Friday, August 28, 2015

20 Tips for Running With a Jogging Stroller

This morning I was supposed to meet a group and run my scheduled 5 miles. I stayed in bed when the alarm went off. It was nice getting a little more sleep and it was raining anyway (I have no problem running in rain, but I heard some thunder too and thunder means lightening, and lightening means NO) but missing a run makes me feel bad about myself. At least I had planned on meeting a friend for a bike ride after taking Will to school.

I'm all set to go on the bike ride, or at least I think I am. Once I get everything ready and Lorelai and Ben in the bike trailer, I see it has a flat. A flat on the tire husband had just replaced the tube on last night. I didn't want to patch it because I had patched the previous tube and it blew right after I pumped it up. That's two tubes, three blow-outs, and I still had an hour before the bike shop opened. So I had to cancel my ride and Lorelai starts crying cause she wanted to go. Stroller jog it is!

Who just ran 4.5 miles pushing a stroller?

At least it was a little cooler than it has been. I changed my shirt and shoes and off we went. This actually worked out pretty well for my blog at least. I had been planning on today's post being tips for running with a stroller anyway and actually doing it the morning before writing puts things I may have left out fresh in my mind. Hopefully my messed up plans benefit you in some way.

Here we go:

BOB Dualie: Dream Jogging Stroller
1. Make sure you have a good jogging stroller. A regular stroller will not cut it here! If you want to run or jog with your stroller, for the comfort and security of your children (or dog, because yes, I've seen that) you really need a stroller that is intended to be used for running. Look for a post next week on how to pick out a good jogging stroller. A BOB is the dream, but I'm on a budget so this BabyTrend double, and this single are what I have.

Baby Trend Expedition Jogging Stroller
2. Use the safety strap. Jogging strollers should have a strap attached to the rear axle that you hold onto with your hand or put around your wrist. Sure, you may think the stroller is never going to get out of your grasp, but why take a chance? Maybe you bought your stroller used and it doesn't have a strap, or like the InStep Grand Safari we had, the strap is too short; you can make one pretty easily. Just get a rope or other non-stretch, sturdy piece of fabric and tie one end securely to the axle and make a loop at the other end to fit around your wrist. You want the length to be short enough so that it doesn't drag on the ground and long enough so that you can have your non strap holding hand on the handlebar and the hand holding the strap can swing as it normally would when you run. You can even use a dog leash in place of the safety strap.

3. Lock your front wheel(s). A good jogging stroller should either have a fixed (meaning it doesn't turn left or right when you turn a corner) front wheel or a wheel that can be locked into a fixed position. Some locking wheels are controlled by a trigger near the handlebar, while others have a switch above the wheel. Yes, it will be harder to turn with the wheel locked, especially at slower speeds but you need to do it. Locking the wheel cuts down on bouncing and prevents the wheel from turning when it shouldn't. If your wheel turns when it shouldn't while you're running it can easily cause the stroller to flip over or roll in to traffic or down a steep hill.

4. Keep only one hand on the handlebar. You want to keep your form as normal as possible while running with your stroller. This means you put one hand on the handlebar and the other arm is swinging just as if you weren't pushing a stroller and the elbow of your holding arm should never be fully extended. This will also keep you from leaning on the stroller while you run. There are exceptions, however. When ascending or descending, you want to use both hands to hold onto the stroller. Some hills I can climb with one hand, but most descents require both so that the stroller doesn't get away from me. If you have a nicer stroller, with a handbrake, you don't have to worry about this as much, just make sure you're keeping your hand over the brake in case you need it while descending. You will also want to use both hands on the handlebar when going over bumps, uneven ground, and when turning corners.

5. Switch hands regularly. To avoid muscle imbalances and messy form, you want to switch which arm is swinging and which arm is holding onto the stroller regularly. I probably switch arms too frequently and am much more comfortable swinging my left and holding with my right once I start to tire. If you find yourself sticking to a certain arm, force yourself to switch every 5-10 minutes or every mile at the least.

6. Buckle your children in. Do I really even have to say it? Even if they are older and you trust them to stay in their seat, when you're running they can get bounced around a lot. Imagine riding in the backseat down a rough and winding road with no seat belt, keep them safe, buckle up.

7. Bring snacks and toys. You need to keep your kids from getting bored and restless for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes just riding in the stroller is enough. My 4-year-old will talk to me the whole time if it's just me and him, but that doesn't work when his brother or sister are there. My older two love the free maps when we go to a trail or amusement park so I often have one of those still in the stroller and they'll look at it for a while. No kid is happy in the stroller if they are hungry, but if you bring along a snack for them, make sure it's something easy to eat while they're bouncing along. Baby snacks that dissolve easily are the best. If you bring toys, don't bring something sacred. You don't want to lose the only toy baby will sleep with because you didn't notice they threw it out of the stroller, or find a way to attach it to the stroller. Music is another way to distract them, if I play music through my stroller's built-in speakers, it's always something for the kids to listen to, not me.

8. Don't use the cup holders for anything. I've decided the cup holders on jogging strollers are really only useful when walking. Put something in there and run, it's going to bounce, rattle, spill, fall out, and otherwise be the most annoying thing ever. Use the under-seat storage, or a closed compartment, if available.

