Stroller advice: how to entertain a toddler while you run

Anyone who knows me would say it’s karma. A child that is busy 24/7 and throws down temper tantrums more often than Naomi Campbell and Mel Gibson combined. However, knowing that I have a kid who would rather be busy and on the go, I make darn sure I’ve got the necessary supplies to endure our running adventures. Plus, I love how independent and dramatic my kid is!

Here are some things to keep in mind if you plan to run with a toddler:

  1. If your kid is prone to tantrums, make sure you don’t go just before nap or prior to meal time. Always try to organize runs around a well-rested and fed child. Trust me. Learned the hard way.
  2. Make sure you have plenty of snacks. Even if your toddler isn’t hungry, bring snacks along for the run. I know you shouldn’t encourage kids to play with their food but if s/he isn’t screaming, who cares?
  3. Bring toys. Think about this for a minute. We don’t go ANYWHERE without our phones, iPods, iPads etc., so imagine that you have to sit through the most boring 1-hour lecture of your life; maybe something along the lines of public health policy. Now, imagine you have to sit through it without some form of entertainment. EXACTLY!
  4. Engage your child throughout the run. Now, I’m definitely not saying you try to carry-on a conversation, but point things out along the way. “Wow – look at the pretty trees. What colour are the trees?” etc. Nothing is more boring than hanging out with someone who (a) pretends you aren’t there, and (b) won’t talk to you
  5. Keep your stroller activity to an hour or less. Seriously people. Your child is definitely not interested in running with you for longer than an hour. Let’s remember that at this young age, their attention span is that of a hummingbird.
  6. If you want to listen to music, put it on so you can both hear. In my case, I put my iPhone in the cup holder and crank the volume. Yeah, I know it’s a little disrespectful to the people around me but it’s better than being disrespectful to my little running buddy. Plus, I NEVER listen to 50 cent in mixed company!
  7. Make sure you praise them for good behaviour throughout the running adventure; and treating where appropriate.
  8. Finally, be respectful of their age and development. Your four/five year old does not want to be pushed around in a stroller anymore. They want to run WITH you.

Now, I can’t speak to #7 from experience, but I was at Sobey’s grocery shopping one day when a woman strolled in with what appeared to be a kid of AT LEAST six, maybe seven. He wanted to get out and walk; she wouldn’t let him. It was weird and creepy. At that point, I’m sure the kid could’ve kept up during the run anyway…

Anyway, hope this helps on your running journeys. It has helped me! Happy Trails!

Running Buddies: Does everyone need them?

My personal opinion is no. Not everyone needs a running buddy. In fact, I think most runners do so on there own. I’ve always been a bit of a solo runner myself. I enjoy running on my own so I don’t have to keep someone else’s pace and either have to run faster (ouch) or slower (not usually the case.) However, I’ve been finding that having a running buddy for encouragement is actually quite nice. I enjoy running with friends every once and a while; and in fact, starting this weekend I’ll be running once a week with some pals. (For anyone in Calgary, we’ll be running Sundays at 10 am – email me if interested.)

If you’re like me and finding it difficult to get motivated, it’s always nice to have a friend who is eager to kick your butt into gear. It’s great support to have other people going through the same things you are – for my gal pals out there who have kids – wasn’t it nice to make friends at the same stage of pregnancy you were in? I was really lucky to make some good pals during that time in my life – very grateful for it and the same goes for running. If you’re working towards a major milestone, it’s nice to have someone there to hold your hand; bounce ideas off of and seek advice from.

Say you wake up on a Sunday morning (the day of group run) and you don’t want to go – perhaps you had too many wobbly pops the night before or there was a sweet Keeping up with the Kardashians marathon on until 3 a.m. – whatever the case may be, if you’re supposed to meet your pals you’ll feel more compelled to run. I don’t know about you folks out there, but I can’t stand it when people commit to something and don’t follow through. Therefore, I do my darndest to make sure I don’t commit that sin. I don’t want to be THAT jerk! Sure, life happens and you can’t make certain things, but don’t make a habit of backing out last minute – it’s ultra annoying!

It’s also good to have a running buddy for at least one day a week to keep yourself in “check” if you’re training. I know myself that there were times I wouldn’t push as hard as I could, but then I’d have to run with other people. I’d realize the embarrassment of my out-of-shapeness was blindingly obvious and that I needed to be more consistent. (I’m not 18 anymore, after all!)

