Everything You Need to Know About Running with a Jogging Stroller, According to Experts
Tips and tricks to start running with your baby in tow.
New moms are (understandably!) exhausted all.the.time., but getting outside for a little fresh air and (doctor-approved) exercise can do a world of good for mama and baby. Running with a jogging stroller is an amazing option for moms looking to get in some steps while spending quality time with their little one. Here are some tips before picking up a jog-friendly stroller.
The Learning Curve
Even if you're a seasoned runner, jogging stroller newbies should anticipate a learning curve. "Your pace will be slower than running without a stroller, especially when you're getting used to the stroller weight and resistance," says Catherine Cram, M.S., coauthor of Exercising Through Your Pregnancy.
As far as changes in form, "the biggest thing is to first understand natural running without a jogging stroller," says physical therapist Sarah Duvall, D.P.T. "You lose the natural cross-body rotation with a jogging stroller. And when you lose that cross-body running pattern, you lose some of what should be working."
She says the fixed-forward position that you maintain while pushing a stroller means you lose some mid-back mobility, and because "it's hard to push off when you're not rotating, you lose some glute engagement." According to Duvall, we breathe easier when there is motion in the mid-back, so that lack of movement can lead to a shallow breathing pattern.
Try to take long, deep breaths during your stroller runs to keep oxygen flowing and enjoy the jog with your mini copilot. (Related: 9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise)
Pelvic Floor Precautions
Duvall says deep breathing can help with pelvic floor issues that new moms might experience, like minor bladder leakage to more serious (although less common) prolapse.
Watch out for overexerting your lower abs when crushing hills. What's the telltale sign of overdoing it? Duvall says your lower abdominal muscles will push out and forward. "Running is a great exercise for the pelvic floor. You just have to be ready for it," she adds. Meaning, make sure your body is strong enough to withstand the impact-also be sure to include supporting exercises to address gait changes (glute bridges, clamshells, and plank variations). If you have pelvic floor concerns, she recommends being evaluated by a physical therapist. (Related: Pelvic Floor Exercises Every Woman Should Do)
To minimize gait changes from running with a jogging stroller, Duvall recommends trying to push the stroller with one arm and let the other swing naturally and alternate from side to side. She also recommends that you keep tall posture with a forward lean. Run with the stroller close to your body to avoid neck and shoulder tightness.
To support your jogging stroller life, be sure to include supplementary exercises that address your glutes and calves (they can get a little ignored during your stroller jog). Duvall also suggested for all new moms-stroller joggers or otherwise-to focus on torso rotation to rebuild core strength. (Related: The Post-Pregnancy Workout Plan to Build a Strong Core)
As a mom herself, Duvall understands that mom life is a busy life and says, "this time that you have is so precious." Save time by reducing your stretching-most new moms "have a lot of flexibility postpartum." She explains that even though an area may feel tight, "A lot of times, things lock down because they need balance or strength, not because they are not flexible." Try moves that go through a full range of motion to get the most stretch and mobility bang for your buck. For example, full-range calf raises do include a stretch, but also strengthen the muscles of the lower leg and stabilize the ankle.
Stay Safe and Be Prepared
Heading out for a safe and efficient run with your shiny new jogging stroller extends past being physically ready to hit the road. First of all, you'll want to get cleared by your pediatrician to make sure baby is ready for the ride. "Check with your pediatrician before starting a stroller jogging routine to make sure your baby is developed enough to safely withstand the jarring of a running stroller," says Cram, "Babies younger than eight months typically don't have adequate neck and abdominal muscle strength for safely sitting in a jogging stroller, and may not be safe in a reclining position either."
Once baby gets the go-ahead, Cram recommends you carry a cell phone and let someone know where you plan to run. She says you should start with flat runs to get used to pushing the stroller and familiarize yourself with the brakes. "Always prepare for weather changes and have snacks and water," she adds.
Luckily, most jogging strollers come with a long list of optional accessories that make storage for all the necessities a breeze. But before you buy all the add-ons, you need to be sure you and your jogging stroller are a total match.
When reviewing your options, carefully read manufacturer descriptions to confirm the stroller is approved for running. Just because it has three wheels or "jogging" in the title doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for running with baby. Cram recommends you seek out strollers that include a fixed front wheel (some models allow you to switch from fixed to swivel if you would also like to use your stroller for non-running outings), an adjustable handle to set for your height, an adjustable sun canopy, easy-to-reach storage, a five-point harness for baby, a hand-brake to slow downhill running, and a safety wrist tether.
Some options that have these elements:
Think of the wrist tether like the one on the treadmill. It's rare you'll need. But if you do, you won't want to be without it since it will "prevent the stroller from rolling away from you if you lose contact with the handle," says Cram. She also suggests finding strollers with three air-filled tires. This not only allows for a smoother ride but makes it safe to run on any surface.
Your selection of extra accessories will depend on the stroller you choose. If you run rain or shine, find a weather shield, but make sure to follow installation instructions so there is still airflow for baby. If you're a cold-weather runner, investing in a hand muff for you and a foot muff for baby will eliminate the need for bulky blankets. Foot muffs come in anything from lightweight blanket material to thick, waterproof sleeping bag–like construction. You can also deck out your new ride with a console for you (handy for your cell phone, water bottle and keys), snack tray for baby and, whether your route is paved or not, it's always smart to run with a small handheld air pump for unexpected flat tires.