I never thought I would become an “expert” on this topic, and although I do not have any qualifications surrounding it, as I did recently become the first EVER mother with a running stroller to grace the cover of a fitness magazine (I think, correct me if I am wrong) with my Women’s Running Magazine cover this month, and I train with my running stroller more days than not, I *think* I can give some pretty good tips for running with a stroller (or running buggy if you are in the UK!).
When can I start running with my baby in a stroller?
First things first, before I even begin this conversation, please note that ALL manufacturers recommend waiting until your baby is 6 months before you begin running with them, YES, even with the car seat, it is not recommended to run with your baby in any way.
Do I think you could get away with it with less time, especially if your stroller does have the car seat attachment?
Yes, probably, but for me, I just didn’t feel like it was worth the risk until you are ALMOST there. I did it maybe three short runs before Bailey was 5.5 months, and I spent the whole day panicking about how much damage I could have done to her. For me, it just wasn’t worth it, and if I could go back, I probably wouldn’t have done those three times.
If you are planning on running with a stroller before that, do so at your own risk, but I have to remind you that this time is so fleeting.
I know you want to get back to yourself, trust me I get it, I know you feel a little lost and like you are giving everything to this little person, and want one thing for yourself. But that one thing can be a walk, or a run when someone can watch your baby. Running will be there for you the REST OF YOUR LIFE. It’s not like we are in a sport like volleyball where you can only do it with a club, you can literally run anytime you want to, but you will wish you cherished all this time with them, not even so much physically, I know we need a break, but emotionally, if you spend your time thinking about your fitness journey, that is time you are not present with your baby, during good times, which you might regret later.
Now, before we go on, I would recommend taking a read of my postpartum running guide if you want more general advice on coming back to running.
Okay, now my soapbox speeches are over.
Which running stroller is best?
There are plenty out there, and each of them have their pros and cons. AT the end of the day, the best thing to do here is to go try some out in the store and see which you like the most.
I have had the luxury of running with three different ones, and here are my honest thoughts (no one has paid me, this is my honest opinion):
I have the Chicco TRE stroller (which I was fortunate to be sent by Chicco), and I love it. I gave more of a review here, but I am very happy with this. I run with it four days a week, for around 65 mins each time.
- Most comfortable for baby, she loves it
- Front wheel locks and unlocks very easy, makes it very easy to unclick turn corners or 180 degree turns, then click the wheel back in and keep going
- Well designed with lots of holders and it is very smooth to run with, canopy completely covers her when needed
- Chicco label falls off front bar
- When sun is at JUUUSTTTT the right angle coming up, it can be right in her eyes, and putting canopy all the way down requires coming to the side of the stroller to pull it forward
We also have the BabyTrend Expedition Stroller. Steve actually uses this one as he does not like the Chicco, but here is what I found:
- Canopy moves easily to shade their face
- Cannot turn the wheel easily, requires a lot of forearm strength (or two hands)
- Very basic, little padding and comfort for baby
- Not very smooth
I also had the fortune of Wendy from RunningBuggies loaning me the Thule Glide Stroller for the Women’s Running Magazine photoshoot to test it out. Although one thing to note, I used the UK version, where the regulations and laws around strollers/buggies are VERY different. This Thule might be different to the US Thule
- Handles bumpy roads very well, less jostling baby about on uneven roads
- Folds up nicely
- SO LONG, I couldn’t use this stroller for anything else, except running
- Very little extra places to store things-I found as a mother I needed to bring things with me sometimes, but there is not even anywhere to put my phone
- Wheels are locked
Okay, so those are my honest opinions with those. As I mentioned, I did receive the Chicco FROM Chicco, but all three of those I have not paid for, so they are honest opinions to you. The Chicco TRE and US version of the Thule have a car seat attachment, if that is important to you. Each of them have their own design for the emergency brake (I am going to call it that!), and all work well, but I have to say, I like the Thule design best as you do it with your foot.
Logistics out-of-the-way, how about actually running with it?
How to run with a running stroller
I have to admit, when I first thought about running with a stroller, I had no idea you are supposed to run holding it with only one hand. The first time I tried, I did it with two hands, to me, that’s how you push a stroller, right?
Yep, it is, when you are walking, but these are designed for you to use one, and pump your arms in a usual running motion with the other. Once I got used to it (and you too!) I definitely see why that is the case.
That being said, it IS important to switch arms regularly. My friend, Eric from UltraRunnerPodcast actually damaged his dominant arm pretty bad and needed PT as he ran 100 miles a week with his stroller only using the one hand. That was scary enough to make that real for me!
I tend to run with one hand pushing for 15 minutes and then switch, that seems to be a good amount for me, although I will warn you, when you switch, give your body a few minutes, it does feel awkward, and you will have the temptation to switch back each time. Your body just needs to equalize itself again.
At the beginning, you might notice that you are straining your forearms quite a bit to turn corners, which is one of the reasons I love the Chicco TRE as I can push a button with my thumb, turn a corner with ease, and then click it to lock the wheel again. If your stroller does not have that ability, you just have to use your forearm muscles (or use the other hand to support) to turn or lift the baby up with the back wheels. However, those muscles will develop quickly, so you will notice that before long you can turn corners easily regardless.
