Whether you’re training for a marathon, want to get in shape or just shed some baby weight, go ahead–get pushy. Strolling with a regular or a jogging stroller is not only a fun way to bond with your baby/toddler, it offers a decent workout.
In a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the American Council on Exercise, 15 female volunteers ages 19 to 41 pushed a stroller loaded with a 35-pound simulated baby in stroller on a treadmill at a brisk walking rate of 3.0 and 3.5 miles per hour. The upshot? Stroller pushers got a great workout. They burned 18 to 20 percent more calories per hour (372 to 444 calories per hour, to be exact) by walking with a stroller than without. Their calorie burn from strolling was on a par with mowing the lawn or riding a bicycle at a good clip.
If you’re a runner, a jogging stroller, of course, is the way to go. But it can be a big investment–we’re talking $200 on up for a new one. Is it worth it? Should you go that route? Here, two runner parents weigh in on that dilemma and fill you in on what they’ve gained and lost along the way, what it’s really like to jog with kids and what to look for if you’re in the jogging stroller market.
Read on for some helpful insights.
Jogging Off the Baby Weight
“If you’re a runner, you have to have a jogging stroller with children,” says Delores Turnbow, a 39 year old hairdresser and mom of 2 year old, Freddie, and 10 month old, Birdie, from Tempe Arizona. Turnbow, who was a runner before having kids, pushed a new single Jeep jogging stroller with Freddie. When Birdie came along, she bought a barely used side by side Schwinn double jogging stroller, which has a fixed front wheel, through OfferUp, the largest mobile marketplace for buying and selling locally in the US. “I had an unpaid maternity leave and the less money I could spend, the better and I knew I wasn’t going to get rid of the baby weight unless I got out there,” Turnbow says.
Age Requirements for Jogging Strollers
Most jogging stroller manufacturers have age guidelines for jogging with an infant. Many recommend, for example:
- Walking (only) with an infant 8 weeks of age and younger in a jogging stroller with an infant car seat. All BOB jogging strollers, for example, can be paired with the Britax B-Safe 35 infant car seat.
- Children from 8 weeks to 8 months can use the jogging stroller (walking only) without an infant car seat, but with additional head and neck support.
- From 8 months to 5 years, you’re good to go. You’ve got the green light on jogging with your baby in a jogging stroller or off-road use without head support or an infant car seat.
“I started jogging with the both kids as soon as I felt capable of doing it,” Turnbow says, which was six weeks post-partum. Jogging that early with an infant isn’t recommended because most children don’t have the neck strength for jogging motion until they’re 8 months old. Turn bow improvised by adding infant head support to the jogging stroller seat, reclining the seat as flat as possible and sticking to a route on smooth, low-traffic neighborhood streets, being careful not to go over any potholes and bumps. “We haven’t run into any problems,” she says, no pun intended.
Children develop at different rates. Your best bet: If you don’t want to use an infant car seat/jogging stroller combo before your child is six to eight months old, get the go ahead first from your child’s pediatrician.
Overall, the experience of stroller jogging with one and then both kids has been a win win. “Jogging is a good way for me to get exercise and get the kids out of the house,” she says. Turn bow also uses her jogging stroller to walk to nearby a park and stores. “It’s actually easier to walk places and transport the kids in my jogging stroller than it is to get them in and out of the car,” Turnbow says.
Strolling by the numbers: Delores Turnbow
20: Miles per week Turnbow jogs with her kids in her double jogging stroller.
35: Pounds she has lost in the eight months since buying her double jogging stroller.
500: Total miles Turnbow has run with her kids in her jogging stroller in the last six months.
Bonding with Baby While Fitting in Fitness
For Craig Guillot, a 39 year old writer dad of two from New Orleans, jogging with his girls, 5 year old, Madeleine, and 1 year old, Marcella, is a way to stay fit. “We sing songs. I’ve taught Madeleine the alphabet. We have all these conversations running. It’s a great way to spend time together,” Guillot says.
Guillot first started running with Madeleine when she was four months old out of necessity (again, that’s on the early side for stroller jogging with an infant, even with additional head support). “My choice was to give up running or take her with me,” he says. “Now, I run with my kids because I enjoy it. On days when I can run alone, I miss them,” he says.
Guillot started running about a year or so pre-Madeleine and lost 40 pounds. “After she was born, I wanted to keep running and stay in shape,” he says. After doing lots of research, Guillot received a BOB Ironman single jogging stroller as a baby shower present from his parents, which has a fixed front wheel. “It was and still is a good stroller,” he says. “Ironman strollers are well built, solid and last forever. They’re like rocks. But they’re also light weight. It’s the only stroller I use for running.”
After the birth of baby #2, Marcella, Guillot invested in a BOB Ironman double jogging stroller with a swivel wheel that locks. A lockable swivel front wheel is a key feature to look for when you’re jogging stroller shopping, he says. The other option is a fixed front wheel. “A fixed wheel is great for running, but it limits your mobility. When you’re not running, such as when you’re pushing your jogging stroller at festivals, in the mall or at the park, it’s awkward to move around. You have to pop a wheelie to turn a corner.”
Strolling by the Numbers: Craig Guillot
40: Pounds Guillot has lost since becoming a runner.
100: Pounds he pushes with both daughters in his double BOB Ironman jogging stroller.
3,000: Total number of miles Guillot logged with Madeleine in this single BOB Ironman over the course of five years.
Do your research. If you decide to buy a used jogging stroller like Turnbow did, read up. See my post on buying a used stroller. And ask questions of the seller, whether, say–you’re buying at a garage sale or from a reseller app, such as OfferUp. Key: Try to find out when the used jogging stroller you’re considering was manufactured. After September 15, 2015 is the date you’re looking for. That’s when the latest stroller safety standards for all strollers, including joggers, went into effect. Also, make sure the stroller hasn’t been recalled by checking the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall list at recalls.gov. For example, on July 7, 2016, Pacific Cycle recalled its Instep and Schwinn swivel wheel jogging strollers because the front wheel can come loose and detach, posing a crash and fall hazard.
