Running is a brilliant sport for families. It’s cost-effective and time-efficient. It’s a great way to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy and the wide-ranging mental and physical benefits of exercise and time spent outdoors are well-documented. Regular exercise may even help to protect against those pesky coughs and colds that are the bane of many parents’ lives. Running’s great for kids, and most will do it naturally, left to their own devices away from the confines of chairs and screens. Exercise has been found to improve self-esteem in children and young people and encouraging time outdoors is essential for children, now more than ever before.
Whether you’re thinking of taking up running yourself, or you’re looking for ways to fit running around family life, or you’d like to get your kids involved in running, we’ve put together some ideas to get you started:
Parkruns are free, weekly, 5km runs around local parks that are open to everyone. They’re sociable, supportive and inclusive and you can just run or also get involved in volunteering if you wish – you can even run with dogs and buggies. Many locations also hold a Junior Parkrun of 2km, open to runners of 4-14. Visit Parkrun.co.uk for details of your local event and how to register.
2. Buggy running
There’s a fantastic range of running buggies available for parents who want or need to train with their kids. It’s a wonderful freedom to be able to run while your baby/toddler sleeps, or explore with them. We’re ambassadors for THULE Sweden who make outstanding multi-purpose trailers. The Chariot range allows you to run, bike or even ski with up to two children – freedom! If you’re looking for more information on buggies and trailers, Running Buggies is a brilliant resource and has an excellent range for sale. There are several companies – mainly London-based – who hire out running buggies if you want to give one a go, or alternatively some National Trust places have a fleet of off-road buggies you can borrow for free.
3. Join a club
Running and athletics clubs are a great way to meet people, discover local running routes and improve your running in a supportive environment. Many clubs have a juniors section, great for introducing kids to competitive sport in a friendly and low-pressure way.
4. Grab every opportunity
Running when you have a family is all about making the most of every opportunity. If you like early mornings this is a great time to run, when the world is peaceful apart from the birds and the occasional fox. Try running back after taking the kids to school if the logistics work; head out for an hour while they’re at dance class; run-commute to work or go in your lunch break. It’s also great to involve them when you can – accompany them on a bike ride or take them out for a spin in the buggy so everyone gets some fun and fresh air.
5. Get planning
Getting everyone involved in planning running routes is a great way to inspire enthusiasm. If the kids are riding on bikes or in buggies let them pick somewhere they’d like to go en route – a park or cafe perhaps. Take a look at your local 1:25000 Ordnance Survey map and find trails and paths nearby. Our UK guidebook, Wild Running, has 150 routes across the country to choose from and lots of useful advice and information. Or head to somewhere with marked trails for running, such as many National Trust places or our fun, free Wild Running trails at four Forestry Commission sites nationally.
6. Take on a challenge
There are lots of organised running challenges you can take part in that also work well as a family. We’re part of team Trail Running magazine’s #Run1000Miles challenge, aiming to run – and encourage others to run – 1000 miles in 2017. You could do it individually, of course, but you don’t have to. Why not split the distance and run it as a family?