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!