Stroller Running Tips for Effective and Enjoyable Training

Stroller Running Tips for Effective - and Enjoyable - Training

Our Thule Urban Glide 2 jogging stroller has been my absolute favorite piece of both running gear and baby gear. Once Baby La-la turned six months old, the running stroller has allowed me to train outside without waking up super early. I am able to run higher mileage because of it. The running stroller permits me the opportunity to share my hobby with my daughter from a young age. 

Stroller running is not easy; however, it is an enjoyable and effective way to train. I use stroller running tips to ensure that both baby and I are happy on our runs. 

Stroller Running Tips for Effective - and Enjoyable - Training

It should go without saying, but it is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not run with a baby younger than six months or a baby with poor head control. (If you are not sure if your six-month-old is ready for a jogging stroller, talk with your pediatrician.) Do not run with the car seat attachment, as it is top-heavy and unstable. Only use a stroller designed for running. Run in safe areas and be cautious about taking the stroller on any route with car traffic or poor visibility. 

Gauge Your Intensity without Pace

Running with a stroller places has a higher energy demand than normal running. Studies can debate exactly how much, but if you ask any parent, they will tell you that it is harder to run with a stroller than without. 

Certain factors will increase energy demand even further. Hills become exponentially more challenging with a stroller. Wind will require even more grit. If you are going to run often with a stroller, you need to learn to regulate your intensity based on perceived effort, not pace. 

Heart rate can be a valuable metric when training with the stroller. Your heart rate may increase due to the extra energy demands of pushing and steering a stroller. By monitoring heart rate, you can ensure with precision that you are training in the appropriate zones. 

Your breathing rate and ability to talk are also reliable measures of intensity. Most likely, your stroller runs should be easy runs. If you can carry on a conversation, you are running easy enough. Chat with your baby! This ensures both that you are training in the appropriate zone and can improve your baby’s language skills. 

No pace conversion exists for running with the stroller. Strength-based slow-twitch runners may find that they barely slow down with the stroller. Other runners may find they are 30 or 60 seconds per mile slower every time they run with the stroller. Do not try to match your pace on stroller runs with regular runs; focus on maintaining the same intensity. 

Let the Outdoors Be Your Entertainment

This is a reflection of my parenting style (a Montessori-approach). Dr. Maria Montessori emphasized the importance of outdoors and nature for children of all ages. We use stroller runs as a way to connect with the environment, foster curiosity, enjoy all types of weather, and appreciate the beauty around us. I do not bring electronic toys, snacks, or iPads/etc into the stroller. (I do supply La-la with a teething toy.) 

I ensure she is well-fed before we leave, so we never bring snacks. I worry about the choking hazard of eating in the stroller and I do not want food to become entertainment. 

To optimize our time in nature, I opt for routes with more trees, foliage, and fauna. Our go-to route has ponds, trees, and even some outdoor sculptures. I talk with her and point out interesting things (dogs, birds, deer, etc). We bond, work on language skills, and cultivate curiosity. 

La-la is content throughout a stroller run. We have never experienced a meltdown in the stroller. The longest we have run is 65 minutes/7.5 miles and hope to build up to longer durations. 

Plan Your Route for Success

Smoother surfaces and flatter terrain make running with the stroller easier. If you can only choose one, opt for smoother surfaces; hills are more manageable than a road riddled with potholes. (Smooth surfaces are also better for the longevity of the stroller.) Personally, I find it easier to run on a loop pathway, so that we minimize road crossings and have consistent surfaces throughout. Loops also minimize hairpin turns, which are a difficult maneuver with a stroller. 

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, Only Bad Clothes

Actually, if you live in the Midwest, there IS such a thing as bad weather. I won’t take the stroller out in winter when the real feel is zero degrees Fahrenheit and the sidewalk is buried under two feet of snow. However, this Scandanavian/German saying is true a majority of the time. I’ve run with the stroller in 20-degree temperatures, 80-degree temperatures, windy spring days, light rain, and so on. 

I adhere to the belief that babies can handle cold temperatures (look up the Danish approach to naps!), if they have the proper gear. Until the temperatures are in the 50s, I dress La-la in a Columbia fleece bunting. For every ~10 degrees drop in temperature, I add layer; when it’s below freezing, she usually wears a long sleeve onesie, fleece sleep-and-play, and the bunting, plus a blanket over her in the stroller. La-la likes to nap in the cold weather and would often doze off on these runs. 

