Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stuck in the middle with you!

There was a recent article in Runner's World Magazine about what distance race best suited you (http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244--13007-0,00.html).

The quiz results confirmed that I am best suited for the middle distance. I also realized, however, that training with the stroller best supports that distance (8-13 mile races). While I have strapped a child into the stroller to do 20-mile training runs, I was also just a little lucky that her temperament was suited to that sort of thing and I don't know if I have it in me to push the double jogger for 20 miles. On the other side of things, it is nearly impossible to keep the same posture and biomechanics one would need for sprinting when you are pushing a stroller. So watch out 10-milers! Here I (we) come!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Run, Jenny, Run

The other day we ran our 6 +/- miles, but it was in 4 segments. Home from school, home from the gas station, back to the gas station, back to school. The baby got some nice stroller naps that day. This begs two questions:
1. Why walk when you can run? To save time? For the exercise? Or because I'm constantly standing behind this "jogging" stroller so I feel like a wuss if I'm walking?
2. Is the sum of my workout greater than it's parts? I'm banking on it ;)

Monday, December 1, 2008


"There is no one more surprised that I - except my husband. You know what they say: 'Behind every successful woman, there is an astonished man.'"
Gen. Ann Dunwoody, speaking at a ceremony in Washington, DC, honoring her for becoming the first woman to achieve the rank of four-star general in the US military as quoted in Newsweek (November 24, 2008)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Need for Speed

One often hears about endorphin-highs and people who are addicted to exercise. I definitely feel better - physically and mentally - after I've had my workout for the day, but I think it is my kids that are addicted. Let me explain. Our weekday routine generally consists of walking my eldest daughter to school, going on a jog of variable length with the stroller, and then heading home. The baby always falls asleep during this evolution, though the 3-year-old is just along for the ride. I've observed that on days when we skip this because I've run by myself on a Sat. or some similar interruption of our routine, everyone is just a little crankier than usual. The baby doesn't nap well and the 3-year-old is out of sorts.

So, now that we are revisiting cold weather, I'm finding that this dependence on the stroller has adjusted my tolerances. In an earlier blog about cold weather running, I think that I defined my minimum temperature for taking a baby in the stroller to be about 40 deg F. This year, with this baby, we are redrawing that line at 30 deg F. Poor baby #3...*

*Don't worry, this baby is well-protected by the cold with a snowsuit and blankets and wind/rain shield. She sleeps like, well, a baby :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let's Race

When I'm not in peak shape, I often think of races as a waste of money. Why pay someone to go on a run I could just as well do by myself if I don't have a chance of winning anyway? Generally I can't bring the stroller, so I have to find a sitter or my husband and I have to take turns.

Well, a lot can be gained from running races even if you are not particularly close to the top.

5. Many races are beautiful courses that are not accessible under normal conditions.
4. Particularly for longer distances, the support is nice so you don't have to carry water, etc.
3. It is a goal to aim for that can really help motivate you to get out the door to train.
2. Improves your speed.
1. The whole family gains enthusiasm for running.

My husband and I run in a lot of races so we signed the kids up for a local Halloween Costume Fun Run. When they've done it themselves, they can start to better understand the need for Mommy to practice before her big race. Plus, we hope that they stay interested in running as they get older. It is good for their health and it is an activity that the whole family can do together, even as the kids outgrow the stroller. Now we'll see how that works out...

Monday, October 20, 2008

6-wheel Circus

What has 10 arms, 10 legs and 6 wheels? My whole family out on a run!
(That is 2 adults, 3 kids and 2 strollers.)

When we had just one stroller, whoever was faster at the moment, depending on who was training for what or whether I was pregnant or not, would push it to slow him/me down. This is the conundrum that my husband and I have encountered when trying to run together.

There are four possible scenarios:
1. If the woman is pushing the stroller and the husband is struggling to keep up, he's a wimp.
2. If the woman is pushing the stroller and the husband is clearly faster, he's a jerk.
3. If the man is pushing the stroller and he is clearly slower, he's a control freak.
4. If the man is pushing the stroller and he is clearly faster, he's a show-off.

What's a guy to do? ;)

So now that we both have to push a stroller if we want to run together, I'm glad that I can keep up (i.e. save face) for the shorter distances, at least, despite the 2-month-old baby!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The 90-minute Mile

My daughter is in kindergarten at the neighborhood school this year so we've been walking back and forth. The younger two kids generally ride in the stroller on the way over in the morning so we can go on our run after we drop her at school, but in the afternoon, the baby rides in the infant carrier and both the 2 1/2 - year old and the 5-year-old walk. Some days are slower than others. The kids like to play with sticks as we go. Sometimes one is eating a snack as we meander home, but the other day I timed it and projecting the pace into "runner's terms," we were doing a 90-minute mile! Wow! That is slow. Painfully slow. It is hard, as a grown-up, to walk that slow.

