Treadmill Running with Little Ones

As I’ve talked about a few times, I am not the biggest fan of the cold weather (by cold, I mean <25 degrees) nor running in the pitch black at 5am. So I tend to rely on the treadmill a lot during the winter months. Since we have one in our basement, I also tend to sleep in more since I have the luxury of running during the day while I am home with the boys.  On average, I’d say that 2-3 runs/week have been happening during the day and the other runs occur earlier in the morning before my husband goes to work.

Truth is, my youngest is still a bit too young to have around while I run. We don’t have anything blocking the front of the treadmill and I am too worried he will just wander over mid-run.  Actually, yesterday was the first time I attempted to run when both boys were awake. It took an episode of Sesame Street to keep my youngest sitting on the couch and away from me, but it worked and I manged to run a few miles. But normally, I only run while he is napping and since the boys’ naps are almost never concurrent these days, my oldest keeps me company down the basement.

Blurry picture while I was running - but this is how the boys sat during my run!

Blurry picture since I am not coordinated enough to take a picture while I run – but this is how the boys sat during my run!

I’ve received several emails asking how I manage to run on the treadmill with the boys around, so I figured it was worth discussing here. These are some of the things I have learned and try to do to so I can get my run in while also minimizing the number of times I have to get off and on to get a new toy, something to drink, etc.  Please know that these don’t always work. There are just some days a treadmill run is not in the cards!

– Favorite Toys: Our treadmill is in the basement and we keep a few of my son’s favorite toys down there so that when it’s time for me to run, he is excited and happy to come down and play with them.

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Have back-up options: I usually set up a few pieces of paper and markers and then either painting supplies or play-doh. This allows a pretty easy transition from one activity to the next without me having to get off each time.

Snack/Drink: Even though he almost never asks for a drink or something to eat, I always keep something on the treadmill to give him – just in case.

TV/iPad: This is my last resort. I would prefer he NOT watch TV (or play on the iPad) while I am running since I try to limit the amount of TV he watches. But, it’s a great resource to have for those days he’s not interested in toys or crafts – or for those last 10-15 minutes when he starts to get antsy.

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Nothing more exciting then watching Sesame Street as you run!

– Barrier for treadmill/stairs: We don’t block the front of the treadmill but have a gate that we use to block the stairs and back of treadmill. It’s more for peace of mind so that I can always keep him in my field of vision while I am running and when I can’t see him (the stairs block part of the “play” area), I know that he is not getting himself into trouble. The gate we have is great because it can be folded into different configurations to fit the space we are trying to block off.

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– Easy runs only: Doing a tempo or interval workout is challenging enough for me without the added concern or distraction of keeping an eye on or entertaining my son. I (try to) limit my treadmill runs to easy runs when he is with me so that I can happily chat with him, answer questions or if necessary, get off and on without feeling like the workout was disrupted.

– Don’t press your luck: I’ve learned that I can usually run for 45-60 minutes pretty easily but if it’s much more than an hour, I need to rely more on the TV (which is fine but I would prefer this to be an exception not the norm). I won’t try to do a long run with him around – he’s only three and asking him to play on his own for 2+ hours straight is a lot for him.

Do you have any tips to share?

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    23 thoughts on “Treadmill Running with Little Ones

    1. Pingback: Fit Mama Friday - Meet Michele - Fine Fit Day

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    4. I love the treadmill for winter months. It really leaves no room for excuses. I also think having your kids see you exercise is great. They learn by example. My kids are a little older so it isn’t too hard to hop on the treadmill while they are around. They will often come and run in place next to me and go slower and faster depending on how hard I am working. Makes me smile.
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    6. My two older children (ages 4 & 3) love to play downstairs while I’m on the treadmill. If they wake up early in the morning while I am running they will head downstairs right away. My 10 month old baby is crawling all over the place so I can’t have her down there while I’m running. If I run during the day I always do it during her nap time. I really like your gate though, that is definitely an option that I need to keep in mind.
      Angie @ A Mother’s Pace recently posted..The Rumor Is TrueMy Profile

    7. When Sophia was little I’d set her up in the pac n’ play with toys. It kept her safely away from the treadmill and contained. Also our basement isn’t super kid-friendly because of all my husbands weights so we really have to use the pac n’ play. But (knock on wood) the kids naps have been concurrent these last few times I’ve needed to run, which is the best.
      Sarah @RunFarGirl recently posted..How to Start Running and Stay RunningMy Profile

