returned (she’s 10 now so this was actually before the time when I was carrying a cell phone around with me everywhere…). Policy at our current gym is you have to stay in the building…. so, treadmill.

    1. Good point! My Y used to make us stay in the building but now we can run from the Y if we leave our cell phone number. I got called shortly after the new policy which was coincidentally shortly after my youngest was potty trained. She peed all over the floor! It took me about 10 minutes to book it back from a park with a short shaded trail loop about a mile away. I love that park and I love the policy of letting us run outside!

  2. I never thought I’d miss my kids being toddlers because then I could just take them with me and run when I wanted to, but now at least 2 out of three are too big for that. I’m so grateful for our Y! It’s always my fallback if kid/s are off from school, weather sucks for strollers, etc. My son loves riding his bike and can run about a mile or so without whining so we can usually scrap a decent run together if it’s just us. But that’s pretty rare. If I could I would wake up and just get my running done, but sleep is a little too precious right now. I also have a treadmill, but that’s worst worst case. Between the boringness and my kids likely fighting while I’m on it …