Last Updated on April 20, 2020 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
People often ask how I’m able to train for ultra marathons as the mom of two little boys. Unfortunately, just like most things in life, the answer isn’t straight forward.
Sorry, no magical, simple answers here.
Since their dad and I share custody of them, there are full weeks when they are with their dad that I get to run whenever I want (well, whenever my work schedule allows). Combine that with the fact that I work at home and/or in a gym, and these are the weeks that I put in 50+ miles plus at least 6 hours of strength/cross training. Completely unrealistic for the average, non-divorced parent working a 9 to 5 job.
But then there are the weeks the boys are with me, and things get a little more difficult. Especially during summer vacation, when they are home with us 24/7. Geoff and I are admittedly selfish with our training, in the sense that if one person goes, the other one wants to go too. I get jealous if he heads to the gym without me (jealous of the workout, not of him going somewhere without me) and he feels the same if I head to the trails without him. But the kids aren’t quite old enough to be left at home alone…so they come with us.
Now, don’t get me wrong, while there is certainly some selfish intent here, there is as much, if not more, what I hope is considered “good parenting” motivation as well. As a mother it is incredibly important to me to expose my kids to healthy, happy, exercise as well as hopefully help foster a love for the great outdoors. Things that I not only love and want to share with them, but things that I feel are incredibly important to foster their growth as active and environmentally responsible adults one day.
Plus I need to pry their little eyes away from their iPads. I have no idea why it is such a phenomenon for kids to watch OTHER people play video games on YouTube, but I’m kind of bummed I didn’t think of it first. Some of those Minecraft gamers are making a fortune in YouTube views off of our Nations elementary school crowd.
So…we head to the trails.
Now, as you might expect, my kids, like many, can’t currently head out for an easy 10K. Not yet at least. They are little, and their running experience is still minimal. So we’ve started running what we call “kidervals” – kid intervals. It goes a little something like this:
Geoff runs a few hundred yards with kid #1, while kid #2 and I hang back and walk. After a few hundred yards, they turn back and run towards us. Once they reach us, there has to be an official “tag” hand slap before switching, because you know, we’re all a bunch of little kids in our hearts. Then kid #2 and Geoff run a few hundred yards, while kid #1 and I walk. When they return again, tag, *I* run a quarter of a mile or so by myself, while Geoff and both kids walk or do an easy jog. I’m not sure how I always luck out and get to run by myself. They either love me or don’t like running with me, I haven’t figured out which is the case.
The “kidervals” give the kids a chance to run, and run fast (because kids basically have only two speeds: walk and sprint). But it also gives them plenty of time to walk, let their little legs rest, and their heartrates come back down. It gives me a chance to remind them to drink some water, and check in from time to time to make sure they are still having fun. And lastly it gives Geoff and I a chance to put in some distance (because running out and back on a 3 mile trail dozens of times truly adds up. I’d tell you how much it adds up, but I’ve yet to bring my GPS watch on one of these kiderval runs.)
Of course, we have our good days and we have our bad days. There are “kiderval” runs where my kids can’t get enough; they count each interval and get really excited when they exceed double digits. We have to drag THEM back to the car, sometimes even in the dark, because they don’t want to leave.
Then there are the days when they are done after one interval, and I have to play “tow truck”: holding their hands and literally dragging them down the trail behind me. (This is the case more often than not now that temperatures are soaring upwards of 100 degrees). There are smiles and laughter, and sometimes falls and scrapes…
But in the end, whether they run 3 miles or 30 feet, they always thank us for taking them out there. And in turn, we thank them for tagging along for training. Sure, it’s not the three hours or 20 mile runs we might have wanted to get in, but it’s time on our feet, and that counts for something. Plus, we are getting fresh air, getting the kids moving and off of screen time, and making memories as a family.
In my book? Kidervals are a huge “win”.
If you’d like to learn more about how to introduce your kids to running, check out this post:
Building Young Runners: 8 Tips for Introducing Your Kids to Running
Parents, do your kids run with you? How do you manage to get your training done with little ones around?
