This article first appeared in Women’s Running.
If you’ve never run with a jogging stroller before, you might think it’s just like regular running with a really tiny running buddy. But stroller running is a whole other animal—a beast, really. It uses different muscles, takes a lot of patience, involves extra planning, and it’s just plain HARD. But it’s also a killer workout and a fun way to switch up your training when you want a challenge (or don’t have a babysitter).
If you’re thinking of adding a plus-one (or two, if you’re some kind of superwoman) to your next run, consider these dos and don’ts of running with the three-wheeled monster.
Don’t be disappointed by your pace
You probably assume you won’t run quite as fast with the stroller as you would without it, but you might be surprised by how slow you’ll actually go. Don’t get caught up by your pace; you’re probably pushing at least an extra 30 pounds so cut yourself some slack. But if you’re a runner who really needs to track herself, keep individual solo and stroller paces and work on improving each one separately.
Do pack for the apocalypse
After all the effort you put into getting you and your kid dressed and out the door, the last thing you want is to have to turn around a mile in because a little tummy is rumbling. This is where that extra planning comes into play—throw a bag of crackers or fruit and a bottle of water in the stroller basket so you can grab and distribute without breaking stride. And some small toys or books will go a long way when boredom (read: whining) kicks in. While you’re at it, make sure everyone makes a pit stop before you hit the road or bring a backup diaper for anyone who might need it. You may feel like a doomsday prepper but you’ll be mighty glad when you make it to mile 3 without a peep from the peanut gallery.
Don’t head for the hills
Pushing the stroller on a flat path can be exhausting enough, so trying to get up a hill can feel like a football sled drill in mid-July. Take it easy on yourself and stay on the straight and narrow, at least until you acclimate to stroller running. But if you’re feeling particularly tough and want to try a hill workout, remember to take it slow, engage your core, and most importantly—check those brakes before going downhill!
Do switch things up
You may find that it’s more comfortable pushing the stroller with one hand while pumping the other arm. That’s totally fine—just make sure you switch sides every few minutes, or you’ll end up with one very sore arm. The exception—make sure to keep both hands on deck when you’re on any kind of a downhill to avoid a runaway baby situation.
Don’t stay on sidewalks
If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood filled with extra-wide, freshly paved sidewalks, then by all means, take advantage. But since most sidewalks have at least minor bumps, cracks or tree roots along the way that can make the ride uncomfortable and beat up your stroller, stick to the roads whenever safe, or pack up and head to a park with smooth routes. Both your stroller and your sidekick will thank you.
Do reap the rewards
When you’re struggling with the stroller, try and focus on the rewards coming your way. One of the biggest bonuses of a stroller run is that it’s a combination cardio and strength-training workout. You’re not just working your leg muscles here—your abs, shoulders and back play major roles in rolling those wheels so you’ll be rocking some muscles in no time. Another perk of all that pushing? You’ll earn some serious street cred and notice lots of nods of admiration from your fellow runners. Because almost anyone can run, but it takes a badass to stroller run.