For me, the bonus of running with a friend is having some time to catch-up on what’s new with one another. And for the most part, the catch-up usually happens in the first 10 minutes, otherwise I can’t talk and run at the same time (I know, really hard to believe.) Another bonus is that studies have shown running with someone can actually make you smarter. Say what?! Apparently, while chit-chatting + running, you may stimulate more areas of the brain.  Who doesn’t want to be smarter?

And whether you want a running buddy or not, there are times when it’s ideal. Eg:  running with someone at night or in hot weather to keep an eye on each other.

I love my Sunday runs, so I’ll keep ’em. Let me know what you like to do – running with a pal every day or once a week? Or never!

This is a picture from Run Santa Run  – Calgary, AB (Loads of fun, especially the beer(s) afterward!) 

Is it safe to run outside on a sunny, hot day?

I’ve never considered myself a fair-weather runner. In fact, I generally enjoy the days that are a bit of a challenge: snow storm, hail, pouring rain. However, it’s usually sunny, hot days that I find the best excuses NOT to go running. And since we’ve run into a mini-heatwave here in Calgary, I thought I’d do a little bit more digging on the subject.

So naturally I googled it (duh). There were a myriad of forums and polls from runners all over the world chiming in on what’s too hot to run. Runners from Kuwait, Dubai, US and Canada; some claiming that anything above normal body temperature could get you in trouble, while others believe that there’s no such thing as too hot to run. Curious as to whether this was personal preference or fact, I consulted the be all in running: Runners World. The consensus is that anything above 90 F (32 C) is too hot. And just for the record, the UK government has legislation dictating that a workplace temperature above 30 C is too dangerous for employees (just to put it into perspective).

After reading the tragic story of Kelly Watts, an 18 year old man who died in July 2007 due to complications from heatstroke after a training session in Virginia, I quickly jumped to the notion that running in the heat is serious. Watt’s was a terrifically fit young man, who trained exceptionally hard running upwards of 50 miles per week. He ate an apple a day; drank only water and 100% fruit juice and maintained a healthy lifestyle – so what happened?

Watts went for a run at the hottest time of the day; the temperature somewhere in the mid 90’s (35 Celsius). Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia where the body reaches a temperature of 104 F (40 C). Very high temperatures can damage the body’s organs – which, sadly is what happened to Watt’s.

There’s a point at which running does become uncomfortable (not unbearable) and still safe; but there’s also a point where it becomes completely unbearable and dangerous. So how can you beat the heat?

(1) Run in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler

(2) Hydrate! Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. If you must run at a hotter point in the day, bring water with you or slip some money into your bra (or sock) to buy water.

(4) Apply sunscreen! There’s been research indicating that marathoners have a higher case of skin-cancer. Whether or not his is totally conclusive, slap that stuff on – it can’t hurt!

(5) If you must run during a hot day, buddy-up. Research has shown that from onset of heatstroke, if treated within 30 minutes the situation can be reversed. If you are running with a friend and run into problems you have a better chance at recovery.

(6) Choose appropriate clothing. I’ve seen people running in sweatshirts and toques during hot, summer days. This is really dumb and speeds up your odds of dehydration. Wear cool, light clothing.

(7) Workout indoors. If it is ridiculously hot out, take it inside. It’s safer.

So if you decide to run in the extreme heat (anything above 30 C) run with a friend and make sure you run in a urban area. Keep an eye on one-another. There are warning signs of heatstroke:

  • most obvious is an elevated body temperature (know when you’re hot and when you’re really hot)
  • red, hot, dry skin (no sweat)
  • rapid, strong pulse
  • throbbing headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • unconsciousness

If you suspect you or someone you’re running with has heatstroke, do the following:

  • call 9-1-1
  • get them to a shady area
  • do whatever you can to cool their body down (e.g.: remove clothing, use hose or water bottle to spray them down)
  • do not force them to drink fluids (they may throw it back up)

I not only find it uncomfortable to run on hot days, I just downright hate it. So I won’t be running in any extreme heat, but if you decide to please be safe!

To fartlek or not to fartlek.

My next run day will be a 4 mile Fartlek. Never heard of it? The name is hilarious, in my opinion anyway, And when originally told I would have to complete it, I immaturely replied: “Come again? What?” And laughed. However, it is pretty important for endurance runners as it acts as an alternative to interval training. So despite the title, I will be Fartleking… lol…

Wikipedia describes it as “speed play” in Swedish. For training purposes it means blending continuous training with interval training. The training can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting.  Sessions should be at an intensity that causes the athlete to work anywhere from 60% – 80% of their MHR. As with every work out, you should have a warm up and cool down.

Here’s an example of the training outlined on wiki:

  • Warm up = easy running for 5-10 minutes
  • Steady, hard speed for 1.5 – 2.5 km
  • Recovery = rapid walking for 5 minutes
  • Start of speedwork = easy running interspersed with sprints of about 50 – 60 metres (repeat until tired)
  • Easy running with three or four “quick steps” (supposed to simulate suddenly speeding up to avoid being overtaken by another runner)
  • Full speed uphill for 175-200 metres
  • Fast pace for 1 minute

*This whole routine would be repeated until the total time prescribed on the training schedule has lapsed (or in my case, until you pass out.)

Here’s are a few more examples of Fartlek training from Runners World and Kick Runners:

Block Party: 
In your city, neighborhood, or office park, use blocks as your “track.” You can go around the block or do an out-and-back. Start at a slow pace for five to 10 steps, then gradually increase the pace for 20 to 50 steps, then run at race pace (but not all out) for one full block. Start with two or three fartlek segments and build to six. Walk for one or two minutes between each faster section.

Running Landmark: 
Pick a telephone pole, mailbox, stop sign, or anything up ahead and run to it. You can choose one item (all telephone poles, for example) or multiple landmarks to create varying lengths of speed segments. On each segment, gradually pick up the pace until you’re running fast but not all out. For the last 20 steps, hold the pace, but focus on relaxing your body and allowing momentum to take over. Walk or jog for half the distance of your repeat, then spot your next landmark and take off again. Continue for a total of 10 to 15 minutes, before running an easy five to 10 minutes to cool down.

Portsea Fartlek:

  • 10-15 minute light warm-up
  • a thorough stretching session
  • 3×3 minutes hard (@ 3,000m race effort) w/ 75 secs easy between each
  • 3 minutes easy
  • 4×30 seconds hard (@800m race effort) with 1 min easy between each

Watson Fartlek:

  • 3 minutes easy
  • 3×5 minutes hard (@5000m race effort) with 1 minute 45 seconds easy
  • 5-15 minute warm down with a thorough stretching session

I only have Fartlek sessions once a week, but I’ll likely give all of the above a try- why not, eh? Let me know if you do this type of training and share your techniques!

Tempo running: the importance of pacing yourself

When I first started running, I didn’t give training much thought. Essentially, I popped my shoes on and ran; didn’t worry about form, time or anything else. To me, speed wasn’t the goal, it was to drop weight. I generally did the same run daily (for those of you tuning in from Cape Breton, I ran 8km along the Baddeck Bay Road.) I sometimes did hills and other routes. I didn’t consider myself a fair-weather runner either; I’d run through sun, heat, hail, wind, snow, rain – whatever! But if you asked me what tempo running was or what I paced myself at, I’d have no idea how to respond.

You see, this is my first real attempt at training. Yeah. I’ve done a few relays and long-distance races. And I did train in terms of making sure I could run certain distances. However, I never trained with the intention of getting the distance in AND doing it with a goal time in mind (under two hours for the half). Which means if I did my calculations correctly, I need to shave at least 30 seconds off my current pace per kilometre. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but I cringe at the thought of having to speed up even more! In actuality, because my pace per kilometre isn’t incredibly fast, I’ve been encouraged that it won’t be too bad to take the time down; I beg to differ (but we’ll see!)

Don’t know what your pace is? Figure it out here.

So what is tempo running and how is it going to help me achieve this goal?

Tempo running is designed to help runners build speed and strength. Generally, you’ll start out with a fairly easy running pace (in my case, slow) for the first 5 – 10 minutes. Then taking it to about 10 seconds slower than your 10K pace. And finally, finishing with 5-10 minutes of a cool-down pace. A great tip from is that for an easy-paced run you should have three footstrikes while breathing in and two footstrikes while breathing out. Alternatively, for tempo runs, you should be at two footstrikes while breathing in and one footstrike while breathing out. If you happen to be breathing more than that, your pace is too fast.

I wish I’d known about tempo running ages ago and maybe my last Cabot Trail Relay I would have made it in before they took the dang mat away! At any rate, apparently if I complete tempo runs once a week, I’ll see direct benefits and naturally, I’ll keep you posted with the progress or lack thereof.

If you want to learn more about pacing, click here.