Mythbusters: PT- Mommy Style
Post by Beth Collier, PT, DPT, OCS
The Myth: Running with a jogging stroller and baby is not that much different from running before pregnancy and should not be so difficult to perform.
This is a common thought we have heard from our mommy patients over the years who often get frustrated with returning to their workouts after having a baby. Specifically women, who may regularly run for exercise before or during pregnancy at an average of 15-20 miles per week, have difficulty returning to running even 1-2 miles at a time 6-12 months after having a baby. The proposed culprit to this obstacle: the jogging stroller. It would seem that simply pushing something on wheels would not so drastically change someone’s ability to perform a skill as basic as running or walking. So why do so many people have such a hard time training their bodies to return to something they regularly performed before this time of their life? In the name of science, I made myself the subject of this experiment and put stroller jogging to the test.
Within the 10 years before having my son 12 months ago, I was a regular runner who participaed in 5k, 10k, and half marathon races. I ran for the convenience of exercise, for a love of being outdoors, and because I do not have the patience or attention span to be a walker. I was, by no means a competitive RUNNER (my average time was about 10 minutes/mile), but I enjoyed running as an activity. Due to the nausea/sickness expereinced during pregnancy, I stopped my running activity after about 4 months into my pregnancy. It has only been within the past 2 months, as the weather has warmed, that I have tried my hand at returning to running. However, I am now running with my new friend B.O.B. (the jogging stroller- for my non-parent friends). After weeks of getting back on the trail, I was feeling frustrated at my fatigue generally occurring only 1 mile into my run. The physical therapist in me was telling myself to take it easy and slowly build my endurance back up; that it would just take time to return to my previous state after taking a year off of running. But, the athlete in me was discouraged that I had lost the moderate running ability I had worked toward for years before. Finally after 2 months of running with B.O.B. and my son, who is only growing heavier every day, I decided to leave the stroller and baby with daddy for a while and I went off for a run on my own. As I started to run my normal 2.5 mile trail loop, I felt 30 pounds lighter than I had the previous months. My stride was longer, my arms were swinging, and I was breathing free and easy!! That day I ran the full trail loop for the first time in over a year. It was not until this moment that I truly realized how much a jogging stroller truly impacts running mechanics and ability.
Running with a stroller is as much of a resistance workout as it is endurance. Pushing the stroller requires constant contraction of the core and upper body muscles. The jogging stroller, regardless of use of a wrist strap, also limits the use of arm swing during running, which descreases your body’s efficiency of movement. Positioning of your own body in relationship to the stroller can also be very awkward- should you stand to the side of the stroller or directly behind? If you stand behind, you find yourself straightening your arms in order to obtain a full stride. If you stand to the side, your stride may improve, but steering the stroller can prove to be quite difficult. Runner’s World mentions some great tips for choosing a stroller to meet your needs as well as form considerations while running.
In the long run (no pun intended), as mommies who are returning to running, just realize that running with a jogging stroller places a higher demand on your body than running solo. And, for those with a strong athlete’s mentality, just tell yourself that running with a jogging stoller is a great training tool to get yourself stronger, so that when you do finally run solo, it will come much easier!
I think we can safely say, this myth is BUSTED!