It was the day I realized we were on a first-name basis with practically every duck and goose that lives along our local recreation path that I knew my toddler and I needed a new route for jogging.
With longer spring days just around the corner and more than a touch of cabin fever, I set off in search of new vistas and playgrounds. Here’s what I look for in a jogging trail, as well as a few tips on how to start (and get in the habit of) jogging with a baby or toddler in tow. Trail suggestions follow. Whether you’re a walker or a jogger, it’s time to get outside and get moving!
Our trail wish list
For starters, I look for convenient (and preferably free) parking and restrooms, two must-haves for any parent out and about with a young one. My 2-year-old son also demands play space, whether a fully equipped playground or simply a wide open field for chasing a ball or playing tag with Mommy.
Getting started exercising with baby
If you were an exercise enthusiast before you had kids, jogging or walking with your baby is a great way to get back into the swing of things. Haven’t quite tackled jogging for two yet? No problem, it’s easy to get started.
Warm up with a 20-minute walk around your neighborhood a few times a week; this will also get your baby or toddler used to viewing the world from the stroller. Once you’re more comfortable, you can step it up, working up to 20-minute (or more) jogs three or four times a week. There’s nothing that can break up the monotony of a long day or change a toddler’s cranky mood faster than the sight of a jet soaring overhead or a visit to a favorite playground. Think of it as mommy/baby therapy — and pen it (don’t pencil it!) into your calendar each week.
Tips and tricks for running with baby
Vary the timing of your play stop. On some days, hit the playground first; on others, visit after your run, and — if your route permits — take a breather in the middle to allow your child to stretch his or her legs, too.
Encourage toddlers to point out the sites. Have them call out objects and colors they see, anything from ducks to dogs, blue strollers to red cars.
Do some interval training. Go faster or slower between points on the trail: Sprint to the next telephone pole, then take it down a notch to the next one, and so on.
Keep it varied. Walk some days, run some, take short runs, long runs, make a day of hill walking. Stop and do some sit-ups and lunges with your baby on a blanket beside you. Think of it as a custom workout — and you’re your own trainer.
Keep a selection of jogger-only toys. Stash select toys in your car and pull them out for your exercise sessions.
Be ready for action. Keep the jogger and a pair of sneakers in the trunk of your car. You never know when you might pass a beautiful park or trail, just as your child is in need of a stroller nap or a change of scenery.
Your around-town stroller just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to logging some real miles. Enter the larger, sturdier jogging stroller. There are countless options on the market these days, ranging from basic to über-deluxe. For me, the most important must-haves were a swiveling front wheel that also locks (making for smoother handling), a generously sized basket under the seat for carrying toys and snacks, a water bottle holder and an ample sun visor. I also invested in a universal rain shield for those less-than-pleasant Seattle days; my son just thinks he’s riding in a “space bubble” — whatever works, right?
Check eBay and Craigslist for secondhand before buying new, if you wish, or you could ask at your local Buy Nothing group. The retail and blog site Jogger Mom offers helpful insights from a jogging mom herself, as well as a wide selection of joggers and accessories. For the two of us, this all added up to an eBay purchase of a Mountain Buggy Urban, which we love and has seen hundreds of miles. Other favorites include Seattle-based BOB Revolution joggers.
Favorite jogging and walking trails in Seattle
Seward Park in Seattle: A gorgeous 2.8-mile paved, level loop stretches along the water, and there are countless hiking trails in the interior of the park, best for sturdy jogging strollers. Bonuses include rocky beaches, a swimming area, picnic tables, a fantastic eco-themed playground, restrooms and parking. Don't miss the Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center, too, where you can check out an explore pack for birdwatching and hiking.
Alki Beach in West Seattle: Jog as far as you want along the paved, level Alki bike path, which hugs the West Seattle coastline, then stop at the Whale Tail playground at Southwest Lander and Southwest 59th streets, with its “digger”-stocked sandbox and life-size boat for climbing. The beach provides ample opportunity for frolicking in the sand.
Ballard Locks/Golden Gardens: A paved, level and relatively new portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail extends from the Ballard Locks to Golden Gardens. Play at the beach or at the Locks, and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy as you watch the trains and boats. This section of the trail offers a unique alternative to a traditional playground outing and was one of our favorites last summer.
Green Lake: This is an area favorite for its 2.8-mile paved, level loop around the lake, huge playground, community center, proximity to the Green Lake Library and plenty of duck, goose and turtle sightings.
Jogging with Baby on the Eastside
Marymoor Park: This park is popular for its accessibility to both the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails, as well as its proximity to the Redmond Town Center. Its 560 acres offer ample parking, a leash-free dog zone, a playground with equipment for older kids and younger toddlers, and plenty of clean restrooms.
Kelsey Creek Farm Park: We adore Kelsey Creek as much for its onsite working farm as for its network of hiking trails and gravel loop trail. A cute little play area sits next to a sheltered picnic area, in full view of the picturesque white barn. Take a run, then visit the farm animals until 3 p.m. daily.
Kirkland: With a combination of sidewalks and dedicated recreation paths available for jogging, the Kirkland waterfront offers green space, beach areas, playgrounds, boutiques, coffee shops and restrooms. Start at the waterfront promenade on Kirkland Way or Houghton Beach Park (there’s a playground right at the park).
Jogging with baby in Snohomish County
Langus Riverfront Park, Everett: A three-mile, riverfront paved trail heads south from the park, which has parking, picnic tables and restrooms available. Although there’s no playground, there are plenty of grassy areas for active toddlers to run around and watch waterfowl and shorebirds. Combine with a trip to the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett.
Blyth Park, Bothell: This charming park is at the meeting point of the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails. Run as far as you wish in either direction, then return for playtime on the toddler-friendly equipment and “tire mountain” climbing structure, and partake of a picnic among the pines. Lots of parking, picnic tables and restrooms.
*For a south Sound version of this story, click here.
Michelle Richards Peters, a Seattle-based freelance editor/writer, has a double jogger, which she was just breaking in when this article was first published in March 2009.
This article and its resources have been updated several times.