RUNNING TIPS: RUNNING WITH A STROLLER
I’m on the second time around of running with a stroller now and it couldn’t be more different running with each of the boys as babies. Roman was high maintenance – he needed a lot of distraction and bribery to be able to run past about a 20 minute limit unless I timed it perfectly for nap time. Baby T, on the other hand, couldn’t be more chilled out on the run. It actually occurred to me the other day as I ran with him that I’ve never gotten around to clipping a toy onto the stroller for him. He’s just so content to watch the world go by and do a lot of pointing and babbling. Heaven help me if I’d ventured a step outside without a back up of at least ten different toys for his big brother when I ran with him!
I’ve come up with this list of tips for running with a stroller – it’s certainly not exhaustive, so please share what worked (and didn’t work!) for you, if you were a stroller runner. (P.S. some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you click on them and buy through that link, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.)
First and foremost, you’re going to need a running stroller. Luckily, there are running strollers in all different price points on the market. There are actually way more available now than there were when I was pregnant the first time and researching then. You can check out my review of the Bugaboo Runner here (plus a workout) – this is the stroller I’m using now, but I’ve also run with the Baby Jogger City Mini and the BOB Revolution. Each one felt totally different while running, so it’s definitely a decision you need to research by test driving them. You should also check the age/weight recommendation for each model. Some suggest 6 months of age, while others can recommend not running until baby is 9 months old.
You’ll find some running strollers have a fixed front wheel, but most have one that can switch between fixed and moving. Again, I’ve run with both options and it really is a matter of preference. The benefit of the fixed wheel is that there is no wobbling while running with a stroller – it makes it a smoother ride and easier to control. However, a truly fixed wheel (and that’s what I have now with the Bugaboo Runner) make it a little harder to navigate sharp turns, or use it as a regular stroller. You basically have to elevate the front wheel to really turn it and while I have the technique down now, there was a definite learning curve.
Other features to look for include which way the seat faces, whether there are windows to check in on baby if s/he faces away from you, ventilation, how big the shade canopy is, whether there is a wrist strap, and how far the seat reclines.
Of course all the things you might consider essentials for a running stroller are usually sold separately. It’s like buying a new car – the ticket price of the stroller is always what it starts at, then all the lovely little extras are….well, extra!
One of the most important accessories you will want to get is a rain cover – you will use this not only when it’s raining, but it also works to keep baby warm when you’re running in the cold.
A stroller organizer for the handlebars can be a good addition if you want things like your water bottle, phone and snacks/toys right at hand. If your model of running stroller doesn’t have an organizer as an accessory option, you can try out a universal storage organizer like this one. Otherwise, you can get away with just using the basket underneath.
The tire pump is almost always sold separately. I have to tell you, having run with babies for a total of about three years, with three different strollers, I have used a pump once. One of my friends never bothered buying one and in the event she has to have the tires pumped up, she takes it to a bike shop where they do it for free.
Wrist straps are attached to some strollers, or an extra with others. It’s a good extra safety feature to have your wrist looped through it, but you can also look into using anything that will do the job, like a leash or some form of loop.
For the colder months, it’s a great idea to invest in one of those snuggly sleeping bag style blankets designed for strollers. They are super warm and cozy, encourage nap time, and the one I use even has handy zippered pockets on it where I actually stash my phone and keys.
The other ‘gear’ that should be a necessity are all the little things to keep your little one happy and distracted while you’re out running. You can clip toys to the stroller frame so they can’t be dropped. Your phone can be your best friend on the run – download one of those baby white noise apps and use it to encourage nap time. For older babies or for toddlers, you can also use iPads or phones to distract them with kids’ apps. Snacks and water are another thing you should have in great supply as a way of diverting a meltdown. And of course, wipes and tissues are always, always a must, whether you’re running or not!
When you’re running with a stroller, it means you have an extra person to consider (or more, for those badass mother runners dealing with the double or even triple running stroller). Some things are obvious, like sunscreen for both of you. But you also need to take the elements into consideration for each of you – while you may be warm from running, your little one is not going to have that extra heat, so dress both of yourselves accordingly.
Use the rain cover and any window covers the stroller has to adjust for temperature as well as rain and wind. Be aware of your route – if you’re doing an out-and-back, for example, take into account which way you’re facing the sun and adjust the shade for baby to keep them comfortable.
If you have a dark-colored stroller, you can one of those muslin cloths in white or a light color in the summer to tie over the top of the shade to reflect the sun. You can also let it hang down in front of the shade to create a fanning effect in the warm weather.
Does a cranky little one count as one of the elements? It probably should! I’ve already covered toys and snacks, but there are a couple of other tips for making stroller running something your baby or toddler looks forward to. Make it a routine – remember, kids thrive on routine, so if you’re just heading out with them for a run whenever you feel like it, it might not go over so well as if it’s a regular occurrence at the same time of day. Include a reward if they tend to get fussy in the stroller, like a playground trip after the run. Treats like snacks or screen time can definitely be used as ways of making it a special occasion for your child. And just be prepared that sometimes it isn’t going to work, so you may have to cut your run short.
The technique for running with a stroller is very different from regular running. One thing you need to just ignore when running with a stroller is your pace. You are going to be slower with a stroller and it’s definitely a time to practice running by effort rather than the pace per mile on your watch. Stopping and starting are also going to happen more often than when you’re out by yourself.
Because you are one of the best forms of entertainment and distraction for baby, running with a stroller is a great time to try out the ‘talk test’ form of checking whether you’re running at an easy, moderate or hard pace. The general rule of thumb is if you can sing while running, it’s easy, talking is moderate, and only being able to utter one word is hard. Brush up on your repertoire of children’s songs, or talk about what you can see as you run.
Pay attention to your posture as you run with a stroller – you can adjust the handlebar height to make sure you’re not hunching over, or bending slightly at the waist to reach the handle. Depending on how wide your running path, you can also experiment with whether running behind or alongside the stroller feels more comfortable.
What I notice most about stroller running is how much more you use your upper body. Obviously you are pushing the stroller and baby, but it also feels like your arm swing is more pronounced, probably because you are only swinging one at a time. For me, it feels most comfortable to switch which arm I’m pushing with about every 5 minutes. If you’re using a wrist strap, this is going to be tricky unless it’s long enough to accommodate the movement of a swinging arm. If you don’t switch up your swinging arm while you are out on a run, then try to alternate which arm you’re using between runs. (And if you need an upper body workout to get you into shape for stroller runs, check out our monthly round up here!)
So, were you, or are you a stroller runner? What are the tips you would give runners looking to try it out? I’d love to hear what did or didn’t work for you!