9. Distribute weight as evenly as possible. This really only applies to double strollers, if you're just pushing one kid in a single stroller, don't worry about this. If you have two kids in a double stroller, hopefully there isn't a big different in their weight. If there is, it's going to make things a lot more difficult for you. The stroller will be unevenly balanced and want to pull the direction of the heavier child. If you happen to go over a big bump or unlevel ground, it's much more likely to want to turn over. One thing you can do about this is to add weight to the side the lighter child is on. If your storage compartment under the stroller is divided you could put some books, full water bottles, or even free weights on the lighter side.

10. You WILL be slower. Don't expect to keep your non-stroller pushing pace. If you find that you're going to same pace with the stroller that you normally do without, then you must be holding back on your sans-stroller runs. It's okay to be slower with the stroller, just think about how much extra weight you're pushing. My double stroller weighs over 50lbs, then I have almost 50lbs of kids in it. That's 100lbs more than I usually run with. Even though I'm slower, I know I'm still getting a great workout.

11. Check your tire pressure and attachment. Make sure your tires are securely attached to the stroller before every ride. If you use the stroller regularly, you can get by with checking the tire pressure once a week or so but I like to give each tire a little squeeze before each use. Having a low tire is going to make it so much harder to push. Checking the pressure regularly can also save you from being stuck miles from home with a flat and a crying baby.

12. No headphones. Do you really want to be that mom whose kid is screaming and you don't even know it? Don't run with headphones when you're pushing a stroller. My stroller has built-in speakers that I can plug my phone or iPod shuffle into if I want to have music. You could also use the external speaker on your phone. I know you may want to drown out your kid's whining with music, but there are many reasons you need to hear them, do you want to clean pee out of the stroller? Plus you need to be extra aware of your surroundings since it's not just your own safety to be concerned with.

Bull Frog Mosquito Coast
13. Put on sunscreen and bug spray. Is it daylight? It doesn't matter what the temperature is, put sunscreen on your children and yourself. Also use the stroller canopy to keep the sun off their heads and out of their eyes, consider hats and sunglasses. I tend not to do the hats and sunglasses because I know they will just end up on the ground. If you are running at a time or place where bugs are likely put bug spray on them too. I like the combination sunscreen/bug spray from Bull Frog.

14. Bring blankets. You might be sweating when it's 60 degrees, but your kids are just along for the ride. They have all the wind but are not working up a sweat so dress them appropriately, layers are your friend and bring along a blanket just in case. Imagine riding a motorcycle in cool weather, you'd want to be covered. Blankets are also good for propping a baby's head up if they happen to fall asleep during the run, or covering any hard parts of the stroller their head could hit when you go over bumpy terrain. Oh, and they also make good makeshift rain shields.
Our whole family running the Tallahassee Springtime 5k, in the rain, when I was about 15,000 months pregnant.

15. Keep it short. You're getting more of a workout pushing a stroller, so you don't need to go as far. I prefer to go by time when I have the stroller. I choose an out and back route and when it's been a certain amount of time I turn around and head back home. Of course, every kid is different; with toddlers every day is different, so the time in the stroller they can handle one day may not be the same next time. Learn to pick up on the hints and be flexible. Don't expect to get you 10 mile long run done with the stroller, unless your kids are used to that.

16. Keep it interesting. Involve your children. Talk to them about the things they see and hear. Today I let Lorelai choose which direction we should turn a few times. This helps them keep from getting bored and helps them enjoy the ride more. I want my kids to like being out in nature and for them to know that running is enjoyable.

17. Plan a park stop. Not only does this make the run more enjoyable for your kids but it let's you get a little break too. This way you can get a longer run in without the kids getting so restless and without you getting so beat from pushing that stroller.

18. Don't do all of your runs with the stroller. Doing every run with a stroller is not good for your form and it's hard to get good, long runs as well as hills and speedwork done. If you don't have someone to watch your kids, use a treadmill. If you can afford a gym membership, a lot of them have free childcare. I've even seen some moms put a baby fence around their treadmill so they could still use it in the same room their small children were in without worrying about the kids getting hurt on it.

19. When you stop, put the brakes on. Even if you think the ground is level, you should lock the back wheels by using the foot brakes when you stop. Those little people in the stroller are unpredictable and all it takes is some wiggling to get the stroller moving. I've even done hill repeats on stroller runs by parking the stroller in a safe place (at the bottom of the hill, NOT the top) with the wheels locked.

20. Make sure your baby is old enough and/or physically mature enough. This isn't about comfort or whether they are happy in the stroller. This is about the potential damage to their delicate necks and spines. Most strollers are going to recommend your child to be at least 6 months old to use it without a car seat attached. This doesn't necessarily mean it's okay to run with them in the stroller at 6 months. Running is going to cause a lot more shaking and bouncing than just walking will. Even if you plan on leaving their seat reclined, your baby needs to be able to hold their own head up like a pro and preferably be able to sit up on their own as well before they are physically ready to ride along on your runs. The best recommendation is to ask your pediatrician, and make sure you ask about running with them, not just about pushing them in a jogging stroller.

Do you run with your kids in a stroller? 

Did I miss any tips?

I'm ready for the day when my oldest can ride his bike alongside me while I push the stroller. Then we'll be that much closer to the day when they can start actually running with me. Lorelai already says she's going to be my running buddy.

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