Stroller Running Tips for Effective - and Enjoyable - Training

 I also have a mesh weather cover for the stroller, which blocks winds and adds some insulation. For rainy days, I have a rain cover. (Both are Thule brand designed for the Urban Glide stroller). 

When it’s hot and sunny, I dress her in light, comfortable clothing. I use the umbrella top of the stroller to shield her (it is made with UPF 50 material) and slather sunscreen on her. 

When running, I check her often through the peekaboo window. On extreme weather days, I will stop a few times to check on her temperature. 

Conditions in which I won’t run the stroller:

  • High winds (over ~25 mph)
  • Ice or snow on the ground
  • Windchill below 15 Fahrenheit
  • Temperatures above 90 (I wouldn’t even run alone in these)
  • Thunderstorms (again, don’t run in them at all!)

Maintain It Like a Bike

If you never ride a bike, tire and brake maintenance can feel like a completely foreign idea. However, it makes a tremendous difference with a jogging stroller! If you feel like you are struggling to run with the stroller, check the wheels. Flat wheels are slow! I check the tire pressure on the jogging stroller roughly every 2-3 weeks, depending on mileage. If the stroller begins to feel harder to push, check your tire pressure. 

Just as you would with a bike, keep a patching kit and spare tires on hand. Jogging stroller tires can go flat! 

Most jogging strollers have a locked front wheel, which sometimes requires alignment. Generally, after each tire fill, you want to check the alignment as well. The Thule Urban Glide 2 has a simple dial by the front wheel that adjusts the alignment. 

Refine Your Form

Hold onto the stroller with one hand and pump the other arm as normal. If you are running high mileage or prone to injury, switch hands every few minutes. It is normal to have a hand you prefer for steering (most likely, your dominant hand); just try to take breaks and use the other hand, even if just for a few minutes interspersed throughout the run. 

Focus on maintaining a tall posture with a slight forward lean, just as you normally would while running. Holding onto the stroller can encourage slouching as you fatigue, so be mindful of your posture. If you frequently slouch, develop core and upper back strength as part of your resistance training. Push-ups, rows, and pull-ups will improve postural control. Functional core exercises such as deadbugs, farmer’s carries, and side planks will promote good form even as you fatigue.

A 2016 study published in Gait Posture concluded that runners alter their pelvic tilt and hip extension when running with a stroller. To counteract these changes in form, you want to think of driving with your hips. This cue encourages a neutral hip posture and proper hip extension. 

If you struggle with a strong hip drive, adapt your strength training program. Hinge exercises such hip thrusts, single leg deadlifts, and kettlebell swings will develop strong glutes and translate into a stronger hip drive. Exercises that emphasize hip proprioception (such as this hip strength circuit) are also beneficial if you plan on logging heavy miles behind a stroller. 

Start Small and Build Up

Finally, give it time! Begin with a manageable distance as you adapt to running with the stroller. Stroller running is a skill that will take some time to master. Starting small will also allow you to observe how your baby responds and what they need to be happy and comfortable. Be patient with yourself and your baby. Over time, you will be able to build up your distance and make stroller runs an enjoyable experience for both of you.

Do you run with a stroller? How do you make it enjoyable?

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8 Responses

  1. I started running after my kids were a little older. I give huge props to the moms in my MRTT group do run with strollers. I tried to help out a few times and it’s tough work! I also some of the women become much stronger runners after training with strollers

  2. Great tips! I wish I had better places to run with the stroller. There’s one place I could drive to but its really hilly so I haven’t done that yet. I stick close to home but we have lots of turns to deal with and some spots are pretty hilly. I definitely don’t worry about pace- between and heat, hills, and pushing all that weight its been pretty challenging lately!

  3. I’m pretty sure baby joggers weren’t invented yet when I had my babies. 🙂 I do have a girlfriend who is just starting to run with her baby so I’ll make sure she sees this post.

  4. I used to love stroller running with my daughter! It was so much fun to have a buddy with me. 🙂 I didn’t run with my son but we walked A LOT.

  5. These are great tips! I didn’t start running until little man was out of the stroller, so I missed out on this particular milestone. I think it’s great that kids and parents can go get fresh air together, but I have seen that it can also be such a challenge.

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