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!

Never say never: lessons learned through yoga

I’ll admit that when my sister suggested I try yoga, I wasn’t sold on the idea. I didn’t quite understand how stretching and holding positions could help me – after all, I had a lot of weight to lose and a steep climb to fitness. In my experience, hardcore cardio was the answer, but she continued to press me to sign up. Shortly after her visit and through the magic of Groupon, an amazing deal came along. I figured, eh, $20 for 20 sessions, what’s to lose? (other than dignity, of course.) Early one Saturday morning I got up the courage to drive to Kensington to attend my first class at Yoga and Beyond. 

The first hot yoga class was tough. Real tough. I liken it to Mr.Harvey’s basketball practices in which I thought I was going to throw up 99% of the time. There was one point in the session where I thought, “I should have updated my will.” For a solid 75 minutes I thought that there was no other torture but hot yoga. And then it was over. I felt terrific – albeit, lighter due to water loss. 

The teacher was fantastic. She took time to help me with my poses; showed me the correct form and gently encouraged me to push harder. It was different than any other sport I had tried. Though I love team sports, the yoga environment differed in that I never felt self-conscious. It  was wholly supportive – though it was obvious I struggled, everyone was eager to encourage rather than judge or worse yet, ignore. I still distinctly remember being in downward dog (with blood rushing to my head; pins and needles in my fingers and sweat pouring off my face) when the teacher claimed that soon it would feel like a resting position. That we would gain strength and feel normal like this. I don’t know if my scoff was audible or not, but oddly enough, when I practice nowadays down dog is comfortable. She also said that without realizing it, the poses and sequence will become so natural you’ll no longer feel awkward moving through them. She was right. She said I’d have more energy. I do. I’ve experienced several benefits from yoga, but I know there are still lots of people out there (like me) who will be hesitant to give it a try; Hear me out:

I’m a normal chick. Not an athlete. Not a skinny, lululemon girl. But I practice yoga and I love it.

I never thought that I would ever consider downward dog a resting or comfortable position. Now I do DDs every morning when I get up to stretch. AND I never thought I would be able to do downward dog with both feet, flat on the mat. I can! 

I never ever thought I would be able to complete a full-bind. I have. 

I never thought I would be able to “gently float my feet back to the mat”  which is another way of saying going from standing to plank position gracefully. I do. 

I never thought I’d be able to do salutations properly – because I could never do a push up. I’m proud to say I can do a real, proper push-up AND salutations!  

I never thought I would be able to do a proper bridge pose or a full backbend and even laughed when it was suggested that I try. It took a while, but I did that too! 

After just over a year of practice, I’ve accomplished a pretty awesome list of things I thought I would never be able to do. I wholeheartedly recommend that you try yoga. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hockey player, a runner, bowler, whatever! Young/old ... Yoga is amazing. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be like this lady when they grow up -> 

Day 3: 2.5 mile run. With Stroller.

Today is Day 3 and I had to complete a 2.5 mile run. The sun is shining and it’s about 25 Celsius out – great weather for a quick run. I decided it would be fun to take F with me, so I popped him in the stroller and off we went through the neighbourhood. It’s been a while since I had him in there and forgot how heavy 27 lbs is, but we survived! And with a time of 24:26, we made it back home in time for lunch.

I just finished some quick stretching and my legs aren’t feeling as stiff as they were this morning – I’m also in the process of assembling a pretty mean salad to serve as my post-run snack (eggs, green pepper, onion, almonds and cheese; carrot sticks too!)

Does anyone else out there run with a stroller? Any tips for sidewalk-lips? Maybe it’s just Calgary, but the lips are like little cliffs – really brutal with a stroller. I do find popping the stroller back and rolling down on the two back wheels makes it easier, but my little passenger gets a pretty good jolt every time (though he thinks it’s funny.)

Survived another day. Now off to the park to enjoy the sunshine!

Post-run routine to reduce sore muscles and stiffness

The two key components of post-run routine:

(1) Stretch

(2) Eat something!

Several years ago, my brother and I both participated in the Cabot Trail Relay Race at the same time. I ran leg 8 (12.3 km) and he ran leg 5 (17.5km). It was a hot, sunny day – so naturally we laughed at him when he demanded all-dressed chips and chocolate milk as he neared the end of his race. But as it turns out, he may have been onto something.

I’ve never been a huge proponent of eating after a run, especially if I’m running in the evening. However, I recently learned that if you do indeed drink some chocolate milk or have a yogurt/banana smoothie soon after a run (say, within 30 minutes), you can reduce muscle soreness & stiffness. (I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve suffered through a Charlie Horse or two and this is by far a better option). You can also carb up with Cliff Bars or other protein bars; Cliff Bars are the best (in my opinion), especially the brownie flavour. And for those of you who are gluten free, try the Luna brand, mint chocolate chip. Also, it’s important to rehydrate after a run so drink plenty of water. Additionally, I’ve been told by a very hardcore gym lady that “Elevate Me” bars are excellent as well. Gluten & wheat free. Just fruit and protein. No added sweeteners, preservatives or flavours. 16 grams of protein. You can buy them at Costco or London Drugs and stores like Planet Organic & Community Natural Foods.

Now, I’d be lying if I said I religiously stretch before and after a run, however, I find now that my knees aren’t as tough as they once were, I’ve made more of an effort to stretch. The best stretches are static. Click here for a PDF of awesome post-run stretches.  I also incorporate some yoga poses in there to keep my muscles from becoming too stiff.

Disclaimer: I do not encourage eating all-dressed chips post-run. But you only live once so if you want to eat chips, go for it!

Day 1: I think Jillian Michaels may be my arch nemeses!

Tonight was Day 1 of my preparation for the half-marathon. Not sure quite what to do, I thought I’d consult with fitness guru and the spawn of Satan, Jillian Michaels. Several years ago I picked up a book of hers called “Making the Cut”  (not to be confused with the Canadian reality TV show)- despite her fierce delivery, Michaels book is a phenomenal source for everything fitness-related from her designer daily meals to a 30-day gruelling workout routine. When I originally bought the book, I completed the entire workout twice over. Then, as usual, I grew bored of it and it landed in a box. But after two years, it finally made its way back to my Calgary bookshelf and then my gym bag.

The first workout was a mixture of weights, resistance training, yoga (I added this in), jump rope and biking. I was cursing Jillian by circuit 2, but by the last circuit (5) I felt fantastic – knowing full-well that I’ll most likely be sore tomorrow for my 4 mile run. There is something totally satisfying about being able to complete the workout without throwing up – so I must pat myself on the back! I also committed a gym faux pas – I wore grey! I know, I know… you’re not supposed to wear grey because it shows sweat marks, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I was so excited to get this show on the road I didn’t care if people knew I was sweating! I finished the night with a 1o minute bike ride. It was boring. However, I did manage to find someone at the gym who was wearing the Vibram shoes I had recently posted on Facebook. He said they were great and I was happy to hear that you can buy them at Mountain Equipment Coop downtown, so I’ll be making a pit stop down there later this week. But I’m still curious to hear how women like them? I’ve read that if you’re a heel runner it’s extremely hard to adapt. I don’t know much about my running technique other than I’m usually slow and probably not meant to be a runner…

So tomorrow is my first run day. To run with or without the stroller … what should I do?

If you have any training suggestions for me, please share!!