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There are plenty of milestones to hit before you take a run stroller out for its maiden journey: Doctors often suggest babies should be between 6 and 9 months old to protect their backs and necks; research suggests that postpartum women wait 12 weeks to begin running again after delivery.
“A mobility and strength training program is a must before returning to running. It should consist of postural re-education, breath and core retraining, and lower extremity stability, explains Jessica Babich, P.T., D.P.T., co-founder of Chelsea Method, a first fourth-trimester rehab protocol. “Before running with a stroller, you should also see how your body reacts to a gradual running progression. Running with a stroller requires more energy, so it is important to tolerate non-stroller running first.”
Once you’re back on the road and ready to have your baby join you? Keep these 10 pointers, from physical therapists, run coaches, and trainers, in mind.
10 Tips for Stroller Running with a New Baby
Watch Your Form
If you’re not careful, running with a stroller can do a number on your body (you could wind up hunched over or in a wonky position for mile after mile). Your best bet to feel your best? “Aim to run upright to avoid low back and hamstring injuries and switch arms every 15 minutes to balance the body,” suggests Whitney Heins, a certified running coach, mom, and founder of The Mother Runners, a resource and community for moms who run.
Once you get used to pushing, you could try to keep two hands on the stroller at all times—something that research suggests helps runners maintain both form and pace best.
Try to keep the stroller close to you and focus on hip extension creating length through your spine, too, suggests Babich. “I’ll often tell my patients who wear a high ponytail to ‘push with their ponytail.’ This cue helps to create length through the back of their neck.”
As for set-up? The handle bars of the stroller should be at about elbow height with your arms bent 90 degrees to maintain good form, notes Sara Dimmick, a triathlon and running coach and co-owner of Physical Equilibrium. “If the handle is too high you will tense up shoulders and neck, which could lead to injury.”
Always Use the Wrist Strap
Especially when running downhill or when you’re guiding your stroller with only one hand, it’s crucial to use the safety wrist strap, says Thomas Watson, a UESCA-certified running coach, founder of MarathonHandbook.com, and a new dad. He recommends simply developing the habit of always having it wrapped around your wrist (after all, you never know when you could trip or need to stop your stroller from rolling).
If your stroller doesn’t have safety wrist strap? You can buy one.
Set New “Normals”
According to a small 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One, when 16 men and women who had never pushed a run stroller pushed one, researchers found that none of them could maintain their initial paces. In part, that’s because when you push a stroller, your strides become shorter.
“When you first get your running stroller, don’t be disheartened if you struggle to maintain a jogging pace,” says Watson. He, for one, doesn’t check his GPS pace when he’s out with the stroller; instead, he alternates between bursts of jogging and walking intervals as he feels appropriate.
“Stroller running is actually an awesome workout: you’re adding an additional load to your run, much like running with a weighted vest. You don’t need to achieve the same speeds as your regular runs to get the same results.”
If you really are looking for a crazy-good workout? That 2017 study found that runners can burn significantly more calories if you do maintain your paces—so that’s one way to push it.
Try a Stroller Nap
Babies love being in motion, and running can easily lull them to sleep, says Watson. “Our baby loves going out in the stroller. It seems to calm him and he’s often asleep for the majority of the journey—especially if you time it to take a baby out a little while after it’s eaten.”
And a nap for baby and a break for mom or dad? That’s a win-win.
Whether it’s a small diaper bag stashed in the stroller, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a plethora of snacks, or special “stroller-only” toys, having a well-packed under-stroller carriage is key in a successful stroller run, experts agree.
Dress the Part
Headed out in the cold? Remember: “While you may stay toasty warm from all that running, your kid may get cold,” reminds Heins. “Consider buying a protective shield from Amazon if it’s going to be windy or rainy. On hot days, overheating can be a problem, so don’t overdress your kids, apply sunscreen, and use a stroller visor or sunshield to keep them shaded.”
Pick the Right Routes
Not every road or environment is suitable for running with a baby (or a stroller, for that matter). Experts often encourage avoiding roads with lots and traffic in lieu of quieter, flatter paths with well-paved (wide!) sidewalks.
Make Things Fun
Count squirrels, look for dogs and cats, play “I Spy”, try to wave to as many people as possible, or listen to music like Disney soundtracks (and don’t be afraid to sing loudly), suggests Heins. You could even end your run at a park or playground and let them run around or, if your child is older, let them run the last half mile with you.
“For many people, running is a chance to have peace and quiet. That’s probably not going to be the case when you’re running with your kids,” Heins admits. “Instead of looking at it as a disruption of ‘me time,’ though, view it as a special time with your loves. They won’t be this little forever.”
Run strollers aren’t just for running. You can use your stroller for strength exercises, too: walking lunges, single leg deadlifts, side bends, and more, notes Dimmick. When you look at it as a new piece of exercise equipment, you open yourself up to a slew of different ways to move.
Pay Attention to Your Pelvic Floor
Pelvic floor pressure is common postpartum, but a lot of women aren’t told to be aware of it or to scale back if you notice it, says Brooke Cates, founder of The Bloom Method. “We always want to be mindful of what our pelvic floor could be telling us especially within the first six months postpartum. Pain, pressure, or any leaking while on a run can signal that something is off with your pelvic floor and that your runs and pelvic floor should be assessed by a pelvic floor physio before continuing to run.”
While diaphragmatic breathing and the proper core connection can help in addressing a pelvic floor injury, she says it’s always best to see someone for a better understanding of what’s going on. “Just follow the rule that peeing, leaking, and any level of discomfort is a sign to slow down and see someone before your next run.”