My sister-in-law Ali Carr Troxell, interviewed me for a piece on how how to safely and properly jog with a stroller. Here are her questions and my answers:
How can jogging with a stroller ruin your running form?
⭐️Holding on to the handles with both hands will block the natural pelvic rotation that induces an arm swing. This can lead to a number of problems like knee pain and back pain. The extra resistance that comes from pushing the weight can also exaggerate any faulty mechanics you may already have. It's best to gradually introduce the weight. Like try running with the empty stroller first. It's nice that your baby will gradually grow which is the perfect resistance training program.
What is considered good jogging form with a stroller?
⭐️Once you get moving and you have the momentum, hold onto the jogging stroller in the center of the handle with only one hand. This will allow for a more natural arm swing and decrease your likelihood of developing a lower extremity injury. Just think, if you're blocking trunk rotation, you have to take the force somewhere else... and that place might be your knees or your back. A slight forward trunk lean will allow you to use your gluteals more effectively which is better for shock absorption and leverage for pushing the stroller.
What advice do you have for people who jog with them regularly?
⭐️The main challenge is getting the kids out the door. Have a destination. Whether it's for a local park (have some sand toys or a ball under the stroller) or going to get a special snack at the grocery store. I usually offer other incentives too, like playing music from my phone. Yes I jog to kids music now. I don't really care as long as I get in my run. Or a special toy that they like to hold. Store a package of wipes underneath the stroller at all times. You never know when you will need it! And don't forget diapers, a change of clothes, water, and snacks. Sometimes we load the kids up in their Jammies and they eat breakfast in the stroller. I also always have a baby carrier underneath the stroller in case the little one is just over being in the stroller. It's really hard to hold a baby on one hip and push the stroller with the other hand. Also, keep your shoes up to date. They need to be replaced every 500 miles or 6 months.
Studies show that there is a more significant lean when you are jogging with a stroller (http://www.gaitposture.com/article/S0966-6362(15)00896-6/abstract?cc=y=).
Should runners stretch or do something else to combat the lean?
⭐️ I'm less concerned with the forward trunk lean and I'm more concerned with the reduction of movement in the transverse plane and the decreased hip extension. In fact studies in physical therapy have demonstrated that a forward trunk lean running on your forefoot (basically landing on your toes instead of your heels) can decrease the likelihood of developing patellafemoral pain (pain under your knee cap which is very common in runners). Having said that, do NOT modify your jogging pattern. If you’re a heel striker... continue doing this. It’s best to modify your running pattern without a stroller first if you choose to do this. I’m a heel striker! You can maximize your movement in the transverse plane (this is basically the twisting motion that allows for a full arm swing ) by holding onto the jogging stroller handle with one hand like I mentioned. This allows your stride to be more natural and induce the arm swing that should happen when you run. The anterior pelvic tilt and the decrease in hip extension should be combated by doing hip flexor stretching before and after running. This is a runners lunge where you feel a stretch in the front part of your hip on the leg that is extended behind you. Crescent pose in yoga also provides a good hip flexor stretch. Your quad muscle also contains a hip flexor muscle called your rectus femoral. So doing a quadriceps stretch where you pull your heel close to your bottom so you feel the stretch in the front of your thigh is also important to maximize hip extension. To clarify hip extension is when your leg trails behind you when you run. So if you have a reduction in hip extension then your stride length could be affected or you could also start experiencing lower back pain because your lower back compensates for the lack of hip extension by extending or arching. Hip Flexor and quadriceps stretching are stretches that all runners should do anyways. Other stretches important for the runner include: calf (lean against the wall and press your heel towards the ground), hamstring (Lie on your back and use a strap to pull your leg towards you, or sit on a chair and extend one leg and lean forward until you feel a stretch behind your leg. The second version can also be done in standing. If you do the sitting/standing version make sure your spine stays straight) piriformis stretch (figure 4, hip opener stretch or thread the needle. All the same thing!), and use a foam roller to roll out the iliotibial band.
What stretches would be beneficial for the runner?
⭐️See above! In addition to stretching I think all runners should be doing an exercise we call crab walking in the clinic to keep their hip abductors (notably the gluteus medius) strong. This can be performed with a resistance band tied in a loop and placed around your ankles. Bend your knees to achieve a quarter squat. Be sure to hip hinge! This is initiating the movement with your pelvis by siting back and allowing a slight forward trunk. Separate your feet about hip width distance apart until there is tension on the band and walk sideways maintaining tension. Do 10-15 steps each direction until your gluteals are fatigued. If this muscle is weak, it is nearly impossible to run with proper mechanics and avoid injury. Typical injuries that result from weak gluteus medius include: patella femoral pain, low back pain, and hip impingement.
Any other tips/best practices to keep in mind when running with a stroller?
⭐️ Maybe this is obvious but I'll say it anyways. You should not run with a stroller unless the front wheel locks! It will wiggle all over the place. And if the unlocked wheel catches a bump you can FLIP THE STROLLER. Not safe. I typically use the lock that's by the handle (I have the Summit X3). This allows for a little mobility which works for me because I'm pretty slow. But for the fast runners, you're gonna want a wheel that locks pretty steady. So use the lock on the wheel for that. If you don’t lock the front wheel you are going to want to use both hands to hold onto the handle to stabilize the stroller... see above for why this is bad. Also, I always use the wrist strap for added safety.
Is there a difference when running with a single vs double stroller?
⭐️It's heavier! Hills are challenging. Your forward trunk lean is probably even more exaggerated. It's a little more challenging to pass others on the sidewalk or on a path because it's a bit wider.
Anything a runner might want to look for in a stroller to make sure it’ll be good for jogging in terms of body mechanics? (handle height adjustability, for instance)
⭐️An adjustable handle is always nice. But I have not seen a good jogging stroller that has that. I'm 5 foot two and my husband is 6 foot one and we use the same jogging stroller without a problem. I already mentioned the handbrake. It's great for when you're waiting at a stoplight on a hill and you don't want to put on the full brake. Or simply to slow you down as you walk down hill without having to lean back so much. Also be careful not to load too much weight under the front part of the stroller. This will make it very challenging to tip the stroller back and lift that front wheel (required to make turns) when it's locked in place for running.
Can you talk a little bit about your experience running with a stroller? How old are your kid(s)? Do you usually run with 1 or 2? Weights? How often do you do it? What has your experience been like? Anecdotes are great.
⭐️ I have 2 boys. One is almost 5 and the other is 2. What I like best about my stroller (the summit x3) is each side operates independently. Each kid can recline or use the sun shade individually. I often run with the younger one only during the week. Then I use the other side to carry groceries home! On the weekends we run as a family and my husband will push the heavy stroller with both kids. I run 3-5 days per week and I go 3-5 miles. Sometimes I run with both kids on my own but not regularly. I love that I can get in exercise even if we're home with both kids!
Hope you all enjoyed!
⭐️Dr. Jennifer R. Carr, DPT, OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist). I practice at Matrix Physical Therapy and Wellness in Santa Monica, CA.
For stroller selection, Ali helped collaborate here: