Planning a Running Workout for the Whole Family

In many families, everyone has a shared passion for running. The mom runs and the dad runs, the son runs and the daughter runs as well. If you come from such a running family, you probably understand that this shared passion is only natural and to be expected.

But even if you and your family members are all avid runners, there’s a good chance that you rarely run together – and an even better chance that you’ve never done a workout with another family member. This is likely a result of differences in ability. Unlike other sports, where people of various abilities can recreationally play together, runners usually train with others at their level of ability. If the parents and the kids are all on different levels, it’s unlikely that any would feel comfortable partaking in a family workout.

This is too bad. Although your family can certainly bond in other ways, such as by visiting the in-laws or cooking a meal together at home, the bond that is forged during a tiring athletic pursuit is unique. For this reason, a joint family workout can make for a great bonding opportunity. And, when done right, the workout can be designed to appeal to all talent levels and insure that the whole family is involved and engaged. Here are a few workout examples:

  • The out-and-back – Sometimes the best workouts are also the simplest ones. If you have a long stretch of sidewalk or a bike path in your area, a timed out-and-back workout can be a great way to push your fitness and involve the whole family at the same time. Have the whole family agree on a timed length to the workout. This length could be 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or any other duration of your choosing. Once this is determined, the whole family can line up along the path and start the workout together. Each person runs at a tempo or threshold pace and turns around when half of the agreed-upon time has elapsed. They then each try to maintain their pace on the way back. The goal is for all family members to finish together, at the same time and place.
  • Hill work – A hill workout is the great equalizer of running. It narrows the difference between the most and the least talented, and it insures that everyone walks away tired and probably a bit sore. Hill work is most easily done by having the entire family sprint in a controlled manner up a hill that is 200 meters or longer in length. Once at the top, everyone can group up and then jog or walk back down together. This can then be repeated for six or more sets.
  • Ladders – Ladders are a great workout when trying to plan a workout that both beginners and experts will enjoy. For this workout you’re going to need a circular course of some sort, either in an open field or, of course, on a track. Everyone will run around the course, sprinting or jogging based on the time on their watch. The workout is titled “Ladders” because it builds gradually in intensity – from 90 seconds slow and 20 fast to 20 seconds slow and 90 fast – before slowing back down again and finishing where it started.

These are three of the best workouts to do when you want to accommodate the whole family. Although running and working out with the family may necessitate some compromises and alterations, it is ultimately a worthwhile activity to pursue from time to time. If your family has a running passion, after all, it’s always good to share that passion and run together.

Bio: Harold Hunt is a blogger and avid runner who lives in Pittsburg, and a repeat contributor to Running in the Family.  


  1. Teresa says

    This is true for a lot of families. And people should definitely try running with family more! The last 2 years my dad and I have gotten closer because we run together. He could kick my but in every run but he slows down for me when we go out together and it is great! Great bonding time and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. We have finished 1 5k, 3 half marathons (for one race I let him run ahead to compete in a challenge him made with his office) and a full marathon. Currently we are training again for another half marathon. I am trying to get a PR of 1:59 or better. No better moment then crossing the finish line hand in hand with your Dad!