    8. My boys are still babies and I put them on the play mat and it works great, if I miss running while they nap. I hadn’t even thought about the dangers of the treadmill when they get more mobile…. You have really good suggestions, thanks!
      Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..2014 race plansMy Profile

    9. This is EXACTLY why I’d like to have a treadmill at home, and totally agree with a lot of these points!! I love the coloured gates you have up and such a good idea to block the back!! I hope one day, I can do this, too!!! I think the idea of favourite toys down there is crucial!! Great tips :)
      char eats greens recently posted..thursday things: fussy baby editionMy Profile

    10. I wish I had a treadmill :-( Like you, I do not really like running in the cold and I really do not like running in the dark – so I find my running days severely limited during winter months. I’m lucky if I can manage 3-4K runs. I am also alone most nights, so really even if I sucked it up and went outside, I can’t. I only have one kid, so it wouldn’t be hard to run after he goes to bed if I had a treadmill….
      Rebecca recently posted..Pick-me-upsMy Profile

      • Rebecca – have you thought about buying a used one? Some people sell perfectly good, fairly new treadmills b/c of moving or just lack of use ! I know a bunch of runner friends who bought great used treadmills for a fraction of the cost!!
        We bought ours two years ago as a combo birthday (for both), christmas and valentine’s day presents – we didn’t exchange a single thing for those special days. It was more than what we would have spent on gifts, but it made the sting of the purchase a bit better –
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Treadmill Running with Little OnesMy Profile

        • I saw some fairly decent ones on some used websites for not bad prices, apparently some were barely used.

          We have a bit of a space issue in my house. The only place a treadmill would work is in the basement and it is covered in my husbands office+stuff (and stuff from his parents house). The summer goal is to clean up the basement, move his stuff upstairs to the office. But even then, I would have to convince the husband to buy one :-)
          Rebecca recently posted..Pick-me-upsMy Profile

          • Yeah, I can totally understand that. When we first got our treadmill, we were living in an apartment and kept it in the living room. Completely an eye-sore but we knew it was a temporary solution.
            Yup – it took a bit of convincing for me as well. The biggest argument I had was running outside in the dark – my husband knew that I would be forced to run at 5 in the morning (when it was dark and quiet out) in the winter months.
            Also, we had a gym membership at the time and cancelled it so that saved us about $100/month. We have since renewed our membership since we need access to the pool, but it was cancelled for about a year – so the gym membership almost totally paid for the treadmill on it’s own!
            nycrunningmama recently posted..Treadmill Running with Little OnesMy Profile

            • Some Health Insurances will reimburse you for your gym membership. I have Oxford, and they reimburse me $200 for 50 visits in 6 months. It’s heaven for any regular gym goer, getting paid to go to the gym!

    11. Definitely a challenge, but sounds like you have figured out a great approach to it. I can remember doing my share of treadmill runs when the kids were little, but I pretty much did that before they were awake so that this wasn’t ever an issue. Then again, I did that as infrequently as possible, because my tolerance for the treadmill is super low…I admire those of you who can handle it mentally!
      misszippy1 recently posted..Places I don’t want to runMy Profile

    12. I’m lucky because my oldest goes to preschool 4 mornings a week, so I just have to deal with the baby. Also, they both nap at the same time in the afternoon (i’m either lucky or very strict, pick one). When I do want to run while the older one is awake, we do Elmo and snacks. It’s not that bad, but of course it’s better to run when they aren’t in the room. This is why I need a clone of myself so I can do my runs in peace. :)
      Kara recently posted..Welcome to 2005My Profile

      • I try super hard to get them to nap at the same time – it’s a godsend when that happens. I’m jealous that yours do on a regular basis.
        Yup – I prefer running when they aren’t there so I can watch a show or just run in quiet, but that would require me getting up earlier than I want to right now. The desire to get up in 4:xxs is just not there.
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Treadmill Running with Little OnesMy Profile

        • My oldest is VERY cooperative. I can’t stress that enough as being a factor in the dual nap times. She will go have quiet time (sometimes she sleeps, but usually she just plays with toys in her room) whenever I suggest it. I also may use bribery. :)
          Kara recently posted..Welcome to 2005My Profile