How to Prepare for a 1-Hour Stroller Run (or longer!)
Being a mother runner is hard enough as it is. You have to worry about fitting your run into everyone else’s schedule, what you might be sacrificing to fit your run in (who needs clean clothes anyway, amiright?), and the fact that you probably won’t have time to stretch/foam roll/recover when you get home. When you add a stroller to all that – it can just seem impossible. But it’s not! With a little planning and a lot of practice, the stroller run can become your new favorite long run.
I started pushing a stroller during my runs when our daughter was about 6 months old. I now regularly push both kids in a double stroller a few times per week. It’s been SO hard some days, but it’s one of the best things to ever happen to my fitness level and my running routine. I know a lot of moms run as their “me time” and cherish the solo miles or the miles with their best running friend. I love those runs too, but there’s a part of me that also loves the runs with my kids. They get to experience nature and being outside even on days when conditions aren’t ideal. They’ve seen their mom taking care of herself on a regular basis. And they think running is just a fun thing we do together so fitness doesn’t seem like a thing we have to do, but instead it’s a thing we get to do.
I love running with the stroller, but I also get a little feeling of anxiety every time we load up. You just never know how smoothly the day is going to go. That feeling is never more prevalent than when I know we’re going out for a long stroller run (1 hour or more). While I know that every person is different and every child is different, I do think there are a couple things I’ve learned over the last 4 years of stroller running that might help
1. Time it right.
This one may seem obvious to moms, but it’s still the #1 universal stroller run tip I could offer. Little E used to sleep like a champ in the stroller. I always timed my runs during her naps because she would sleep for 2+ hours as long as we were moving. Baby L on the other hand – to this day has never napped in the stroller. So, now I plan a stroller run for just after they wake up in the morning or just after their naps.
2. Snacks. Snacks. Snacks.
Seriously. This is the key to getting Baby L to stay happy on a stroller run. I have a variety of snacks and I’ve basically trained my kids that they can have a new snack or game every time we hit a mile marker. Yes. This means sometimes they get 10 snacks, but we’re obviously bringing healthier things for most of the ride. I do always make sure to bring one “bribe” snack. This is something like M&Ms or gummy bears that I hope I won’t have to use, but I know I can pull out if we end up in meltdown mode 2 miles from the car. Trust me, it will happen at some point and it’s best to be prepared.
Whether it’s music on your iPhone or some silly song that you’re singing while grinding out that last mile, music is generally a good distraction for kids. Currently, we have the Moana soundtrack on repeat and I can usually get a good 20 minutes of peace out of those songs alone. I’ve also been known to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” extra loudly while running through our local park. Embarrassing? A little. But honestly, if it keeps them happy while we’re on an 8-mile run it’s worth it. Plus, think of the extra workout you’re getting!
These will vary based on the age of your child, but games can buy you some serious time on your stroller run. Most of my suggestions are for kids 1-4, but that’s really the hardest age to entertain them. Once they are over 5 they (1) start doing other activities like coloring, or (2) start riding their bike beside you instead of riding in the stroller.
5. Promise Pit Stops
Many of my long stroller runs happen at a local park. There is a paved 2-mile path that goes in a big loop around the park. Sometimes, especially if I only have Little E with me, we play a “pit stop” game. I’ll tell her that we can do pit stops at the playground so Mommy can take a break from pushing such a heavy stroller for so long. This makes her feel helpful and also prepares her to get back in the stroller knowing that she can get out again when she sees the playground. We park the car at the playground, run the 2-mile loop, get out and play for 5 minutes, get back in the stroller for another loop, and so on until I’ve finished my miles. Obviously, this only works on certain days where circumstances allow, but it’s a nice way to get in an 8+ mile run if time allows it.
6. Be prepared to go home.
Yes, it sucks, but at the end of the day sometimes it’s just not going to work. No matter how much you prepare and plan, sometimes those kids are not going to sit in the stroller for your 10-mile long run on Saturday morning. It’s fine. Pack it up and try again. You may be able to try again after nap time or you may have to wait until tomorrow when you have a babysitter or spouse around to watch the kiddos. Fortunately, I’ve only had to completely give up on a run a few times. I think it helps that my kids really love being outside. Hopefully, you’ll never have to go home mid-run. But if you do, know that it’s totally worth it to try again soon.
Any other mother [stroller] runners have advice on how to make it through a long run with the kiddos in tow?