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.
That seems to be a great solution to training with younger children. Then hopeful as the kids get older, they develop a love for running and they are trying to figure out a way to train with their slower parents. That is where I am at with my 15 year old.
The Clean Eating Couple
I give you so much credit! Training for these is hard.. add in kids to the mix and its even more challenging!
wow good for you- its great to get kids involved in activity early too
GiGi Eats Celebrities
I give you INSANE amounts of credit for wanting to incorporate kids into your training!! I remember the BRAT of a kid I was, I would have NEVER wanted to train with my mom! LOL!
Mine are still small enough that I can push them in a stroller for longer runs. My 4 year old is starting to run, and she really wants to do a “fast running race” of her own. I think we may try a 1 mile race later this year.
Kids fun runs are so adorable! They get so serious about their races, I love it so much!
Chrissy @ Snacking in Sneakers
What a cute way to train with your kids! My little one is still only a year and a half, so I haven’t been able to do much running with him yet – but look forward to when I can!
This is a great solution to getting training in while out on the trails with kids. If you don’t make the time or create the time, it won’t exist!
Thank you Melissa, and you are right! You have to find the time, so creativity is key!
Chrissa- Physical Kitchness
This.is.amazing. I love love love hearing stories of how other busy mommies balance life with kids and training/working out/fitting fitness in their daily lifestyle. Kudos to you lady!
Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health
what a clever idea!!! while i dont have kids now, i will definitely refer it to in future 🙂
Thank you Dixya!
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I love the term Kidervals! I’m always dragging Mini Me out with on various training workouts.She’s already faster than me so I tend to slow her down LOL
Oh man, I know it’s just a matter of time before mine are faster than me too! Sometimes we’ll do a full out sprint with my 7 year old. I’ll turn around and be completely shocked that he is right on my tail, I can’t lose him! He’s going to be FAST!
This is so great!!! What an awesome way to make training a family affair 🙂
🙂 🙂 🙂
I think you’re a great role model for your kids, Heather. Spending time outdoors and being active together creates some of the best memories.
Thank you! Yes, so many awesome memories created out on the trails!
Way to figure it out! We are on a similar schedule with my step kids and I have a very regular work schedule (they can come with me) but it’s much easier to get my runs in when we don’t have them. The older one is ok to come with me for a run or on the bike or roller blades, but the younger one is not feeling it yet. I am also lucky because they are old enough now that they can stay home for a while, especially if I go early and they are still asleep. But, I can’t drive to another town or do a super long run.
With your kidervals, I also think it’s super important because it shows your kids that parent priorities are important too! If that makes sense? It shows them that parents are human beings with their own goals and interests, not just soccer taxis.
I also do not get watching the Minecraft! I would get it if it were here and there to get tips but my older one would watch it all day if he could.
Jess, thank you for your comment! And yes, I totally agree. So many little kids are so entitled these days, because their parents bend over backwards to cater to their every need/whim/activity. I want my boys to know that my running is never a priority OVER them, but it is indeed a priority and a huge part of my life. And I hope that they know how much I love that they get to be a part of my running too!
Janelle @ Run With No Regrets
Very cool to see how you balance training with your kids. I don’t have kids (yet) but I really love your approach! It’s definitely better to have them out on the trail instead of in front of a video game!
Thanks Janelle! I try my hardest to balance fresh air time with video games. It’s an uphill battle these days for sure!
I. Love. This. So. Freaking. Much.
I’ve always wondered how you did it since you were both athletes – – you and Geoff—and I adored this post. You have debunked the no time because of kids myth entirely.
<3 Thank you Carla! I always value your comments so much! I try so hard to never judge other parents when they say they don't have the time, because I am not walking in their shoes. But...I'm a firm believer that you can always make the time for the things that really, truly matter to you. I hope deep down my kids remember that when they have kids of their own <3
Great Post!!! I trained for a full Ironman last year and have 2 young kids. It was tough and I used a lot of creativity to get it done. Thanks for sharing your tips!!