Running While Mommying: Stroller Running Edition
by Necole Jackson
As if pushing our little ones out of our bodies wasn’t hard enough, there are some crazy people who actually enjoy pushing them down the street while they run, too. After a full year of running, training for a half marathon and being part of a run club while my son is in a stroller, I can say I’m one of those crazy people. Through my experience, I’ve learned some key stroller running skills, and if you’re thinking of joining the “stroller gang” too, there are some important things to know before you start pushing.
In the world of a mommy runner, aiming for a specific pace or calculating how many more calories you’re shedding than your friends can feel much less important than the rewards of including your little one in your routine, getting rid of stress and being able to squeeze in runs in without needing a babysitter.
Get started with the stroller running lifestyle with these stroller running tips for first timers.
Gradually Find Your Comfort Level
One of the most important things to remember is to find a comfortable balance between running and mommying. When you’re a dedicated runner, it’s natural to want to get back your old stride. It’s easy to feel some FOMO (fear of missing out) when you see your running friends going strong. You may want to immediately hit the pavement after your new-mommy hiatus.
Take your time.
It took me a year of running without my child before I was able to feel comfortable running with him. I wanted to get my body back into running condition while building my strength and resistance. I knew that pushing extra pounds with my son would be a struggle, so I built up to it gradually. Move on your own terms and once you’re comfortable with the extra effort that pushing a stroller will require, then take the steps to get back out there.
Picking a Stroller
Once you’re feeling comfortable with your pace and ready to test your limits pushing your little one, choosing the right stroller is the next important step. Ultimately, the best choice boils down to three important features. It should be lightweight, easy to push and have cup holders. The most important of these is the stroller weight. When running with a newborn, you will often have the stroller itself, the car seat and the diaper bag all in tow. Not to mention your baby! Things can get bulky and the weight can become tiring.
Once your child becomes a toddler, the car seat goes away, but your child’s growing weight makes up for it. With all of the aforementioned gear plus your little one, you’re consistently pushing at least 30 pounds. Picking the lightest, most durable stroller you can find is very important.
Remember to read customer reviews before selecting a stroller. Avoid the paid/promotional reviews and look for the ones from real people to save yourself time, money and soreness from an impractical, bulky stroller.
Whether you’re in a rush, not feeling comfortable with your surroundings or you just find stroller assembly really difficult, getting a stroller that is easy to assemble and disassemble is key. Most strollers come with an easy knob or lever, which makes packing it up for the car quick and efficient.
Also, getting a running stroller with a cup holder is more important than one might think. If you’re trying to keep a certain pace or keep up with a group, the time it takes to find essential things can be a hindrance.
I once ran with my son using a stroller without a cupholder on a hot, sunny day. I stopped to take a quick drink, but by the time I opened my backpack, found the water bottle and put everything back inside, I had missed the stoplight I was waiting for. Having a cup holder right in front of you saves so much time and allows easy access to a beverage, so that you (and your little one) can stay hydrated.
Stroller Running Styles
When you run solo, you have your arms to help propel you forward. Adding a running stroller eliminates this, making the run much more difficult. There are a few ways you can run while pushing a stroller: one-handed, two-handed or the “push-and-chase” method.
Many running articles will note how many more calories you are burning with each running style. Inside Science weighs in on this in the article “Running with Baby, Researchers Calculate the Extra Effort Needed to Push a Stroller,” noting that a “5-8 percent difference in expended energy between pushing techniques” has been measured in studies.
What’s important however, is which style is easiest or best for you. Personally, I utilize both the one- and two-handed push styles. I switch my pushing hand often during my runs and always use a two-handed push when running uphill.
Don’t be afraid to switch up your technique, either from run to run, or within the same run, as one may feel better than the other for that moment. You’ll find your stride and soon be able to focus on that PR again.
Children’s Running Essentials
We’ve talked about stroller essentials for you, but stroller essentials for your child are just as important. What’s in your stroller can heavily affect your run as you think about what will keep your child occupied long enough for you to get all of your intended miles.
We know to pack the basics: diapers and wipes (you usually can’t avoid a potty trip), pacifier (depending on age), snacks (keeping liquids in a closable cup/bottle and food), and a light jacket (in case of a weather change). Additionally, you’ll need toys, electronic devices/games and/or books that you know will keep your child busy. I allow my son to read a book that’s little and light while running or we take the iPad along for him to watch Youtube Kids.
While I know some parents shy away from too much screen time for their little ones, I love running and I want to make this an enjoyable experience for my son. As we head out, he starts off looking at the scenery and taking in the surroundings of mommy pushing him in the stroller. Inevitably, though, he will get bored. The toys I pack are able to distracts from the boredom and avoid complaints too soon into the run.
Remember, this is a new process for both you and your little one. Have patience with him or her, and most of all with yourself. You’ll both get the hang of it in no time.
Necole is a journalist/editor in the D.C. area who loves running with her son Nixon.