Finding a Route
Jogging stroller heavyweight BOB recommends that children are at least 8 months old before going along on your runs. The reason, mostly, is that their necks need to be strong enough to hold their own heads up and withstand the occasional bumps that come with running.
I'll admit, I cheated a bit here. I started taking my daughter out at about 5 months, but only on a new trail near my house that was extremely smooth, extremely flat and pretty straight (and with our pediatrician's blessing). There literally isn't a bump on the entire route. It made the runs a bit boring from my end, but it didn't bother my child at all. Once she hit about 7 months, I started running on wide sidewalks or in the bike lanes of sparsely traveled streets with slow-moving traffic. Even then, I slowed down when approaching significant sidewalk cracks or other bumps—both for the safety of my child and the health of my stroller.
Avoid crowded areas when you have a stroller. You can't weave in and out of people like you can running solo, and that can get frustrating when you're forced to slow down trying to pass walkers. Paved trails are my terrain of choice.
Maintain Your Stroller
Much like a bike, your jogging stroller needs to be taken care of in order for it to ride as smoothly as possible. A fine-tuned jogging stroller performs the best, while one that's creaky or worn down will make your run more difficult.
- Inspect the tires before each run and make sure none are going flat. I would recommend airing your tires at least once a month. It makes a world of difference. I typically top off the tires after every five runs or so.
- Also do a general inspection of the stroller before going out, for safety's sake. Make sure there are no loose screws or anything else out of place.
- Jogging strollers can get squeaky. BOB recommends occasionally lubricating the shock piston of their products with bicycle chain lubricant.
Your Running Form
I noticed when I run that I preferred to keep my right hand gripping the handlebar, while I pump with my left arm. I have to remind myself to alternate hands—about every 5 minutes—so I don't develop bad habits.
Of course, if you have a double-wide stroller, you'll probably need to keep both hands on the stroller for better control. Similarly, if you're going up or down a significant hill, hold on tight with both hands with the wrist strap secure around one. But in flat areas where you can really go, it's probably a good idea to alternate hands.
One more thing: Make sure you are not leaning into the stroller, especially near the end of a run when you are tired. Rather, stay upright and keep your elbows bent.
Signing Up for Races
Some races, particularly 5Ks and 10Ks, allow strollers on the course. Some don't.
The race website or the event details page on Active.com often will let you know one way or the other. If it's not clear, contact the race organizers and ask.
Family fun runs typically allow strollers with no strings attached. For other races, they have certain guidelines in place. I signed up for a 10K where the director politely asked that strollers start at the back so to not get in the way of other runners.
You should consider doing that anyway as a common courtesy. Though I ended up weaving in and out of walkers throughout the Shelter Island 5K (while my daughter snoozed), those runners going at a 7-minute pace didn't have to worry about going around me.
On the same subject, remember that you are unlikely to go as fast with a stroller as you would running solo. I'm an average runner and my pace slows about 20 seconds per mile when I'm pushing the stroller. Don't get frustrated if you're not going as fast. It's expected—you're doing extra work.
Besides, time was the last thing I worried about at Shelter Island. I got a great run in at a great event, and my daughter got a power nap. And she still beat me by a step.
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