Running with Wheels: How to Train with Your Running Stroller

Parsley pushes a double stroller as she trains for the 2016 Olympic Trials MarathonOver the past 4 years, I’ve done most of my training pushing a running stroller. On average, I’d say about 85% of my running is with the stroller. While at first I resisted (ugh, how can anyone get in a workout with this huge thing?), it’s now so natural I don’t even question it. Even while training for the last Olympic Trials, every run except long runs and track workouts was with my kids. Along the way I’ve learned some things that may be helpful to others in the Salty community.

Be flexible!

First and foremost, the key to enjoying your runs with a stroller is to remain flexible. I don’t follow a strict training schedule or attempt doing any kind of workouts with the stroller.  I know some people who try intervals, or fartleks, while running with their stroller, but I ruled that out early on.  Trying to stick to a workout can be frustrating if you have to repeatedly stop or interrupt your plan to deal with fussy kids, or whatever else you encounter along the road.

Effort over pace

You also may want to turn off your GPS watch while using your stroller, as this can be misleading. I always run by time anyway, preferring to pace my runs off effort, but I think it’s particularly helpful when pushing a stroller. Obviously, you’re going to run slower while pushing a stroller.  But, I think the fact that you’re pushing extra weight (I calculate mine is around 90 lbs right now!), counterbalances your slower pace.  Think of every run as a strength session, and then when you do go solo, running faster will feel even easier!

Parsley pushing the stroller up a hill.
You might go 3:00/mile slower than usual, but there’s no denying pushing a double stroller up a hill is a great workout!

When I do want to run harder, I try to find hilly places to run. Pushing all that weight up a hill really gets you breathing hard, and holding back the stroller on downhills gets in a great arm workout as well.

Nap time

Time stroller running around naps while they’re young. When my kids were still young enough to be in their carseat while in the running stroller (under 6 months), I’d run when it was their naptime.  Otherwise they’d usually fall asleep anyway, throwing off their schedule.  It also allowed for a more uninterrupted run, cutting down on the number of times I’d have to stop to feed them, change a diaper, etc.

Meal time

Time stroller running around meals when they’re older. My kids don’t sleep in the stroller anymore, but it’s a great time saver to feed them a meal while out running. It keeps them entertained, and is much easier for me to hose down the stroller after a run then clean the kitchen/eating area! This summer they ate breakfast almost every day in the stroller so I could run before it got too hot out.

Destination runs 1.0

Run to a destination, breaking it up for both you and the kids. Studies have shown that breaking up runs (either long runs, or double runs with little recovery between), have the same benefits as one continuous run.  So don’t stress if you have to stop your run to take care of the kids, or do an out and back with a visit to a playground in between. We do destination runs often- either to a park, the library, or somewhere they can get out and play. This makes them excited to go out for a run, and overall a better time for us all!

Destination runs 2.0

Run at your destinations. If you don’t mind hanging out in running clothes, try to find a run route near whatever activity you’re driving to that day. This will help break up the daily monotony for you, as well as let them enjoy an adventure of finding new things!

Have fun!

I have fun with my pint sized training partners. Besides setting a good example for my kids, stroller running allows them to see more and explore the world. We talk about things we see, spend quality time outside, and enjoy this part of our daily routine.

What are your tips for training with a running stroller?

I have fun trying to sprint, enjoy long runs in the mountains, and everything in between. Former competitive runner (3 x marathon OTQ & trail marathon national champion) currently working through a lingering injury. I write about trying to stay competitive while raising young kids and moving into a new post-competitive stage.

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      1. All sorts of ways, I suppose. If I don’t pay attention, I do something funky with my hips/core that feels off. I generally do better with a one handed push, forcing myself to remember to run tall (as opposed to hunched and pushing).

        1. Oh yeah, gotta do the one handed push and switch off hands regularly. I should time how long I go in between switching hands – it’s gotta be like a minute max.

          1. Interesting. I ALWAYS push with both hands. Maybe because I have a fixed wheel? I feel like both hands keeps me balanced.

  1. I’ve run a gazillion stroller miles too, but generally only use it for easy runs because of form issues (see sdb above). Something I found is that I tried to use it consistently so that I didn’t have to fight them to want to go in it. Also, as they’ve gotten older I’ve worked hard to keep our runs interactive, so we do things like hunt for squirrels and run by the monster truck (there’s a real one on one of our routes!) and sing songs. Last time we saved two wooly bears 🙂 Now that my youngest is almost four I appreciate the stroller runs so much more. I love them! And I miss the double stroller days, believe it or not. I know the stroller seems like such a drag, but how awesome is it to share running with our little ones? I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity!

  2. This is a great article. I don’t have kids, but every time I see a woman running with a stroller, I think what a badass! I will file these tips away in case I ever need them in the future!

  3. One of the unexpected bonuses of stroller running is how happy it makes my two year old! If she sees me getting dressed for a run (I’m lucky that I’m able to do a lot of my training while her and my husband are sleeping) she INSTANTLY wants in. She looks around to make sure her stroller is there and begs to come along. I’m pregnant with number 2 right now and I hope this one loves it as much as she does!

    1. My 2nd didn’t like it at first, but she came around! Now she’ll climb into the stroller and ask to go for a run, and when my oldest is playing mommy with her baby dolls, she’ll sometimes go for a run around the house as part of their play!