The first time I pushed my son Wyatt in our beat-up used BOB jogging stroller we purchased from a neighbor, I was completely unprepared. First of all, it was summer, which in Colorado can mean a nice cool 65 degree day, massive thunderstorms and lightening or a sizzling 95 + degrees. I am sorry to say that this day was the latter. I left in the middle of the day, in the heat of the day and decided I was going to attempt a 4 mile loop that I had been doing without the stroller. BIG MISTAKE! First of all, I underestimated how much more effort it would take to push that stroller on the hilly course. The quick 4 mile run I had envisioned slowly progressed into a long, painful “wog” (walk/jog) and poor little Wyatt was getting overheated. And to make things worse, I didn’t even think ahead to bring a bottle, diapers or wipes!
After that first pitiful stroller run, I vowed to be more prepared next time. I would not let the stroller get the best of me. Now, 3 years, another kid and hundreds of stroller runs later I am here to share everything I learned so that you can make the best out of your stroller running experiences. You and your kids are going to love it!
TIP #1: Be prepared!
Always have a back-up plan and make sure if you are going on a longer run you choose a route that has road access, cell phone service and a back up plan in case something happens or the kids have a meltdown. I’ve been caught in downpours, duststorms, had side cramps that left me walking until after dark and blowouts without a diaper in sight. Believe me when I say that being prepared is definitely #1 on the list.
A couple of necessities for any run over 4 miles:
– At least 3 extra diapers
– Pack of wipes
– Some kind of changing pad
– Blanket (can be used for changing pad)
– 2 extra sets of clothing (including hats, gloves, jackets if winter/cold)
– Extra snacks and drinks for you and the kids
– Cell phone!
TIP #2: Do your homework:
On one of my more recent runs I forgot to check the tires before I left. About 5 minutes into the run I noticed the stroller was pulling hard to the left. Of course I ignored it and kept going. After another 5 minutes I noticed that it was getting harder and harder to push the stroller on the straightaways. I finally stopped to take a look at the tires and the right tire was completely flat! I was running on rims baby!
Did that stop me from completing my planned 4 mile run. No sirree!
I just kept running on those rims because all moms know that when they finally get the kids ready, get to the trail, get the massive 60lb stroller out of the car and actually had the motivation and time to get out and run in the first place nothing is going to stop you from doing that run. Not a flat tire, the sound of metal grinding into the concrete or the occasional spark (okay exaggerating on this last one).
The real lesson came when I returned home and had the daunting task of changing that flat tire on my own. My husband was out of town or else I’d usually have him do that sort of thing.
After a quick trip to REI and learning the correct size of inner tube to purchase (note to self, next time look at the tire to see what size you need instead of running around the store looking for someone to ask like an idiot) I was ready.
Wait. Where is our pump and those little black stick thingies that you use to get the tire off? Wow. This little adventure has made me realize how out of the loop I really am. I mean I used to race in triathlons and could change a bike tire in no time flat before kids. Where did my skills go and for that matter my brain?
So this post is not meant to be a tutorial on how to change a flat on a stroller. I will let the below links teach you that. Let’s just say the best advice I can give you is, a) do not let the baby get a hold of the pump. You will never get it back and b) probably a more useful tip: do not overfill the tube before putting it back into the tire. Yeah, it took me about 30 minutes and burning out my forearms and biceps to figure out this one.
Finally, finally, after trial and error I changed that tire. All by myself with 2 little kids trying their best to distract and sabotage my efforts. And it was the best feeling in the world.
So moral of the story: Don’t leave the house without checking your tires and don’t let your husband leave town without changing the tire
Click HERE for a great resource for changing a stroller tire.
TIP #3: Watch your form:
While pushing a stroller, your running form takes some hits. You are unable to pump your arms which actually gives you a lot of power sans stroller. Your stride changes depending on the terrain and your upper body gets one heck of a workout too.
However, many of the tips for running with better form with a stroller actually translate pretty well to running solo as well:
1. Shorten your stride: Take short, quick steps, ensuring that your feet fall right below your hips, not in front of your body. This prevents you from over-striding, a common cause of injury for runners.
2. Lean forward slightly: Keeping your back flat and shoulders back, lean forward slightly, leading with your chest. I like to imagine that there is a wall in-front of my chest that I need to push through, great metaphor too since every time I run with the double stroller I literally feel like I am pushing against a wall!
3. Push down! This is the one that is stroller specific and actually provides some great benefits that our non-stroller running friends will never realize. As you run, put pressure into the handlebars, pressing directly down.
The amount of pressure or weight you displace will depend on how heavy your stroller and kid(s) are.
Since I run with almost 110lbs in front of me, I am able to really push down into those bars, displacing a lot of my body weight and thus lowering the impact my lower body absorbs when my feet hit the ground.
Dr. Jeffery Wight, an exercise science and biomechanics professor at the University of North Florida, terms this the “stroller cheat”. For new moms, this is a great secondary benefit to running with a stroller as we lose a ton of muscle during pregnancy and recovery, our ligaments are lax and so we don’t have the protection for our joints we did pre-kids. Using this “stroller cheat” strategy we take a lot of pressure off our joints which allows us to get a great cardio workout and build back muscle while reducing the risk for injury.
Check out Dr. Jeff’s post on the Fitness Center page of the BOB website for more tips and great resources for new stroller runners:
TIP #4: Don’t have a plan:
It is great to have a general plan of how many miles you’d like to accomplish or a certain route you’d like to cover but remember, you are at the mercy of your children’s well-being, needs and cooperation.
Kids getting fussy? First try some snacks. This always seems to work, even if it is a temporary fix.
Map the closest playground or park and make a stop so the kiddos can have some play time.
This is a great opportunity to try out of of my playground workouts! No excuses. If the kids are playing you can play too. Time to get on those monkey bars and those park benches look like the perfect height for some dips and step ups. Sometimes a little play break is what we all need and most of us tend to neglect the strength training when taking care of kiddos full time.
Hope you enjoyed these tips, you are well on your way to becoming a stroller running pro, now you just have to get outside and run (and don’t forget the kids!).
– Lauren Jones
Mother of 2 amazing boys and founder of RWK