Talk to any parent and they’ll tell you: Everything changes when you have a baby. Everything, including your running routine. If you get out at all, chances are, you’ll need a jogging stroller at some point. While it can be difficult to push a stroller walking, running is an entirely different animal.
Needless to say, there are a few things every runner needs to know before taking on this new training challenge. We spoke to Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper, certified coaches and co-founders of Run Farther and Faster — who are both moms themselves — to find out what you need to know before (and during) your first few runs with a stroller.
Of course the most important element is to practice all of the same safety precautions you would on a solo run. When running with a jogging stroller you not only have your safety and that of fellow pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to keep in mind but also that of your child, as well.
“Stay off of heavily trafficked routes and try to find a bike path or dedicated running trail instead,” urge Rechmann and Sapper. “Don’t assume that cars see you; and if you have to run in the street because it’s too difficult to run on the sidewalk with the stroller you should always run facing traffic.”
They also note you should carry a fully charged cell phone and stay in well-populated areas, not simply because of safety in numbers, but also so you can find shelter should inclement weather arise.
You should already have a handle on ways to stay safe on the run, but if this is your first jogging stroller, you may not understand its features and the effect it will have on your training. Our experts have broken down exactly what to expect:
JOGGING STROLLER FEATURES
Reichmann and Sapper insist you always pay close attention to the wheels of a jogging stroller. Find out if the stroller is an all-terrain model made for everyday use or created with jogging in mind. You’ll want to take into account the type of terrain you will be using them on and check the type of suspension offered.
“They should be large and sturdy,” they specify, “and lock in the straight position (either permanently or with an option to lock).”
Reichmann and Sapper specifically call out this feature because some strollers have front wheels that swivel, which is not conducive to faster running speeds. They also recommend a few bonus features such as a large canopy, wrist strap and hand brake. It is best to try out a jogging stroller in a store — like you would a pair of running shoes — to make sure it is comfortable and lightweight enough to take on hills and rocky terrain.
RUNNING WITH A STROLLER
Before you even run with a jogging stroller, you’ll want to make sure your baby is at least 6 months of age — and moms need some recovery time, too. The age requirement is the recommendation made by the major brands for the safety of your child. It is important that they can independently hold up their head before you take them on a run, because of the bouncing and jostling.
“Make sure that they have on sunscreen and you bring along water and something to keep them occupied if they are old enough,” adds Reichmann and Sapper. “Time your runs so that you’re running after they’ve eaten — so they won’t get fussy from hunger on the ride — and are approaching nap time!”
Once your baby is old enough, there aren’t too many other things you’ll need to get, except potentially a car seat adapter if they are too young to sit up independently. Car seat adapters allow you to choose the stroller you like best, as you can attach your current car seat to a different brand’s jogging stroller.
Of course having upper-body strength is helpful, though no pre-conditioning is required to run with a jogging stroller. You will be able to better control the stroller if you have previously done some strength work, though you can expect to gain some muscle the more you push the stroller on the run.
ADJUSTING YOUR TRAINING
Even though you don’t have to hit the gym for a new strength routine before you start running again, you do still need to be prepared to make adjustments elsewhere. The main thing to know is you cannot run the same pace you would without a running stroller.
“There’s no way that you can run your typical training pace pushing 20+ pounds of stroller and child, so instead go by perceived effort, aiming to run at a conversational pace,” Reichmann and Sapper note. “Aim for equal time as you would have spent on a solo run; for example, if you planned to run 6 miles, which would have taken 60 minutes, stick to that 60 minutes, even if you covered less than 6 miles.”
Additionally, you may have to make adjustments to your form to safely run with a stroller. Reichmann and Sapper advise against hunching over or leaning on the handlebar, for example. If you found you overstrided in the past, however, you can rest easy, as they explain that having the stroller in front of you can improve your form because it prevents overstriding.