So, "Why torture yourself?" one might ask. I think that they are learning a good lesson. Walking is good exercise. It is better for the environment than driving. It is a nice opportunity to talk about our day. We can watch as the leaves start to change colors. It is a routine that they can expect everyday. I think that it is even good for their self esteem to see that they can accomplish this - because sometimes they find it difficult...or so they say.

It is also good exercise for me since sometimes I do have pity and give piggy-back rides. My 2 1/2-year old coined it a "Mama sandwich" with the baby on the front and the toddler on the back! I continue to have the highest respect for Sherpas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherpa).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Running with Three

A reader recently inquired about how I was running with three kids. I should clarify.

First point, they do make triple joggers. I have a couple friends, God bless them, who actually run with three kids across. Wow. These strollers are expensive, however, but very useful when all three kids are too young for school. You will not fit through doorways with this stroller!

Second point, when I chose the witty name "runningfor3" I did not actually know I was pregnant with my third child yet so I was counting myself. Sort of like the time my husband and I purchased a brand new lightweight tent for all those long backpacking trips we were going to do. Then I figured out I was pregnant about ten days later. Sure, that tent has gotten a lot of use...

Third point: If I have all three kids with me, I can't actually run, but I can walk with the infant in a carrier while the other two ride in the stroller. Transporting 90+ pounds of children plus equipment is not really enjoyable though you will feel the burn AND possibly earn your honorary Sherpa status.

Solution: Divide and conquer. I run while Turkey #1 is in school. Sometimes on weekends, I take the baby or the baby and another so Daddy doesn't have to deal with all three at the same time. I have friends that have taken their kids to do track work. Park them right in the middle and then you can seem them all the time as you run in circles.

PS. There is also the stroller playdate. If you can find a friend that has an older child in school and he/she can push one of your kids while you push the other two. That could be fun for all.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stroller Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is strong within our ranks and there is no cease-fire just because they are riding in the jogging stroller.

Type 1: The Fair-Fight
The petite 5-year-old and the enormous 3-year-old. Things will be going along fine until one of their little feet starts to cross over the mid-line and the next thing I know there are arms and legs flailing and the stroller is jerking around and we are quite the spectacle!

Type 2: The Bully
The 3-year-old and the newborn. Not a fair fight. What begins as innocent hand holding often escalated to arm squeezing and eye poking. Defending the baby is required.

Solutions - well, preventions, hopefully, to the fighting are mainly about distraction! Food, books, music, etc. Books are especially useful to create a physical wall between the two kids as well. Covering the baby with a blanket when the weather allows for it also provides a physical barrier.

Keep the older child's eyes "out" of the stroller looking for red cars or squirrels or whatever you are likely to see along your route. Keep the older child's hands busy with small toys, an old iPod, coloring, binoculars, songs with hand motions such as "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" or "The Wheels on the Stoller," etc.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Illusion of Choice

Back to my blog's original mission: how to get your kids to sit in the jogging stroller! Dealing with children and adults alike, the most persuasive of people understand that you have to give the illusion of choice. Make them come to believe it was their idea all along. The key factor is only giving choices with outcomes that you are happy with.
Imagine! I sometimes meet some resistance from my 2-year-old when we are loading up the stroller for a run. I offer, "Spencer, do you want the big streets or little streets?" He answers, "Big streets!" Do you want to bring Goldfish or Cheerios? OK, we're off.
Now, the most likely pitfall is that your child will change his or her mind. Don't show a minute's hesitation. Be firm. No changing.
What other choices do your kids like to make for themselves?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mind Over Hills

The October 2008 Runner's World Magazine ranks "The greatest, most daunting hills in U.S. races". I can't find it on their web page so I will list them for you:

1. Heartbreak Hill, Boston Marathon (Boston, MA)
2. Hayes Street Hill, Bay to Breakers 12K (San Francisco, CA)
3. Queensboro Bridge, NYC Marathon (New York, NY)
4. Doomsday Hill, Lilac Bloomsday 12K (Spokane, WA)
5. Mt. Washington Auto Road, Mt. Washington Road Race (Gorham, NH)
6. Cardiac Hill, Peachtree 10K (Atlanta, GA)
7. Hospital Hill, Hospital Hill Half-Marathon (Kansas City, MO)
8. Gallows Lane, Litchfield Hills Road Race (Litchfield, CT)
9. Diamond Head Avenue, Honolulu Marathon (Honolulu, HI)
10. Hurricane Point, Big Sur Internat'l Marathon (Big Sur, CA)

Whoa! Have you been to Mt. Washington? That is not even on the same scale as these other hills! I understand that there is a big mental component to "daunting" beyond simple elevation gain or percent grade, but only #5? Really? Admittedly, I've never had to run up Heartbreak Hill at mile 20, but my CAR could barely DRIVE up the Mt. Washington Auto Road. (Side note: NH's Presidential Range is where I got engaged.) So that is almost 8 miles, rising 4,650 feet. Mt. Washington averages 12% grade vs only 4.5% for Heartbreak Hill (less than 90 foot elevation gain over 0.37 miles).

