10 Parent-Backed Tips That Will Help You Have a Better Stroller Run

10 Parent-Backed Tips That Will Help You Have a Better Stroller Run

Running with your baby in running stroller can be glorious, self-empowering, and grueling all at the same time. Having the freedom to sneak in

a workout can be a great feat for any parent. But mastering the art of running while your unpredictable little one strapped in a stroller can take some getting used to.

Physically, it’s a lot of work (you’re pushing not just your child’s weight but the weight of the stroller and everything in it); you’re forced to change the mechanics of your running; and you’re juggling keeping an eye on your child while putting one foot in front of another.

Then there’s all the planning that goes into running with two: snacks, timing, monitoring the weather, picking a route that doesn’t get you too far from home but allows for mileage, and making sure that the path or sidewalks you choose can facilitate a seamless stroller journey.

Fortunately, when done the right way with the right form, running with a jogging stroller can make you a better athlete, give you some much-needed breaths of fresh air, and give you time to bond with your child at almost any time of the year. But how do you connect the dots between wantinga good stroller run and actually having one? Here, runners, parents, and experts weigh in on what’s worked for them throughout the years.

“Runners love training plans, especially when they are training for a long-distance endurance event,” says Dorothy Beal, a RRCA- and USATF Level 1 run coach and mother, who spent nine-plus years training for marathons pushing a running stroller. “In many ways, it’s hard for some runners to wrap their head around flexibility when it comes to training, but flexibility is exactly what you need to embrace when it comes to running while pushing a stroller.”

Why? Attempting to stick to an exact training plan while pushing a stroller will not just make you crazy, she says, it will make you bitter. A better strategy: When you head out, have a loose idea of what you want to run (say, between 2 and 4 miles), then if you feel great and are able to do it (or more!), it’s a win. But if you don’tand only make it two miles, you won’t beat yourself up either.

If you’re following a training plan and know you need to get a few easy runs in, a long run, and a speed day in, head out and see what you and your kid(s) are feeling that day. If your baby falls asleep, maybe you’ll be able to fit a longer run in. If they’re up and alert, maybe it’s a fun day for speed or interval work. “You won’t have to push a stroller forever, so you might as well just embrace it,” says Beal.

Once Beal’s children were toddlers, she’d ask them if they wanted to go on a run with her versus saying she’d push them. “I made them feel like they were doing something, too,” she says. “On our runs we would play eye-spy and other games. We talked about life and the world—I used that time with them to engage in a way that I didn’t normally do when we were sitting at home playing with toys.” Because her children felt included and had fun, they often wanted to join her on runs, making the runs more enjoyable for everyone.

Here’s a reality: “The paces that you’re used to running are going to be very different running with a stroller, especially in the beginning as—just like with anything else—there’s a learning curve,” says Ellen London is a marathoner, mom, a captain of the Heartbreakers, Heartbreak Hill Running Company’s running team and the Ladies Lead co-founder.

But instead of stressing about going slow or ditching your watch because you feel discouraged, London encourages moms to wear their watches and set new normal stroller times and benchmarks. Knowing your stroller times can help you work toward improvements can be rewarding, and it helps you compile a whole new set of data. “Because of that, I think most runners find it fun because we’re all such data geeks,” she says.

Beal agrees. “I think it’s silly to imply that you can’t run fast-for-you with a stroller. If you want to, you can. That being said, I think it’s good to adjust your expectations and be happy with simply getting out there.”

Good routes will help: Sidewalks with cracks, bumps, and roots will make running with a stroller impossible, so your best bet is to find quiet, low-traffic backroads, park routes, or paved recreation paths that will keep you rolling smoothly.

It’s easy to want to hang on tight when running with a stroller; after all, your most precious cargo is in front of you. But London suggests keeping your form as close to what it would be if you were running without a stroller. When running on a flat surface, try holding the stroller with one hand at a time and switch hands every few minutes much like you’d switch if you were carrying a water bottle, she suggests. Make sure the hand you’re holding on with is lightly resting on the handle and that you’re getting a full swing with your other arm, she says. “When you over-clench the stroller, you can wind up giving yourself all sorts of muscle issues and tightness.”

It’s true: When you’re pushing a run stroller, you arepushing with your arms, but Amanda Nurse, an elite runner, run coach, and mom based in Boston, MA, who did more than half of her training runs for her first Olympic trials with a run stroller suggests using your core and legs to power your body. When you do this, it’ll help you stay more upright (better form in general for running than being hunched over), and it’ll allow you more of an explosive, power-focused workout, she says. At a slow pace with this kind of mentality, slow grind hills where you’re pushing from your posterior chain can give you an awesome workout, she says.