Since a jogging stroller is a fairly big ticket item even secondhand, get a receipt and make sure any verbal promises or guarantees are in writing.
If you’re shopping for a new stroller, go to the store and test drive floor models, if you can, even if you ultimately plan to buy online. Don’t be afraid to jog with the stroller around the store. Try as many different jogging strollers as you can. Borrow one from a friend to try out too. The best jogging strollers push easily. A smooth glide can make all the difference.
Jogging Stroller Features to Consider:
A lockable swivel front wheel. It’s important if you plan on using your jogging stroller for more than jogging. A lockable swivel wheel offers superior maneuverability and increased jogging stability. The Baby Jogger Summit X3 single and double, for example, offers a remote wheel lock on the handlebar that allows you to easily shift between strolling and jogging.
A large canopy. If you live where it’s often sunny, it’s a must for keeping your child’s ride comfortable.
Snack tray helps make your child’s ride more comfortable. With a snack tray, kids don’t have to hold their water bottle or snacks.
Adjustable handle bars. For runners of different heights, an adjustable handle bar can make everyone’s run more comfortable.
Hand brake. If you live in a hilly area, like San Francisco, you’ll need a hand brake for extra control when you’re jogging downhill. A hand brake comes standard in the BOB Revolution PRO, which operates the rear drum brake. BOB Revolution PRO is the crème de la crème of jogging strollers. On hills, use the run-away leash too.
Underseat storage bin. A sizeable storage basket is handy for storing your cellphone, water and anything you pick up along the way, such as groceries.
Seat capacity. Many joggers go up to 75 pounds per seat, for a longer stroller lifespan. That’s a plus.
Wheels. Large wheels can make your run more efficient, which is especially important if you’re going on longer (4 to 5 mile) runs with your child.
Start slow. Running with a jogging stroller plus your precious cargo is different than jogging on your own. It takes more effort because it’s essentially weight training and running at the same time. “It’s a full body workout,” Guillot says. To build up your stamina and endurance, run-walk for a while, gradually running more than walking over weeks to months until you’re running fulltime.
Don’t go too far off the grid. “We’re never more than a half mile from home,” Guillot says. If you have a dirty diaper situation, or your child just isn’t happy, you want to be able to get home quickly. To play it safe, do loops around the neighborhood.
Prep for success. Some kids can’t stand to be in a jogging stroller. That was the reason Turnbow’s double Schwinn jogger was “like new” when she bought it. The original owner had tried it a few times and his twins hated it. Turnbow’s kids are more “zen” about riding in a jogging stroller, for the most part. “My toddler will fight it sometimes, but usually once we get going, everyone settles in. It’s a good way to calm them down sometimes if they’re freaking out for no reason.”
Distractions help, such as your child’s favorite toy car or stuffed animal. Once in a while, Guillot lets 5 year old Madeleine bring her Leap Pad, especially as she’s gotten older. But for the most part, electronics are not par for the course. “I tell her, ‘Let’s just look at the dogs and enjoy the day,’” he days. But snacks are a big thing. “Madeleine doesn’t go on a run without a snack and a water bottle,” he says. That’s the routine.
Guillot takes a slightly different tact, though, with his girls about who’s calling the shots. “They control the run,” he says. Both his girls have enjoyed riding in a jogging stroller from day one. “In all these years, I’ve had crying maybe two to three times,” he says. Still, crying ended the run every time. “If your kid hates riding in a jogging stroller, you may not be able to run with them,” he says.
To increase your chances of success, time your runs after your child’s nap and bring along snacks and water or feed the kids beforehand. Start out with a fresh diaper but bring along a spare and some wipes, just in case.
Tweak your running technique. If you run with both hands on the stroller, your arms will tire out quickly. Better: Run with one hand on the stroller, but off to one side. Then switch hands and sides every 10 to 20 seconds during your run. “I’m constantly mixing up my arms,” Guillot says. If you have two kids of different weights, don’t worry. You won’t stroll lopsided. A good jogging stroller will distribute the weight difference.
Consider jogging with others. Strolling can be lots of fun in a group. BOB has teamed up with Stroller Strides classes by Fit4mom. When you buy a BOB Stroller Strides Fitness stroller or BOB Stroller Strides Duallie, you receive a coupon for a free week of Stroller Strides classes. You can find a mom jogging group/classes near you at Fit4mom.
Be prepared for flats. Air filled tires help cushion the ride but be prepared for flats (they happen) by bringing along a tire pump. Temporarily pumping up a flat can help get you all home quickly to repair the tire for good. Get a stroller organizer with a built-in tire pump. The BuggyBop Air Tire stroller organizer includes a bottom zipper compartment that contains an air pump and stroller tire repair kit.
Entering local races can make running more fun too. Turnbow has done 10Ks with her jogging stroller. Guillot runs races with Madeleine in the jogging stroller, who enjoys socializing with the other runners.
Here’s a video of a race he and Madeleine did in 2013. Looks like fun, doesn’t it?
Stroller Schlepping Success
Getting a single or double jogging stroller in and out of your car or truck so you can make it to a road race is a workout in itself. That’s not to mention that jogging strollers are large and can take up valuable space in your vehicle, despite collasping down to nothing much. They can be dirty too.
To make schlepping a jogging stroller easier, check out the Scout stroller carrier. It’s the first of its kind hitch-mounted carrier for your car. Caveat: The Scout stroller carrier is optimized for BOB Revolution jogging strollers only.