I've run over Diamond Head Ave (#9) many times both with and without my jogging stroller too and that it ranks a measly 4 places after Mt. Washington also baffles me. It just isn't that hard. In the marathon, it is dark the first time you go over, so that barely counts. Perhaps that I have run over it so many times with Maddie in the stroller, makes the races over it that much easier. At least I was by myself!

So run big hills with your jogging stroller! It will be much easier when you are racing later and not pushing those extra pounds on wheels! But who will hold your water?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Book Recommendations

This could also be called "How to Get Motivated to Do Crazy Hard Athletic Stuff".

You probably don't have tons of time for pleasure reading, but if you can squeeze a page in while on the elliptical machine at the gym or one chapter at a time after the kids go to bed, I highly recommend these books I've read recently:

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb
Ultimate Fitness by Gina Kolata
Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox
Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-night Runner by Dean Karnazes

None of the are how-to books. There are no training plans or diets. Just stories about athletes. I'm sure there are many others that I just can't think of at the moment.

What books you would recommend to inspire one's inner athlete?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cross Training to Recover

4 weeks post-partum: my brain is ready to run again, my stroller is ready to roll, but my body is not.

My first inclination was to throw caution to the wind and jog anyway. I've done this recovery thing 2 times before and I ran up until just couple weeks before delivery so I was feeling a little cocky until I got the rebuke. My wonderfully level-headed midwife had a very compelling argument about internal organs and connective tissues. So, since there is no strength training I know about for internal organs of the abdominal region, that seemed like advice I should heed.

Plan B: Low-impact cardio and strength training to prevent injury when I can eventually resume running. While it is obvious that my abdominal muscles are weaker post-pregnancy, my hips have been also stretched and my quads have been rested, so everything needs to get a little stronger. This is especially important since when I do start running, as I will be just a little heavier than at my athletic peak ;)

It is still probably unwise for one to begin a brand new sport at this point, but I resumed Step aerobics to target leg strength and low impact cardio. I also resumed moderate weights for upper body and core conditioning. All core exercises are approached with caution at this point since the goal is basically just to get the two side of my abs back together and to support my back.

Finally, I've been walking, of course. I'm happy to report that I'm faster than I was three weeks ago when the man with the cane passed right by me. This is also good practice for the baby to work up to running in the jogging stroller.

So, perhaps this is old-hat to me, but there is some consolation in remembering that it is new for little Francesca, so for her sake, we'll take it slow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Athlete. Mom.

I've found this summer's Olympics to be very encouraging. Though the gymnasts are mere babes, there are many other highly competitive athletes at these games that are still older than me AND they have a child!

Photos of Olympic Moms

Now add to that list yesterday's winner - by a lot! - of the women's marathon, Constantina Tomescu. In addition to having a kid, at 38, she was the oldest competitor to ever win this event.

I find this all especially helpful for morale at this juncture as I begin my recovery from baby #3. Jogging short intervals this morning was highly successful with Turkey #2 in the single jogger. Turkey #3 passed my "Floppy Head Test*" so she's ridden in the stroller for walks, but jogging is right around the corner - on very smooth paths. Despite her tender age, she is not a small baby.

* Somewhat arbitrarily created when our new-parent friends called us inquiring if we thought it was OK for them to take their 1-month old out for a jog: if you pick up the baby under his arms and he is able to hold up his head (i.e. it does not flop over), I think it is probably fine to put them in a reclined, 5-point harness jogging stroller for a smooth route. Remember, however, I do not actually possess any authority or expertise to make this call.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lucky 13

Francesca's first stroller ride on day 13 (not per manufacturer's instructions) - though we are still just walking for now. She fell asleep immediately so I guess she likes it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Baby Steps

Today I got passed by a man with a cane. Seriously.

Stroller Maintenance

So, we are careful to maintain our cars as per manufacturers recommendations to change the oil, rotate tires, etc. And my husband is particularly neurotic about taking care of his many bicycles. Yet, the jogging stroller receives very little attention until things really start to fall apart.In anticipation of putting an infant in our loyal double jogger, I replaced all 3 tires (yes, you can see the wires underneath the worn-away rubber) and the brake caliper (rusted open), brake pads (large chunks were worn away) and brake cable.

I suppose that occasionally washing off the mud, lubricating moving parts and rotating the tires wouldn't hurt...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Choosing a Jogging Stroller

If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me about what type of jogging stroller I think is best...I would have at least a dollar. But that is a lot of times to write the same email. If only I had saved them...

