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 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

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!