More storage, extra kilojoule burn and a new appreciation of running solo.
On my pre-baby runs, when I’d see running prams, I’d always mentally applaud the parent and then wonder what it was really like pushing that thing around.
A big part of the appeal of running is the ease and convenience of lacing up a pair of shoes and heading out the door, plus the therapeutic benefits of a solo sweaty workout. How would a heavy, cumbersome contraption on wheels – not to mention the demands of a little human inside – affect that?
Turns out, a lot, as I’ve discovered since my son was born almost a year ago. While it takes some getting used to, I’ve found that taking my little guy out in our secondhand running pram is often a highlight of my day. Here’s how I appreciate the way I run (roll?) these days.
The Extra Storage
Pre-kid, I considered myself a fairly minimalist runner: I never took my phone or water bottle, just my keys and stamp-sized iPod. But these days, with the stroller’s basket and pockets virtually begging to be filled, I can pack enough stuff to keep me and my little guy hydrated, fed, and entertained for hours.
Among the inventory: phone; snacks; water bottle for me, sippy cup for him; blanket; extra diaper; and wipes.
All that storage also makes it a cinch to knock out some errands pre-, post- or mid-run. Just ask ultramarathoner Julia Stamps Mallon, a multitasking master with her jogging stroller who used her runs to “return a movie, pick up a prescription, or go to the grocery store,” she says. “The ability and freedom to go for a run and get all my errands done – I actually kind of miss it.” So much so that although her kids, now six and eight, have outgrown the stroller, she and her husband still have it for errands and schlepping gear on outdoor adventures.
(Slightly More) Toned Arms
Even if I had time to hit the gym, pumping iron is not my preferred way to sculpt my shoulders and address those wretched underarm bat wings. But thanks to the considerable effort it takes to navigate the stroller – especially if I’m going on a run through my neighbourhood that requires manoeuvring along foothpaths – I have noticed some new definition in my biceps and shoulders.
A Convenient Bar for Stretching
I’ve always liked to stop about a couple of kilometres or so into my run to stretch out my lower back. But nowadays, there’s no more hanging off dirty street signs or benches that neighbourhood dogs love to mark. Instead, I set the stroller’s brake, grab the handle, and ease into my stretches when and wherever I feel like it.
Possible Improvements in Form
While it might seem awkward at first to run while pushing a pram, it can actually help your form – and potentially even improve your speed – according to running coach Eric Orton, author of The Cool Impossible.
Because the pram is in front of you, it hinders any tendency to overstride. This is especially important on downhills, when you have to hold the pram to keep it from getting away from you – something that I initially struggled with on hilly runs. “That acts as a form of braking, so you are able to keep your foot strike under you in a good way and still have a sense of braking,” Orton says. “It helps you keep your feet under you and striking the ground under your body.”
He says the best way to start and try this is on a mellow hill and progress to steeper and faster inclines over time.
An Additional Kilojoule Blast
As smooth as most running prams are, anyone who’s pushed one for even just a few metres knows the extra exertion required. Running coachAmanda Shannon Verrengia says the extra kilojoule burn generally ranges from about five to eight per cent, depending on several factors, including your weight, the weight of the pram and child, your speed, and whether you push with both arms or alternate.
“Based on a 68kg person, it’s about 125kj more per half hour, if you’re switching arms,” she says. “Some people use the push and chase method, where they push the stroller and then run to it, and that will be the highest kilojoule burn, because it’s like an interval workout, where you’ll push the stroller and then speed up to catch it.”
A Total Ego Boost When You Pass People
When my mini runner-in-training and I are cruising along, we’re usually the ones getting passed. But when it’s the other way around, I can’t help but gloat a little – especially if they’re guys I’m leaving in the dust. Even better? When they speed up to just pass you, only to stop to “stretch” (read: pretend to stretch while they catch their breath) when they realise you’ve caught up to them.
When you run in a busy neighbourhood like mine, you get used to keeping a watchful eye out for distracted drivers and cars cruising through stop signs. But I’ve noticed that with the running pram, drivers seem to see me better – and they’re more likely to honour the pedestrian-has-the-right-of-way rule that’s supposed to prevail.
Great Bonding Time With My Babe
Whether it’s a short jaunt through our neighbourhood or a longer run along the waterfront, I cherish my runs with my little one. It’s delightful to hear him cooing and babbling, knowing that he’s enjoying being outside as much as I am. He’s already starting to point out trees, dogs, and other kids we pass along the way, and as he gets older, I’ll use our runs as a chance to practice colours, numbers, and all that other fun stuff.
A Newfound Appreciation for Solo Runs
As fulfilling as running with my offspring is, it takes on a whole new appeal sans pram: I don’t have to worry about whether he’s dropped his dummy, pulled off his shoes and socks (again), is hungry, thirsty, or has a wet diaper.
I simply run, and marvel at how fast and free I feel.