Anyway, here are my thoughts on jogging strollers:
1. Terrain: Do you primarily jog on smooth roads or bumpy trails? Knobby tires will only require more energy to push so you don't need them if you aren't on bumpy roads that require greater traction and resistance to flats. Furthermore, though suspension sounds great, unless you are actually running on very bumpy terrain, it will just make more work for you to push through the suspension in order to make turns. Your kids can take it.
2. Storage: No problem here if you just roll it into the garage, but if you have to fold and/or carry the stroller at all, consider weight, ease of collapse and folded dimensions. Stick with 16" wheels rather than 20" which will take up much more space.
3. Cost: You could easily spend over $500 on a double stroller, but consider if you really need that. If you anticipate that your stroller will get relatively light use, there is no need to buy the most expensive on the market.
4. Wheels: The swivel front wheel makes turning easier if you primarily walk, but it is inferior to the fixed front wheel for running. Though you can usually lock the swivel wheel into place, the chances of it tracking crooked are greater than a fixed wheel and these strollers are often heavier.
5. Uses: Is this stroller exclusively for exercise or does it also go on errands and such? Lots of storage space and pockets plus a slimmer width for doorways are both helpful if this stroller is going to the grocery store.
6. Separate sun shades: If you have 2 kids, you'll want to be able to adjust seat backs and sun shades separately.
7. Accommodating an infant seat: Personally, I consider this totally unnecessary. How fast do you really think you are going?
8. Where to buy: www.joggingstroller.com has a huge selection and fantastic customer service.

Some brands to consider:
Baby Jogger Performance strollers are ideal for high mileage road runners.
The cost of a BOB stroller is not necessary unless you actually run on trails - which I do without a BOB anyway.
Dreamer Design and Kelty are good compromise options.
In Step is a good low cost alternative, but may not hold up well to heavy use.
Would YOU want to be the kid in the bottom seat of a Phil and Ted stroller?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How To Run Downhill

Pushing your jogging stroller uphill probably gets more thought than running downhill, but there are a couple important things to consider to run as quickly - and safely - as possible downhill.

How steep is the hill vs how heavy is your stroller? The first hill we go down at the start of our regular route is so steep that I actually walk backwards down it with the jogging stroller.

Generally, however, downhill is a great opportunity to cut a little time and to practice faster turnover (i.e. how quickly you put one foot in front of the other). This is just one of the reasons why jogging strollers have a hand brake and a runaway strap.

Even if it makes your arm get sweaty - ALWAYS USE YOUR RUNAWAY STRAP!

To use your hand brake effectively, you need to lean INTO it. As you squeeze the lever with your left hand, consider using only the palm of your right hand to push rather than gripping the handle which could inadvertently apply a downward force. This keeps the front wheel in contact with the ground (the only way the brake will work) plus it will put less pressure on your knees and keep your form better. You will maintain much more control than either trying to pull the stroller back or simply trying to run as fast as the stroller rolls.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


People often equate pregnancy and/or labor with running a marathon (including Natalie Morales of The Today Show in the Aug 08 Runner's World). How much one buys into that probably depends on whether you've ever run a marathon, but one thing that is for certain is that both require MOTIVATION to stay positive!

During my second pregnancy, my two-year-old daughter came over to me in bed one morning, looks at me and says, "Are you mean mom or nice mom today?" That was a wake-up call! I guess I was pretty grumpy. So now I'm on my third and I am in an entirely different state of mind.

How does one stay motivated while running or otherwise? Can you see “the light at the end of the tunnel”? Sometimes seeing that n-1 mile marker or even the finish line is what you need. Of course, in pregnancy, the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel is actually the headlights of an on-coming train!

So working out helps me stay positive about the tail end of pregnancy. I stay motivated to work out because I know how much easier it will be to recover post-baby. I stay motivated to push that HEAVY jogging stroller because it is making me so much stronger and faster whenever I have the chance to run stroller-free. And I stay motivated to race because I am just so darn competitive. The faster you run, the faster you’re done!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The "In-Crowd"

I feel like I’ve been voted off the island.

Last weekend, I could still jog whenever I saw other people on the trail – which was frequent. Then I walked when no one was looking. I made it 5 miles and even passed a couple other joggers along the way. I was happy. Then I was sore for days.

Despite my greatest aspirations to run until the day I delivered, I think that I’ve crossed over the line of doing more damage (to me – not the fetus) than good, so today I walked. Unfortunately, my 8-months-pregnant belly is not yet bigger than my pride, so I’m a little sad to be out of the club.

You’ve probably noticed that runners typically acknowledge an oncoming runner with a quick wave or grunt or something…anything. At 3-years-old, my daughter even noticed that runners generally acknowledge one another in passing with a quick greeting: “Hi!”, “Good morning!”, or “Nice day!” “How about 'Macaroni and Cheese'?” she suggests. So for the rest of that day we said “Macaroni and Cheese” to each person we passed.

It seems, however, as soon as you are a “walker” you become invisible to these other runners. I’ve now noticed this phenomenon at different times and in different places, with and without my jogging stroller, and whether or not I attempt to greet them first. Have you noticed this?

I can’t remember specifically, but I only hope that when I was out running miles and miles, I gave an equal-opportunity grunt to runners and walkers alike.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Flat Tires

Oh no! You have a flat! You could
a) Quit running.
b) Bring your tire to a bike store and PAY someone to fix it.
c) Fix it yourself!

Here's how:

Step 0: Remove wheel from the stroller. The front wheel probably has a quick release lever and the back wheels probably have a quick release push button.

Step 1: Use a set of tire levers to remove the tire from the rim.
Step 2: Remove flat inner tube from tire.
Step 3: Carefully check the inside of the tire for any sharp objects that may have caused the flat. (You can also add air to the old inner tube and submerge it is soapy water to find the location of the hole.)
Step 4: Partially inflate new inner tube* before placing between tire and rim. This will decrease the chances of pinching it and causing another flat.
Step 5: Starting with the valve in the rim, slide new inner tube into tire.
Step 6: Lever tire back onto rim, being careful not to pinch the inner tube.

Step 7: Re-inflate to desired pressure (read the side of your tire for how many PSI are right for your tire. Ideally, use a hand pump with a meter. Try to avoid air compressors like the ones at gas stations as they are very strong and are likely to over-inflate your small tires.

* A note about inner tubes. If you can locate the hole on your old inner tube, you can patch it with a kit available at any local bike store. Sometimes it is just easier to buy a new tube. If you are not sure what size wheel (usually small = 12", medium = 16" and large = 20") you have, just pop it off and bring it with you to the store. It might even be the same size as your older child's bike wheels.

Thank you to my friend, Eileen, for taking the pics!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Burke Lake Bingo

So, here's one activity we've used while running with the kids in the stroller. Grab a crayon and print out a copy for each kid. Just click on the above picture or paste http://www.tekfamily.org/jenmisc/BurkeLakeBingo.pdf into your web browser.

You can't change this PDF, but I just use Microsoft Word clip art to make different versions depending on the season or what types of things you see along your run. Have fun!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Training Plan

This week I crafted a marathon training plan for my husband. Though we are hardly elite runners, like the couples highlighted in a recent Runner's World article (read it here), our dual participation does give me the opportunity to try out my skills as personal trainer, nutritionist, and coach in addition to the more traditional responsibilities of a wife and mom (chef, chauffer, maid, cruise director, etc.).

I'm a big fan of cross training to prevent boredom and injury. I also encourage running with the jogging stroller to increase strength, but strangely enough, he doesn't seem to prefer that to running alone.

So if you are considering a summer or fall race, my general plan looks something like this:
Sun: off Mon: short run Tues: medium run Wed: XT Thurs: medium run Fri: XT Sat: long run

The actual distances will depend on your experience and the distance of your event: maybe only 12 miles/week for a 5K and up to 40 miles/week or more for a marathon. Your days will depend on your own schedule, but I rarely run two days in a row. You may also choose to include speed work. If you do run with your kids, they can be great coaches too, but I'll save those thoughts for another day.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Feed the Machine

So, when I take the kids running in the jogging stroller, I always remember to pack them a snack for the ride, but I rarely pay enough attention to what I am going to eat before a run. Well, we went jogging the other morning not too long after doing the 28-week glucose test and that was a good run! I think that the very yummy orange drink is equivalent to at least 3 or 4 Gu packs.

One would think that it would not be hard to remember which pre-run foods worked well, but I find that I often forget. That I've eaten cold pizza before running more than once proves that. I think that it is time to actually write a list of "Go Foods" and hang it on the fridge. PB: good; oatmeal: good; yogurt: bad; Cheerios: useless.

What do you eat before morning runs?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Destination Running

I’ve been hearing a lot more, “No stroller!” lately from my son, but if we are loading up to run to the playground, that’s a different story…

So here’s my biggest running secret for increasing mileage with your kids in tow…shhh!...destination running! The easiest way I’ve found to get in 30-40 miles a week with my kids in the stroller is breaking up each run in half. Our destination is usually a playground in the spring and fall and the pool in the summer. Wherever it is, hype it up! While doing two 5 mile runs is probably inferior to running all 10 miles at once, it is certainly better for distance training than running only the initial 5 and then calling it quits. The way I see it, everybody wins. The kids don’t have to sit still for more than about 45 minutes at a time and I get my miles in. Plus we are out of the house for a while.

Since you’ll be out for a while, you’ll want to be well-provisioned and prepared for any likely changes in the weather. (Check out my older post, Don’t Leave Home Without...) Remember to bring enough water and nourishment for yourself as well. If you don’t like being soggy, you may even want a change of clothes for yourself. It helps if your destination has rest rooms. And if you have any *special* snacks, don’t let your kids have them until the return trip!

Though I am running closer to 12-15 miles a week right now, I am still doing destination running; our destinations are just a little less ambitious! Give it a try!

Friday, April 11, 2008


So, I forget a lot of stuff. I think that a lot of moms feel like that. So much so, they did a study on it (click here to read the article). I like to think that none of it is gone permanently.

Second to moms, the next most forgetful group of people must be runners. Who does a second marathon without forgetting the pain of the first?

