How to Make Running Fun for the Family

A mother running with her teenage daughter.
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One of the many joys of running is that it can be an outlet for each of us in a variety of ways. Whether you log your miles to be competitive or for fun, running can provide opportunities to connect with others and ourselves to boost whole health in body, mind and spirit. We’re here to empower your entire family to lace up, hit the pavement and start feeling whole with these tips.

Here are some tips to be successful and have fun with a family-friendly running routine.

Customize Your Family Fitness Goals

Every runner trains for his or her own reasons. For some, running is a lifelong habit that provides both physical and mental well-being. You may be striving toward longer distances or faster race times. Or perhaps you’re a newer runner, just making running part of your daily schedule. Maybe it’s an outlet for stress, or simply part of your fitness routine.

No matter how or why you train, sharing running with your significant other or family can be a wonderful way to get closer and enjoy one another. But in order for everyone to have fun, it’s essential to approach running time together in a safe, age-appropriate and inclusive way.

Including Your Spouse or Significant Other

You may have a spouse or significant other who is an equally or less intensive runner, or perhaps a non-runner. If you both train and race at a similar level, you have the benefit of a partner who understands your love of running and the ups and downs that are part of intensive training. Depending on your schedules, you may have the opportunity to train together and support each other’s goals.

For many, however, there may not be an equal balance in how we approach running compared to our partners and families. Finding ways to share the joy of running in a fun, relaxed way can help bring you together.

Here are a few ways to make running fun for the entire family.

  • Joining your partner for warm-up or recovery miles can be a wonderful way to spend some quality time together when you’re not focused on a certain pace.
  • Even if you don’t race at the same pace, supporting future local races where you both can complete the distance can be a shared experience and an opportunity to cheer each other on. You can still support each other with virtual races, too.
  • Vacation in safe places with opportunities to run or hike. Hiking can be an alternate option to running together that allows you both to explore and improve your fitness.
  • If your spouse is a non-runner but still wants to support you for longer runs, they can always be involved in cheering you on or crewing for you at long distances.

Getting Kids Involved in Running

Above all else, running needs to be a fun, playful outlet for kids, especially for those under age 10. Under the age of 6, games like tag or racing to the mailbox or running with a dog around the yard are perfect ways to get kids moving.

While right now many races are on hold, keep this in mind when they return and are safe. For kids ages 5 and over, fun runs of up to a mile are ok, with walking allowed during the race. Children 12 and over can start participating in 5k’s and kids over 15 are ready to start running 10k – half marathon races. Younger children shouldn’t participate in long distances like marathons or ultras until they’re adults.

Another option is nature trails and parks. This gives kids the opportunity to experience the beauty of the outdoors while being active. Cheering for mom or dad (or an older sibling) can be an introduction to the fun and challenge of running and provide an alternate option for staying involved. Kids can even make posters to cheer on their family members.

Here are some additional ways to introduce your kids to running in a playful way.

Map Out a Local Loop

Find a neighborhood loop where you can safely walk or run together with your children. Set goals such as completing the loop a certain number of times or running portions to give them a chance to push themselves in a fun, low-key environment. Just make sure you choose a route where you can safely social distance.

Try the Track

While tracks can be a little monotonous for longer runs, their small size and controlled environment make them a place where family members can easily run together at a variety of paces. Take turns running faster and slower so you all have an opportunity to be together at varying times.

Run While Kids Bike

Depending on your family’s fitness, taking turns biking while the others run can help everyone maintain a pace that is comfortable for the group and allows you to stay together. Alternate who runs and bikes to give everyone a chance to improve their running fitness.

Plan Your Stops

Running with kids often means frequent stops and starts. Make it a game and map out fun “stops” for water, rest and enjoyment. Avoid trying to make this a training run to keep everyone engaged.

Have Fun With Fartleks

Fartleks (and their laugh-inducing name) are ideal for giving kids an opportunity to run faster paces. Keep them unstructured and use landmarks to speed up and slow down, such as running faster between mailboxes or trees on a wooded path.

Let Kids Do the Planning

Kids are more likely to enjoy a run-related outing if they are allowed to be a part of the planning. Depending on their age, give them a chance to help choose a location, pace and distance.

Running and Fueling

Running requires fueling, and pre- or post-run meals can provide a perfect opportunity to introduce kids to fueling their bodies in a healthy way. Talk about nutritious and balanced meals, and how that helps improve running, too.

Use Apps for Tracking and Goal Setting

While running is a wonderful way to reduce kids’ screen time, some apps may be useful for tracking family run time and even setting time or distance goals.

A Lifetime of Whole Health for the Whole Family

Start your family with a healthy, happy approach to running, and they’ll be more likely to continue to enjoy it for a lifetime of whole health. And if you need help to support your health and fitness journey, our expert network of care is here to guide you and your family with extra safety measures in place to protect your whole health.

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