Running — which allows participants to include their kids at every age and stage — is arguably the perfect parental workout
When Audra Nagasawa’s children were small, the Alta Vista mom used to pop her daughters into their jogging stroller and go for a run. “It was a great way to get exercise while bringing the kids along,” says Nagasawa, who took up the sport in 2011. “I have tons of friends that used their strollers when their kids were young, and then transitioned to having them ride beside them on their bikes until their kids were old enough to run along. I even know of someone who set records at the marathon distance with a stroller.”
Robin Arzón, a VP and head instructor of Peloton and 27-time marathoner and ultramarathoner, recommends that new runners and new parents start with just 10 minutes a day. “The ‘10 minute a day’ rule has helped me a lot,” says the mother of Athena. “Give yourself the grace to stop if it’s too much. Once the endorphins are pumping, it’s likely that you’ll finish what you set out to do.” She suggests finding an accountability partner. “Tell a friend about your goals and even better, accept help if they offer to watch the baby during your self-care time,” Arzón says.
If you’re incorporating a jogging stroller in daily routines for the first time, leave your pace goals behind, says Arzón. “I recommend going out for half the amount of time of your usual run to start. You’re pushing weight, so it’s more taxing and you’ll be slower. I like to do intervals with the stroller by jogging one block and running one block. And make sure your core is braced so you’re effectively pushing the stroller from a place of stability.”
Stroller running is a fantastic way to get children into the sport, says Nagasawa. “You are modelling a healthy lifestyle in the hopes that they’ll want to follow in your footsteps.” Her own daughters, now 14 and 10, have done several local races and will train with her on occasion.
In 2017, Nagasawa and a few local moms co-founded the Alta Vista Canterbury (AVC) Run Club. The hyper-local grassroots club, says Nagasawa, made it easier for its members to stick to a running goal. “Group fitness creates a shared experience,” adds Stephen Bierbrier, and motivates runners to set the alarm and get out of bed. Ottawa’s Arboretum Hill Club — of which Bierbrier is one of the leads — has runners as young as eight and as old as 88. Many participants are parents, and some bring kids to the workout, something organizers love to see. “A healthier and happier parent makes for a much better home experience with the kids,” says Bierbrier. “We also believe that it sends a really positive message to the kids that each participant is prioritizing their wellness.”
Around age three, kids can begin running in bursts and in sports like soccer; and track at school or camps for fun by age 10, says Phil Marsh. “I wouldn’t suggest anything over 5k racing until kids are 16,” says Marsh, the regional manager of the Running Room, Girls on the Run board member and Diplomatic Run Club coach. “This reduces the risk of injury so they have the foundation to run further and longer as they age.”
Running is for all fitness levels and can be done anywhere, says Bierbrier, which is one of the reasons why it’s “a hugely popular activity in Ottawa-Gatineau,” with more than a dozen free weekly road run clubs and seven free trail run clubs. Another reason, says Marsh, are the area’s race offerings. “Ottawa Race Weekend and Army Run are among the biggest running events in the country and as such, give the sport a lot of profile in the region,” Marsh says.
The sport further gained popularity during the pandemic, as employees working from home needed a break, and gym closures had people looking for alternative ways to stay active. “Walking and running,” says Marsh, “are accessible, can be done solo, and are very reasonable financially. With a dangerously overloaded healthcare system, I believe that many folks realized that part of the solution is to get more active.”
If there is anywhere to get involved in the sport, it’s Ottawa, which Nagasawa says has “an incredible network of running paths. There is the bonus of seeing so many great landmarks — from Rideau Hall, to the falls, to the National Gallery, to the many embassies, Parliament, the Museum of History, the war museum and Lansdowne. Plus, there are so many other runners in Ottawa that you always feel like you are part of a bigger community, even if you are running alone,” Nagasawa says. “I feel so very fortunate every time I get out for a run to be able to call Ottawa home.”
Get the gear
Start with the right shoes, says Phil Marsh. “Getting fitted is the best chance to ensure that you can safely enjoy the sport.”
“When selecting a jogging stroller, I thought about how I was going to use it with my family,” says Robin Arzón. “Baby Jogger’s Summit™ X3 was the jogger that came highest recommended when I was pregnant and is the jogging stroller I use with my daughter, Athena. What stands out to me most is that it provides a smooth ride and the ability to handle the wear, tear, and terrain as I traverse curbs, puddles, and city life.” Arzón designed a stroller in tandem with Baby Jogger (the City Royalty Fashion) because she loved the Summit X3 so much.
Ensure that the jogger you’re considering has the features you need. The Summit™ X3 jogging stroller, for example, has all-wheel suspension and pneumatic tires for a smooth ride on any terrain; a hand-operated deceleration brake to keep the runner in control when heading downhill; a one-hand, in-seat fold for simple storage; a near-flat seat that reclines; mesh side vents for improved airflow; and a UV50+ canopy with peekaboo windows and reflective trim.
Wear a watch to track speed, distance, pace, heart rate, pace per km, elevation, etc. “It’s important to have the data available,” says Marsh. “You need to see where you’ve been to know where you are going.”
The right clothes
Canadians face extremes in heat and cold. “Find your temperature range and then get the necessary clothing,” Marsh says.
Think local: Best places to run
Ottawa River Trail
“I run along the Ottawa River Trail (which) takes me along the river, and past Westboro beach in one direction, and to Parliament) in the other. The path is wide, smooth, and stroller friendly.” — Audra Nagasawa
One of the best ways to experience the Arboretum is the Arboretum Hill Club, which offers a free 31-minute community member-led hill workout at the Dominion Arboretum every Friday at 6:29 a.m. Founded in July 2018 by Jamie Voltz, the club has hosted some 250 workouts, which have so far been led by more than 80 people. “It’s a complete community effort that makes AHC so magical.” — Stephen Bierbrier
National Capital Commission Pathways
“The NCC pathways provide access to safe and accessible running paths year-round.” — Phil Marsh
“It’s an easy drive away and offers a variety of trail systems to mix up the training.” — P.M.
Rideau River Trail
“Follow the path to the Rideau River trail, and then take it towards Hog’s Back and Mooney’s Bay, or towards downtown, and Rideau Hall. All of these options offer lots of great activities/visual stimulation for kids: Mooney’s Bay has a great park to stop at, and you hit Vincent Massey and Hog’s Back parks along the way. In the opposite direction, you can pack a snack to enjoy along the Rideau River, and there are also several parks along the way. Or, if you run towards the canal, the Flora Foot Bridge offers a great way to cross the canal and explore Lansdowne as a family.” — A.N.