Constantly hounded by the feeling that I might be forgetting something, I am delighted when I remember something! Yesterday I went jogging by myself and you know what I had sort of forgotten? It is a LOT harder running with the double stroller than running solo! It turns out that my difficulty isn’t so much all the “baby weight” I’ve gained being pregnant, but the 75 pounds of child plus related equipment I’ve been pushing! I just didn’t notice it so much before.

So, pat yourself on the back if you went jogging with your stroller today! Plus it burns more calories than running alone….

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ups & Downs

So, perhaps it is only a momentary reprieve, but I am up and running (literally) again. It is much reduced from the fall, but probably as strong as I could expect at 5 + months pregnant while pushing two 35 lb kids. It may seem counterintuitive, but I am finding that hill workouts are more successful than flat runs.

Given that I have to take walking breaks intermittently anyway, the hills help to keep my heart rate up while I walk. Second, different muscles are utilized in the up vs. down vs. flat so it does not feel like it is tearing things up as much as the repetition of running on flat terrain.

You might feel tempted to avoid hills while running with your stroller, but it is awesome mental training too. Then when you are heading up a hill in a race or just on your own, you can really tell yourself how it could be so much harder….

Most importantly, the kids still get the running-fast downhill-rush which keeps them happy. They’ve been getting fidgeting with this walking thing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Along for the Ride

No jogging stroller running for me last week! I, along with at least half of America, was on vacation. My husband and I had the opportunity to travel to five of the National Parks in southern Utah: Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. All were amazing. None were truly stroller-friendly. That’s OK for a few reasons:

  1. My parents were watching my kids 2,000 miles away.
  2. Terrain that cannot accommodate a stroller may be dangerous for children in general, so perhaps this is a good filter. i.e. high cliffs, sudden drop-offs, etc.
  3. There are other options available because some of us are either crazy or very inspired to share the outdoors with our children.

So how else, besides a stroller, can one transport his or her child over distances and/or terrain that the child is unable to navigate him or herself?

  1. Put his/her car seat in the back of your off-roading Jeep! I thought I had seen it all, but this was pretty common to see in Moab, UT last week.
  2. Bicycle seat (front or back) or trailer. I can talk more about that another time.
  3. Carry him/her in a backpack. I have a Kelty child carrier which has traveled many miles both indoors (shopping) and out (trails). I have an older model, so I don’t remember what it is called, but, yes, it does match my single jogger. Works great for the mid-sized baby/toddler. NOT FOR NEWBORNS. Seems obvious, but I saw a lot of tourists last week… And I have jogged with the backpack as well.

I found that jogging with my 30 pound child in the pack was awkward since I felt compelled to lengthen my stride quite a bit to decrease the bouncing. He liked it, though he did burp quite a lot. It was the only way to run the particular trail I was on – having tried the same course unsuccessfully with the stroller in the past and it was a fantastic quad workout. I would try it again except that I can no longer buckle the waist strap comfortably around my waist.

Anyone else run with their child carrier backpack for longer than it takes to cross the street? Did it work for you?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not-So-Fast Food

The combined influences of having a number of friends who have just had their first – or fourth baby – and then finally passing the halfway point of my own pregnancy has led me to think back to some memorable stories about running with an infant.

I think that many people would agree that eating is a popular activity to keep the kids quiet in the stroller. Or, if you find yourself rushing everyone through breakfast to get out on your run, as I do, I’ve found it so much easier to just feed them in the stroller. This tactic, of course, is dependent on the kids being old enough to get 51% of their snack actually in their own mouth and not choke on it.

So, in the spirit of reminiscing, I’ll tell you what does NOT work:

Six months after my first daughter was born, my husband returned from a 7-month deployment and he started to train for the Honolulu Marathon. Along on a training run with him, I had to feed the baby during the 2 hour run. At about 7-months old, she was, maybe, old enough to hold the bottle in her own mouth, but as a primarily breastfed baby she just didn’t get a lot of practice with that. Here’s the problem: this is partially defrosted breast milk so it is cold, right. So there I am, running down Monserrat Ave. in Honolulu, pushing the jogging stroller, with a 4-oz Playtex bottle stuffed in my sports bra, trying to thaw it enough for consumption.

The short story is that it did not work and we had to hose off the stroller when we got home.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Humble Pie

Six months ago, I was fast! I was faster, stronger and lighter than I’d ever been as an adult. I was running 7 min/miles (8s with the stroller). I was psyched. THIS pregnancy (my third), I was going to be like Paula! Scaled down to human levels, of course, but there was no stopping me. I was going to run right into the delivery room this time.

Yes, well, then the “morning sickness” started. You know, the kind that actually lasts from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning until I fell asleep at night. That was a really awesome 4 weeks. Then my knee started making this really lovely crunching noise, so I scaled back even more on the miles.

