I was motivated to write about this topic because my younger sister has just entered the stage of being able to (needing to?) run with her baby in a running stroller. Until now, he has been too little, and she has been going to the gym or finding someone to watch him while she runs. But the time has come, and she has realized as most running moms do, that time is her most valuable resource, and in order to maximize her available time and opportunity to run, it works best to just bring her baby along with her.
(my inspiration for this post – cooling off post-run. How cute is he??)
As with many stages gone by, I may be romanticizing how great it was to run with my kids in the stroller, but if you’re begrudging not being able to run alone, just remember; like everything else, it’s just a stage. Meanwhile, take advantage of the fantastic training opportunities, as running with your baby can add some great spontaneous training benefits to your running routine. Some examples:
Tempo Runs: I can recall like it was yesterday one of my earlier stroller runs with my first born. He was new to it, and generally liked to be held better than being in the stroller. He fussed a bit at the beginning but at the halfway point he started to FREAK OUT! There was not much I could do other than sprint home for 20 minutes with a shrieking baby. This will happen to most stroller runners at some point for some reason or another. It is not relaxing, but boy it gets your legs moving! (try to ignore the judging stares of people as you fly by)
Long Runs: Later on both of my kids found the running stroller relaxing, and if I timed it right I could use it for one of their naps. However, it was always the case that if I stopped for a prolonged period, they would wake up. If I wanted them to have a good long nap, I had to keep moving. This resulted in some unplanned extra-long runs, especially if they fell asleep near the end of the run. I recall doing loops around blocks in my neighbourhood with a sleeping baby trying to decide whether I’d rather be exhausted from an extra-long run or deal with a cranky under-rested baby. I usually erred on the side of running longer. (just make sure to go to the bathroom before you head out as there is no stopping!)
Strength work: Really anytime you’re pushing that thing it’s working your arms. I have tried many different techniques to avoid working my arms too much, but it always ends up being a good upper body workout whether you like it or not. If you really want to maximize the strength benefits, find a good hill and do some repeats – just remember to hold on tight and keep that leash on your arm for the downhill part – you don’t need to incorporate sprint training into this workout day.
Fartleks: This type of run happens quite a lot with a baby who is not asleep. Here is a typical stroller fartlek run: Start running with your baby. Baby kicks a shoe out of stroller. Stop to pick it up. Start running again. Baby needs help getting his snack out of the container. Stop to help him. Start running again. Baby’s hat has fallen over his eyes and he can’t fix it. Stop to readjust it. Start running again. Baby’s drink has fallen just out of reach. Stop and retrieve it for him. Start running again. This cycle can repeat itself endlessly for your entire run. Just remember to run as fast as you can between stops and you’ll get some great random intervals of work and recovery.
So enjoy this phase and the training benefits it brings. It’s like having a little coach there with you all the time. Just be open minded and flexible about the prescribed workout for the day – you never know what the coach has up his sleeve!