Let's face it - running strollers are rad. Some are so rad they even let you do a few other sports (biking and skiing come to mind), but those aren't quite as common as stroller running. I'm sure there are lots of good ones out there, but we have a Chariot and we are in love with it.
As I was pushing my Chariot up a hill yesterday on a run, it occurred to me – there’s no manual on how to run with these things. Being a physiotherapist, I occasionally nerd out into the world of science, and think about how things work. Although there is no right and wrong to running with a stroller, I think I might have some tips that can help. I'm a physiotherapist, but I'm also a runner, triathlete (so I understand things with wheels), and a mama, so I feel qualified to talk stroller running with you.
Here are some of my tips to help you get the most out of running. I am, by no means, a veteran of the sport, but I've logged some serious hours out there with my baby, so I'm learning fast. You can too!
1. Start small. Small distances, small hills. I'm guessing a stroller weighs around 30 pounds, plus with the added weight of your baby, you've got a 40-60 (or more) pound package to push around. That's fine when going downhill, but remember that what goes down has to come up. Being at the base of a 12% incline is likely to terrify you for the first time. It did for me, anyway.
2. Pushing uphill is tricky. There are two ways I think you can do this. Arms bent or arms straight. My theory here is that the closer the stroller is (bent arms) the more upright you are and the more work your core is doing. Straight arms, seems like you've increased your angle to the stroller, tipping forward, which would mean you can lean more body weight into the stroller to keep it moving. Plus, you're also resting your upper body a bit on the push handle.
Don't believe me? Try running on a treadmill on its max incline holding onto the handle bars and then try it without holding on to compare the difference. I did a pretty wicked V02 max test which ended up with me holding on to the bars while running for dear life. And drooling, but that's another story…
3. Bring water, bring snacks, bring an extra jacket! When you're already pushing 50+ pounds, you're never going to notice the weight of a water bottle, a banana, or even an extra puffy jacket to zip up in once you're done. And then there is that terrific advantage of being able to stash chocolate milk in your stroller. Win!
4. Try running with one hand on the stroller and the other arm still swinging. It's really hard running with a stroller because your arm action is taken out if both arms are pushing the stroller. Your arms help propel you (try running with your arms down by your sides - not as efficient!), so when you can, running with one arm free is useful, and it just feels darn good.
5. Running downhill isn’t easy! You think it would be, but you're holding back a lot of baby and stroller. This works your back, abs, and arms big time. Keep the stroller close to your body, engage your core, and quicken your running cadence (number of steps you take per minute). Use both hands here, as you want to keep the weight distribution even on your back. Sore backs are no fun with little kids!
6. Use your glutes! They were made for pushing big things uphill. If you keep a strong back and upright stance while leaning forward, you'll be utilizing your glutes. This is a great time to work on muscles that were under-utilized or stretched out when you were carrying your baby around. I had wondered for a long time if I would ever feel the muscles in my core again. It took me more than a few months (I’d say, 9?), but they're back!
7. Get a good sports bra. Actually get a few. Worth. Every. Penny.
Have fun out there - that's what this is all about. It's for both you and your baby, and it's a nice break for your partner (maybe…depending on how many kids you have!). It's a grind, but this type of slow speed, high resistance running is perfect for getting back into the swing of things.
Now, stroller races, anyone? I'm game!