Then, I got to the second trimester. Things were really looking up for about a week. I felt good; I ran; I lifted; I fixed some things around the house, and FULL STOP. When I say that “I hurt my back,” I mean I strained something, badly, where my legs attach to my lower back and could not even stand up for two days. I had to sleep in the basement because I could not get up the stairs. It took a third day of slowly shuffling sideways before I could even put one foot in front of another.

It has been almost two weeks now and things are holding together well. I jogged/walked 5 miles the other day, but it wasn’t pretty. My workouts are much reduced and as much as I aspire to run like Paula, this may be yet another walking pregnancy. C’est la vie!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pump It Up

I can take the cold, but the precipitation is keeping us in, so what to do? It turns out that my kids love doing aerobics tapes! I prefer STEP aerobics and still have the original STEP Reebok VHS tape circa about 1993. My daughter will choose “yoga” – actually Denise Austin – if given the choice. I am not sure how that miscommunication arose. So, anyway, we have these sets of tiny 1-pound dumbbells and the kids LOVE TO WORKOUT! Sometimes they tire of Kathy Smith’s background music so we mute the volume there and listen to They Might Be Giants ABCs while I follow the visual cues.

The kids pile on my back for push-ups at the end and everybody wins!

The main thing I will caution you about is that you have to keep a really careful eye on where the kids are at all times so you don’t accidentally kick anyone in the head.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What Not to Do

You might not want to take your two-year-old ice skating, increase your miles, throw on a little extra weight on at the gym, repeatedly toss your 35-pound child into the air, climb up and down from your washer and dryer to extract a live chipmunk from your dryer vent, replace said dryer vent, climb a ladder to fix some lightbulbs, and go to aerobics at the gym . . . in the same week . . . if you are pregnant.

You might hurt your back . . .

Monday, February 11, 2008

Don't Leave Home Without...

You only need a flat tire 4 miles from home once to realize that you ought to bring a spare tire along. So, here’s what I consider the essential items to bring along for every run:

  1. Water: some for everyone since the kids will never share when you want them to.
  2. House keys
  3. Cell phone for emergencies.
  4. Road ID because I never remember to put my ID back in my wallet afterwards.
  5. Hand pump
  6. Spare inner tube* or patch kit
  7. Tire levers
  8. Extra diaper and wipes, if applicable
  9. Optional: accessories for the weather such as blankets, sunglasses, snacks, etc.

*Small stroller wheels are usually 12”, medium are 16” and large are 20”. Your stroller tires and your older child’s bike tires might be the same size.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fa: A Long Long Way to Run!

I’ve recently taken to doing nap time runs. My 2-year-old son has given up napping, but could use the break plus it is much warmer than the morning. AND I only have to push a single stroller since his sister is at school!

Without his older sister to distract and entertain him, however, I have come to recall the power of SINGING!

Some examples that my 2-year-old is particularly fond of right now:

“Bumpity, bump, bump. Bumpity, bump, bump. Look at (fill in child(ren)’s name(s) here) go! Bumpity, bump, bump. Bumpity, bump, bump. Over the rocky road!”

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great FAAAALLLL (tip stroller back). All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again!”

“Old MacDonald” – using an animal for every letter of the alphabet or every animal he can find in his animal crackers, if applicable.

And of course, all the old stand-bys like “ABC” or “I’m a Little Teapot” (you can tip them over for that one too) or any other song that could continue indefinitely…

  • What are your favorite songs to sing with your kids?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stroller Activities

Some of our favorite things to do in the stroller (while enclosed within the windshield), in order of increasing desperation:

  • Draw or color. I LOVE Crayola Color Wonder markers. They don’t get ink all over their hands, faces, and clothes, and the markers don’t get peeled and broken into pieces like crayons. (Do avoid the Color Wonder finger paints, however. Obviously not good for the stroller, but even at home they are very oily and will stain your expensive windbreaker.)
  • Read books. Younger kids just look at the pictures, but when you are not running near traffic, you can actually read the pages to them – especially books that you’ve already memorized.
  • Look for animals. When you see geese, HONK! When you see dogs, BARK! When you see birds, CHIRP! My kids do a mean seagull! Very convincing ;)
  • Eat. Quickly, some good stroller snacks are a dry bagel, peeled and cored apple, string cheese or snack mix with things like Cheerios, raisins and pretzels. Bad stroller snacks are things like dry instant oatmeal, American cheese slices, anything with cream cheese, or chewy granola bars which crumble apart and are STILL sticky.
  • Music. We’ve always sung as we ran along, but this winter, we’ve sunk to a new low: kid headphones. We’ve commandeered my husband’s iPod shuffle, loaded it with kid songs, and bought a splitter and two pairs of headphones designed for use by children. I am very careful to keep the volume low to protect their young ears. Plus they keep the kids’ ears warm.

The novelty of the headphones seems to have negated the undesirable weather for my little passengers. In the spring, I’ll share our version of “Stroller Bingo”.

  • What is the best or worst stroller snack you've tried?

Monday, January 21, 2008

If I go it will be trouble. If I stay it will be double.

Cold weather – Part 2

(Thanks to The Clash for so accurately describing my dilemma!)

