The lure of running is that you can do it anywhere or anytime — all you need are shoes. But once you have kids, the spontaneous nature of going on a run tends to evaporate. Beyond getting back into running after you have a baby, there’s the new skill of learning to run with your baby. I had plenty of runs with my babies where I had to sprint home because they got hungry or bag it completely because they didn’t want to sit still. But I’ve learned a few tricks over the years from fellow mother runners and experts that have helped me go the distance, get a good workout and have fun along the way — and these tips can help you, too.
Pack a Lot of Stuff
The golden rule of taking kids anywhere is to pack a lot of stuff for them. Stroller running is no exception. So bring a sippy cup of water, books — even crayons and small toys. They can do, surprisingly a lot in the comfort of a stroller. For babies, bring a mini-diaper bag with diapers, wipes, a nursing cover, light blanket and a full bottle if your baby takes one.
“If you bring a tablet for your toddler, make sure it has a protective case if it happens to get dropped or thrown out,” advises Erica Hopper, a mom of two.
Protect Baby’s Head and Neck
Since small babies can’t sit up or hold up their own heads, you can’t really put them in a jogging stroller until they’re about 6 months old — unless your stroller has a car seat adapter. The car seat keeps your baby’s head from bouncing around too much. “You can add extra support by using a snuzzler which provides padding around the head and neck,” suggests Gina Rouse, a mom of three. Always strap in your baby to prevent falls.
Put Safety First
Keep safety top of mind when jogging with your child: Make sure your jogging stroller has a safety wrist strap that attaches to the handlebar (or, if it doesn’t, buy one) and always use it. Another safety tip: Some running strollers allow you to lock the front wheel to keep it from turning suddenly during a run. Once you’ve gotten on your route, do this. I once hit a small rock and the stroller jolted to the side suddenly, waking a peacefully sleeping baby.
Dress Baby Wisely
Remember that while you may stay toasty warm from all that running, your kid may get cold, so dress them for the weather. Consider buying a protective shield if it’s going to be windy or rainy. On hot days, overheating can be a problem, so don’t overdress your baby, apply sunscreen and use a stroller visor or sunshield to keep them shaded.
Take the Road Less Traveled
Avoid roads with lots of traffic. A truck driver once tried to run me off the road while shouting obscenities. I learned my lesson that it’s safer to be on roads with fewer cars and trucks.
Make It Fun
There’s one key way you can keep up your running routine — and that’s to make it fun for your kid. Count squirrels with your kid, look for dogs and cats, play “I spy” or try to wave to as many people as possible. “I run my kids past entertaining spots like construction sites or end at a playground,” says mom of two Lindsay Adams. She also listens to music and sings songs with her boys during runs.
Watch Your Form
Running with a stroller is hard work and some people tend to hunch over. Patrick Gildea, director and head coach of the Knoxville Distance Project, advises moms to think about proper running form: try to run upright to avoid low back and hamstring injuries and switch arms every 15 minutes to balance the body. “When you switch, it will feel awkward and you’ll have the temptation to switch back,” he says. “But give your body some time to adjust.”
Don’t Stress About Speed
Several studies have found that running with a stroller is harder than running without one. So don’t expect to run your usual pace. If you want to ensure you’re getting the same workout, focus on heart rate. For a training run such as a tempo or endurance power workout, aim to have your heart rate at 85 to 88 percent of your max heart rate, says Bobby Holcombe, running coach and founder of Knoxville Endurance. Your max heart rate is roughly 220 minus your age.
Time It Right
“If you’re running with a baby, make sure he or she is fed before you head out,” says Laura Finch, mom of two. This will help prevent interruptions. Also, if you want to get extra miles in, run right before nap time because there’s a good chance your babe will doze off in the stroller thanks to the motion.
Curb Your Expectations
“You may head out the door planning on a 5-mile run,” says Katie Taylor, mom of one. “Your kid may have other plans. That’s okay!” The days of you being in control of your mileage will come back. For now, be flexible.
Change Your Mindset
For many people, running is a chance to have peace and quiet. That’s probably not going to be the case when you’re running with your kids. Instead of looking at it as a disruption of “me time,” view it as a special time with you and your loves.
“Yes, it’s hard. Yes, they are heavy. Yes, they bicker and ask for more snacks than you could possibly imagine but it’s still worth it,” says Sarah Merrick, mom of twins. “Because I get to share my time and my sport with my little ones and show them what strong looks like.”