“One of my best marathons, where I felt good from start to finish, was the marathon that I ran six months postpartum, and I completely attribute that successful race to running with my son in the stroller because I had been pushing all of this added weight and doing a lot of power, explosive-type workouts.”

“On a practical level, there is no such thing as being too prepared for a stroller run,” says Beal. “Sunscreen, bug spray, coloring books, water, bottles, diapers and wipes, more snacks—bring it all.”

London also always packs an extra layer for her daughter, even on hot days, just because she knows that her daughter won’t be working up a sweat and that the wind resistance could cool her down a bit.

During the winter or on colder days, Melanie Prior, M.D., assistant attending pediatrician at the Hospital for Special Surgeries says to consider layer your child’s clothes in threes, if you decide to head out. The first layer should be thin and cover your child from their neck to their toes, like a sleeper or long underwear. The second layer, she says, can be a shirt and a pair of pants. And the final layer, a snowsuit, winter coat, or stroller bunting depending on the weather conditions.

For entertainment, Nurse swears by a playlist for her son that she can set up and let play during the run to keep her son occupied.

Also: Consider setting aside specific run-only items. “In much the same way that my running shoes are only worn while running, I saved things for my children that were just for when we went running,” adds Beal. “The coloring books we would bring were ‘special’ ones they only got to color on while out on a run.”

If you have a spare mini bag, you can pre-pack it with a “run-kit” that’s ready to go when you are to make getting out the door quick and easy.

On days when it’s a bit colder, you might find yourself wondering, how cold is too cold to run outside with your child in the stroller? “Once the temperatures get into the lower than 20-degree Fahrenheit range, I would have some hesitation and caution,” says Prior. Meaning you should consider an indoor workout.

In general, Prior suggests tracking weather conditions by the hour to avoid running in extreme temperatures or through an unexpected storm. Also, she adds, monitor real-feel temperatures because other weather conditions such as windshield can make it feel much colder outside.

If you're running in more extreme cold temperatures, like between 20 and 30 degrees, than cap your run at 15 minutes, she says, and if it’s above 30 degrees then you can run for a bit longer. Also consider opting for an afternoon run, rather than running in the early morning or late evening, because it likely to be warmer during the day.

Be mindful of your child’s body temperature, and hydration levels while you’re out and about, especially if they can’t talk yet. Prior says, the best places touch and feel for an indication of a child’s body temperature would be at the nape of their neck, on their hands, or their feet because those are the places you want to stay warm.

“If a baby is extremely cold, their skin color can change. The skin can appear really red, it can appear even like blue white. They certainly could seem like they're a bit lethargic or less active. Those would be truly more urgent situations where you should immediately go indoors,” says Prior.

Above all else, use your common sense before running with a stroller on a cold day. If you feel like it’s too cold, then opt for an indoor workout instead. And if you go out, when you return, remember to remove all your child’s layers so they won’t overheat, says Prior.

Just as you’d adjust an indoor cycling bike before hopping on, if you’re able, adjust your stroller as well. Top models have adjustable handles and even suspension, so you can tweak the ride as your child grows. If you’re able to adjust the handlebars, think about relaxing through your back and shoulders and having your arms naturally hit the handle when you’re upright so that you don’t need to lean over, says Nurse. “The most ergonomic location is going to make a big difference in terms of avoiding shoulder pain and feeling comfortable.”

Also, one stroller does not fit all—and while they can be expensive, Beal notes that she’s owned multiple different one throughout the years, some of which have worked best for speed; others for distance. Investing in a few different strollers (and using them in lieu of regular strollers) can help you meet your needs, she says. Beal notes that the running strollers that were the best for long distances often had a skinny fixed front wheel, while the ones that were best for more casual runs had thicker wheels and were a bit more durable.

Lastly, consider buying additional accessories for your stroller like a or weather shield that you can use to protect your child from different weather conditions, says Prior.

Some strollers include a wrist strap, but you can also purchase one if yours doesn’t. Think about it like a seatbelt: It’s there in the event that something goes wrong. London, for one, notes that she’s had a few close calls where she’s been glad she’s had it on. In the event that you slip or fall, especially on a hill or on a busy street or intersection, having that connection to your stroller will keep your child safe. Switch which hand the strap is on when you switch hands on the stroller.

Above all, enjoy the very special time you get to spend doing two things you love: being with your child and running. Sure, it would be great to get in a seriously hard workout or crush your training plan, but what is most important is that you’re taking care of yourself with a healthy activity while taking care of your child, one of the hardest jobs in the world.

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