This struggle is the same whether you are heading out on a 10 mile run or just going for a walk around the block. Similar prep for a bike trailer too, so hopefully in this series, there is something for everyone.

So, once you’re going- how to prep the kids? Make it exciting and inevitable. Exciting: “Hey kids! Let’s go see if the lake is frozen yet!” Inevitable: the kids will tell if you are dreading it and they will find a way to weasel out of it if they sense any weakness. If you’re looking for an out, they are going to find one for you. You now how it can take weeks to finally get to the post office, but doing (fill in the blank) never seems to be a problem. Same idea.

Make sure that the kids are dressed well for the weather conditions. They will be happier if they are comfortable and you’ll get fewer dirty looks from other runners and walkers for taking your babies out in the cold. My general rule of thumb is to dress them in what I am wearing PLUS one complete extra layer. Don’t forget their little toesies. Below about 40 my daughter complains her feet are too cold in regular shoes so she’ll wear boots. And blankets. This is a great use for all those fleece baby blankets. My kids just throw their mittens out of the stroller anyway so tucking their hands inside the blanket works best for us. I recommend ONE PER CHILD. Sharing one is unlikely to work.

Finally, don’t forget yourself! Key item for running in cold with stroller: MITTENS. You can’t tuck your hands inside your sleeves anymore! Plus the standard advice: a moisture-wicking inside layer, a wind-blocking outer layer if it is particularly windy or cold and to cover the extremities (hat, gloves, etc.). My friend runs with socks on her hands rather than fancy gloves. Then when you blow your nose on your “mittens” – you know you do it too - you can just throw them in the wash and wear a different pair next time.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

Cold Weather – Part 1

It is cold out, but is it TOO cold out? It is personal decision with lots of conflicting opinions out there but here are the factors I consider:

How to decide what is too cold:

  1. What is the temperature outside? I use 30-32° F as an approximate minimum temperature for jogging with the kids in the stroller. Older kids can handle colder temperatures and will be able to verbalize that they are too cold if that becomes a problem. When my son, a November baby, was a newborn, my minimum temperature was closer to 40° F.
  2. Is it windy? In winter sailing (aka frostbiting), there is an unofficial guideline called the “20-20 rule”. If it is colder than 20° F and windier than 20 knots, they cancel. Some wind is inevitable, but you may want to find a more sheltered route. For example, try a route through a neighborhood or among lots of trees rather than a path along a river or over bridges. You probably want a headwind first to get it done while you still have more energy.
  3. Is there precipitation or an imminent threat of precipitation? Snow is actually very fun to run in. (Sing “Jingle Bells,” “Let It Snow,” and “Winter Wonderland” as you run.) Sleet or excessively slippery conditions should be avoided. Strollers come with a runaway strap: USE IT!
  4. Do you have weather-appropriate equipment? A rain shield is invaluable! There is one to fit nearly every model of jogger at www.joggingstrollers.com and surely elsewhere. It is a great windshield and keeps the temperature inside the stroller very pleasant – we’re talking greenhouse here.
  5. How badly do you need to get out? That “cabin fever” will keep everyone a little warmer.
  6. Keep a log. Record what the weather conditions are each time you go out and how comfortable everyone was so that you can check back later to determine your own guidelines. A good one on-line is at http://athleticlog.org.

Up next: How to prep the kids.

Faster, Mommy! Faster!

Paula Radcliffe’s success at the NYC Marathon this past November, has brought a lot of attention to something that I have known for a while: kids can make you faster! It is not automatic, but having children and training with them has made me faster, stronger and more resilient. This can apply to anyone. I’m no Paula Radcliffe, but the great thing about running is that you are generally competing against yourself anyway. On most runs, you are probably either trying to beat your own time or beat that internal clock of your child(ren) that EXPLODES after 44 ½ minutes in the jogging stroller.

I have several hypotheses as to why there is so much anecdotal evidence for women getting faster after having children. In no particular order,

1. There is a physiological explanation such as the increased blood volume or lung capacity of pregnancy has some lasting effect.

2. There is a mental explanation. You are just so glad to “have your body back,” as they say, after your forced hiatus, that you expend a greater effort and therefore, see greater results. Such is the example of an injured athlete coming back stronger after an injury.

3. It is a matter of maturity as a runner and you would have gotten faster as you logged more miles and experience with or without the kids.

4. A little something called RESISTANCE TRAINING in the form of 70 pounds of children in a 30 pound jogging stroller.

I am certain that I improved my running at a much faster rate by training with my kids in the jogging stroller than I would have on my own. You get more anaerobic strength training going uphill, faster turnover going downhill, and you can bring all the water you want along with you. The hardest part for many people is how to get your kids to cooperate with these jaunts. That is what this blog is going to be about. My PR stroller run is 21 miles and my daughter still hops right into the stroller today, so I hope to share some tips and stories to help you get out the door WITH your kids in 2008. Happy New Year!