Every time I see a parent running with a stroller, I send them a mental high five. It takes willpower to work out with kids, and I commend anyone who chooses to push an extra fifty-some pounds while doing it.
It’s also easy to slip into bad form while running – let alone walking – with a stroller. So, here’s a guide on how to run with a stroller in a way that maximizes efficiency and minimizes injury risk.
Tip #1: Check Your Foundation
It’s easy to get lazy with your feet while jogging with a stroller. I often catch myself falling into the duck-foot pattern pictured on the left:
Left: Running with feet turned out; Right: Correct foot alignment
I see this frequently in other runners, too. Unfortunately, running with duck feet is a recipe for disaster, as Dr. Kelly Starrett notes in his book, Ready to Run:
When your feet are turned out duck-style, stability bleeds away. With each step, your body has to work extra hard to compensate for the loss. The arch of your foot flattens out, your knee caves in, you lose power, and stresses on the soft tissues of your joints begin to pile up.
This oblique load, falling through a compromised skeletal system, exerts shearing forces through your joints and their soft tissues. Also, when your feet are turned out, your quad ligament gets pulled off axis and is no longer perpendicular to your kneecap – an essential point of alignment…
Check in with your feet regularly to make sure they’re not turning out excessively or collapsing in toward each other.
Tip #2: Beware of the Protruding Booty
Here’s another classic jogging stroller mistake I see and make all the time:
Running with a protruding booty is bad for your body and your reputation.
I call this the protruding booty. It happens when you shift your upper body weight into the handlebar. It’s a big temptation, especially when your arms are fatigued and your legs are on fire.
To check in and prevent this problem, remove one hand from the stroller handle and correct your alignment. If you’re not running the way you normally would without a stroller, slow down to a jog or walk while you correct your alignment. You can also keep an eye on your shadow as you run. If your shadow is slouching, chances are you are, too.
Minimize booty protrusion with good alignment. And look out for fallen baby dolls.
Tip #3: Don’t Push
Remember you don’t always need to push the stroller. On flat surfaces, you should be able to use your body’s momentum to drive the stroller forward, rather than pushing with your arms. This is one reason a good jogging stroller is worth the investment. Jogging strollers are made to glide along with you, so unless you’re on a hill, you shouldn’t have to use much effort to make the stroller move forward.
“On flat surfaces, you shouldn’t feel like you’re pushing your stroller at all. Instead, you’re using your body momentum to drive the stroller forward.”
Only exert as much force as you need to move the stroller forward at a steady pace, especially if you’re running for long distances. The best part is, if you keep this tip in mind you’ll probably avoid the protruding booty since it will force you to stay close to the stroller.
Tip #4: Take Care of Your Elbows and Shoulders
So your alignment is good and your feet are straight ahead. But there’s one more thing to look out for (not the fallen baby doll):
It’s the shoulders and elbows I’m concerned about. In the above photo, my shoulders are internally rotated and my elbows are locked. And although I’m not doing it here, it’s also common to hyperextend the wrists in this position, especially while running uphill.
To fix this, put a slight bend in the elbows to bring the stroller closer to you. Then draw your elbows closer to your sides to eliminate any chicken arms. This will also help open your shoulders.
Shoulders are the second part of the equation. Try to keep your shoulders right at your sides. If you have a wide handlebar, use it to keep your shoulders open, as shown in the collage below.
- TOP LEFT: Bad form. Shoulders are shrugged and internally rotated.
- TOP RIGHT: Better but still bad. Shoulders aren’t shrugging and the elbows have more bend, but are still flared out to the sides, which causes the shoulders to collapse inward.
- BOTTOM LEFT: Good form. Shoulders are down and elbows bent and at my sides.
- BOTTOM RIGHT: Also good form. The wider grip is more comfortable for me, since my shoulders tend to internally rotate and this double stroller handlebar is really big.
Tip #5: Take Charge on Hills
When you’re running downhill, don’t let the stroller pull you. I learned this while I was running downhill with my toddler and four-year-old. I weigh about 105lb, and the total weight of stroller plus kids came out to 95lb. It was a long, steep hill, and at one point toward the end I almost lost my footing on a slippery rock. If I hadn’t been pulling the stroller in close to me, I think I probably would have either flipped it over or let go altogether.
“It might feel like you’re actually pulling the stroller against gravity. That’s because you are.”
If you allow your arms to extend and lose control, you’ll have no leeway if the stroller gains too much momentum. Maintain the elbow positioning I discussed above and refrain from extending your arms while running downhill. It might feel like you’re actually pulling the stroller against gravity. That’s because you are.
Give It a Try
Running with kids is a challenge, but it’s worth it. The other night I ran by myself after running exclusively with a jogging stroller for three weeks, and I set a record on my mile time by 32 seconds! My kids also enjoy going for a ride, so it’s great bonding time (although they don’t enjoy stroller photo shoots very much, as you can see in the photos).
Do you run with your kids? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!
You’ll Also Enjoy: