Editor's Note: This is the latest post in our Runner Moms series!
Running can be one of the best forms of exercise for moms. You need no equipment besides your running shoes, and you can do it right out your front door, no gym membership required.
Running brings moms a sense of peace, strength and confidence, especially vital during the crazy early years of motherhood. As long as you have a good jogging stroller, you have the option to bring the kids along too, so you can get your run in during the day or anytime it works for your family’s schedule, no childcare required.
So what tips should you keep in mind when running with stroller?
Importance of a stroller made for jogging
A stroller specifically made for jogging will benefit both you and your little one with more stability, shocks, better wheels and, in many cases, better maneuverability. I have always jogged with a BOB Revolution SE, which is also the recommended stroller by Stroller Strides moms and instructors around the country. Our local moms of Stroller Strides of Raleigh and Raleigh Running Mamas really love it as well. It’s very light, easy to push and run with, and has the option of fixed or swivel wheel.
Other options to consider include Baby Jogger and Bumbleride brands. Keep in mind that BOB has the option to add an insert for a baby car seat/carrier too, so you could choose to get ONLY a jogging stroller if you still have an infant, instead of multiple strollers.
Be sure to read over your stroller’s manual for tips on how it should be set up properly. For example the BOB Dualie has different settings for the shocks based on the weight of your children. And don’t forget to periodically check the air in your tires — properly filled tires make for a smoother ride!
Setting your expectations
Running with a stroller IS a tougher workout, so it’s good to go into your run knowing that mentally in advance. Many runners find they are anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds per mile slower when jogging with a stroller, especially a double stroller. But, as long as you have that expectation when you start, you shouldn’t let that bother you. You also may find you’ll stop more often to help the kids, provide snacks or pick up things they dropped. So keep that in mind for your total workout time.
On the pro side, your little one gets a chance for fresh air, lots to look at, and the example of mom working out. The stroller is also useful during a run because you can STORE lots of stuff — water, keys, sunglasses, phone, kids toys and snacks, etc, and you’ll be burning more calories when pushing the stroller because you're working harder!
Allow time to adjust to running with the stroller
If you have run at all in the past and are now starting to run with the stroller, you may find that you feel pretty awkward for the first couple of weeks. That is normal! Your body must adjust in many ways to get used to the mechanics of running with a stroller, and you may even find that you have some soreness in your arms and upper body initially as you get used to it. Don’t write off running with the stroller immediately, give yourself some time and you should get used to it shortly.
Avoid the death grip! And maintain good stroller posture
A common mistake when people start running with a stroller is to grab onto the handlebar with a super-tight "death grip" of sorts, which can result in sore forearm, wrist, and even neck muscles. Plus, it’s a waste of energy. Yes, your baby is precious cargo, but a relaxed grip on the stroller handle is all that you need and will help you maintain better form. Plus, you can and should use the wrist strap (if available) for safety, especially going downhill.
Think about maintaining an upright posture, abdominal muscles pulled in tight, shoulders rolled down and back, and keep the stroller close to you (as opposed to leaning way forward and pushing it far in front of you). Relax your wrists and keep them in ‘neutral’ (not extremely flexed) so as not to strain them.
Yes, you can still swing your arm!
Believe it or not, you will actually run more comfortably by just holding the stroller with ONE arm and letting your other arm swing freely. At first, many running moms, in addition to the "death grip," try to hold on tightly with both hands constantly, but that can ultimately throw off your gait and bring on more tension in your shoulders and back.
Try one arm at a time and you’ll likely get used to that and prefer that option, and if you have a swivel wheel (generally fine for recreational jogging speeds; fixed wheels recommended for racing/more intense runs) you won’t need both hands to steer/maneuver. Aim to alternate which arm you are pushing with though, periodically throughout your run, so as not to gain a muscle imbalance.
Keeping the kids happy in the stroller
So what can your little ones do while you are running with the stroller?
- Nap!! Especially for the first 6 to 9 months or so, some moms time runs around nap time. A portable white noise machine can be useful if your baby usually naps with white noise or if you are worried about waking. (We had this giraffe that strapped to the infant seat).
- Watch the world. With preschoolers, play a game of “I Spy” or try to find certain colors or items in nature as you run.
- Snack. Always popular during a run or a workout like Stroller Strides! Once your little one is sitting up on their own and eating finger foods, snack trap containers are a great way to keep them busy in the strollers. Fill it with puffs or Cheerios and it’s tough to make a mess, but baby can happily snack. For older kids, consider bringing an apple that they can munch on for a while as they watch the scenery go by.
- Look at books. Popular at all ages.
- Play with toys. Stroller toys that hook on in case they are thrown or dropped are great for little ones. Some moms keep toys aside specifically for playing with in the stroller to keep up the child’s interest. Toys with buttons and lights or activities to do are always popular.
- And of course, gadgets such as the phone, iPod or iPad and similar devices! Once your child is old enough to play with certain apps or games by themselves, you may find it’s actually EASIER to bring them for a run because they are happy to watch a show or play a game in the stroller if you are willing to let them use your phone or iPad, or if they have something like a Innotab or Leapster.
Finally, if you are training for a specific race and plan to run with your stroller often, you may want to bring your little one along for your final Race Day event as well! Many 5K races and a few 10Ks allow strollers, so check the guidelines and consider pushing your running buddy across the finish line with you!
Jennifer Kedrowski is the owner and instructor for Raleigh Running Mamas (5k, 10k and Half Marathon Training for moms in the Raleigh/Cary/Apex areas) and Stroller Strides of Raleigh, which provides daily stroller workouts for moms. She has been a runner off and on for most of her life and is now the mom of two girls ages 4 and 1. She completed her first half marathon - the Disney Wine & Dine - this past fall. (Photo credit: A.E. Wiley Photography)