One of the main reasons I LOVE spring is the ability to run outdoors without layers upon layers of clothing based upon the cruel sense of humor Mother Nature has during the winter. Having had enough of the treadmill and indoor exercise, running outside in the spring is an absolute treat.
While wearing a lot of clothing in the winter can be somewhat cumbersome, many times I take for granted the freedom afforded me on the open roads, jacket, tights or not. It was just recently that I had a new experience with running and one that can keep many people from enjoying a nice jog around the neighborhood.
While May was at Disney World participating in the Princess Half Marathon weekend in late February, I found myself home with Elli for the weekend! Having never spent more than a few hours alone with Elli, I was thrilled at the opportunity for a father/daughter weekend. As long as we didn’t have any visits by the fire department or trips to the hospital I would consider the weekend a success.
Little did I know I was an increasingly common breed of runner: parents who hit the road with their offspring in jogging strollers, typically single or double versions with two 16-inch inflatable tires in back and a single tire in front? With up to 60 miles of running a week, I was surprised at how different running with a stroller was.
But, experts say, there is a learning curve to running with a stroller, which I quickly learned.
“Running mechanics change and targeted muscles are trained differently while pushing a stroller,” said Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. “It’s like learning to kick a ball with the other leg.”
Trying to do too much too soon, especially for a postpartum mother, opens a runner up to injuries, even for runners that log several miles a week. “It’s not just get up and go,” Mr. Comana said. “It’s not an easy switch from regular running. Runners need to lower their standards of time, pace and distance.”
They also need to find a stroller that suits their size and running style. As with buying a bicycle, it’s important to find a comfortable fit. Experts suggest runners take several models on a short test-run before buying. I prefer a stroller with a front wheel that doesn’t swivel as it makes for a smoother ride.
To learn how to move most effectively pushing something, Mr. Comana recommends that runners first walk, then mix in bouts of jogging and finally run uninterrupted with an empty stroller before taking a child out in it. When runners start working out with a stroller, he said, they lose that forward momentum generated by shoulder drive, for example. To maintain any sense of pace, they have to incorporate quicker foot turnover.
According to Sarah Bowen Shea, when Craig Alexander, the 2008 winner of the Ironman World Championship, runs with his 4-year-old daughter, Lucy, in a stroller two or three times a week, he touches the stroller handle lightly every few steps to keep it rolling, a practice I found very beneficial.
Strength exercises for your core, biceps, triceps and shoulder muscles will also make stroller jogging more enjoyable. Jogging with a stroller is also an excellent workout for your core and upper body.
Elli and I finished our run that day without fanfare, crowds or medals. We had a great time bonding together, Elli learned to say “faster daddy” and I got a great workout and found a new respect for parents that run with a stroller ever day!
HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE!
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.