It will feel quite tough at the beginning, because you are not used to pushing a stroller while running, but also because you are removing one of your arms at all time, and it might change your running form slightly.
I would strongly recommend you find a flat path to run on first, hills are definitely very challenging with a running stroller, and continue to be that way because your baby just keeps on growing! Starting with a smooth, flat path makes it more enjoyable for both you and baby.
When you do come to running hills, I still stick to one hand to go up hills, but if it is really steep, or I am nearing the crest and just want to make that final push up, I will add my second hand and push the stroller more out in front of me (imagine you were pushing a boulder up a hill!). Keep in mind though that hills will tax you a lot more than they usually would, so give yourself some grace at the top as you may be breathing pretty hard.
When I did a stroller race recently and ran it hard, I noticed that people would gain a lot more ground on me on the uphill than I would get back on the downhill. It is nice that the stroller will kind of carry you down the hills (although I would recommend using the strap they give you around your wrist on downhills), but the uphills certainly are significantly more difficult.
If you start using the stroller around the 6 months though, the difficulty will just stay the same as you will get stronger in correlation with your baby getting heavier.
Start with a shorter run, and build up gradually as you can handle more running. It is a lot more tiring running with a stroller, so do not feel bad if you have to run less, especially if you are just getting back into it postpartum.
Proper running form with a jogging stroller
Honestly, this is something I have not really looked into at all myself, as I felt it just kind of came natural after a few runs. I believe sometimes we can over think things, and your body will find a natural way of running most efficient for you with the stroller. Just as people like my Running for Real Podcast guest, Dr Rich Willy (one of the leaders of our time in the industry) said that our bodies will find the most effective form for US. This was also backed up by Max Paquette in his podcast episode also.
Your form will change slightly running with the stroller, for me I found it actually shortened my stride (although there is no real way of knowing, your GPS watch cadence will no longer be accurate) and other than up and downhills, I found a pretty good rhythm.
Just give your body a few runs to sort itself out and find the best way of doing it. You may have to adjust slightly if you keep kicking the stroller. BUT if you do keep kicking the stroller, that is a major sign that you are probably overstriding, in which case, you should be trying to take shorter, quicker steps anyway!
Another thing I notice I might do is almost start to lean on the handlebars when tired, like slouching over them rather than keeping upright. You want to make sure you are leaning at the ankles not at the shoulders. Think of a sprinter pushing off the blocks, they are leaning forward, but at the ankles, not just at their waist.
If you want more tips on what technique is best for running with a stroller, this video is pretty helpful.
Other things to note for running with a stroller
As I mentioned, it is more difficult to run with a stroller, so give yourself some grace. LET GO OF PACE! There is no conversion that a x:xx pace for running with a stroller coverts to a x:xx without, and at this point, you should just be getting out there getting in what you can. Chances are, you are doing most of your recovery runs with the stroller, and for those you shouldn’t be concerned with pace anyway, let alone when you are running with your child! #nowatchme
Your baby may or may not be okay with being in there. The first few times I put Bailey in, she did cry unless she had her pacifier in until she fell asleep. I think that is mostly the case of not being able to see you, and wondering what is going on. Now she does not use the pacifier or anything, just looks around when she is awake. I think it does remind her of being in womb, and the constant momentum is relaxing.
In most cases, they will get used to it, and feel pretty comfortable in there, Bailey falls asleep 90% of the time she is in there, but will not be asleep the entire time.
I am gonna be honest though, some days, they are just not having it. You have to let go of expectations that you can just shove them in there and get whatever you need to. I mentioned that I do about 65 minutes with her on most days, but some of the time, she is not happy for one moment without me either running alongside her and holding the stroller steady with one arm (which is tough to do), or even just doesn’t want to be out there at all. I have had to cut a few runs short, and you have to put your baby first. Try raising and lowering the seat, try talking or singing to them, try playing some of their favorite music, and if they are still unhappy, well, you tried, and got something in, so be happy with that.
Other days it will be raining continuously, and try as you might, but you cannot find a window. I do have this rain cover, and it does work nicely, but these usually coincide with days Bailey is not happy about being out there, probably because she cannot see anything and gets bored. Give yourself and your baby grace, if today is not the day, that is okay. You can get your fitness back without a few short or missed runs taking much away.
I tend to stay within a few miles of home to make sure I can get home easily if she is not happy, and again, stick to flat, smooth paths, it is much more comfortable for baby….and will stop you gritting your teeth as you go over bumps! I do run on the road, my neighborhood is pretty quiet once the rush hour has passed, and I would recommend you do the same. Run when it is quiet, and I like to run against traffic, so I can see them coming, but you will have to choose which way you want to go.
I would not recommend running with your baby when it is dawn, dusk, or dark. People do not expect to see you, and it is just not worth the risk.
Remind yourself that you are doing your best for the situation you are in, and that is really all you can do. You are putting yourself out there at a time when you could just be sitting on the couch all day every day. I know it can be easy to feel pressure to get back, like everyone else is, but trust me, the time will pass before you know it, your fitness will be back, and you will have a very happy baby who sees a great role model before them.
PS. Remember to read my postpartum running guide