Running with a stroller is difficult to say the least. Often when I’m pushing the double BOB stroller up a hill, I hear my daughter taunt “Mom, are you even running right now?” Yes, yes I am, sweetheart. But the workout is no joke.
In fact, studies show that running with a stroller doesn’t just feel hard—it is hard. One study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that running with a stroller results in a significantly higher heart rate, perceived level of exertion, and lactate concentration. Another study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine added a higher VO2 max to the mix.
With that in mind, there are plenty of benefits of the extra work that comes with running with a stroller.
Stroller running makes running feel easier.
When you’re used to pushing all that extra weight of a stroller and trying to keep kids happy for the long haul, running without a stroller feels like a breeze. You feel free and light without that drag.
Stroller running burns more calories.
Extra bonus, especially for new Mother Runners trying to get back to their pre-baby weight, a study by researchers at Seattle Pacific University broke down the number of calories burned by how you push the stroller:
- pushing the stroller with two hands increases the number of calories burned by about 5 percent,
- pushing with one hand increases it by about 6 percent,
- and the push-and-chase method increases it by about 8 percent.
On average, that means a 150-pound person can expect to burn about 30 more calories per half hour of running.
Related: Check out my plan for how to start running after having a baby.
You can run slow with a stroller & still get a great workout.
Researchers have also found that runners can run slower than their usual pace but still burn the same amount of calories as if they were running faster without the stroller. (These sweet researchers even developed a calculator to estimate calorie expenditure based on pace, distance and pushing technique.) That’s because of the extra exertion I mentioned earlier. You’re working harder even though you are running slower.
Related: 12 Genius Tips for Running with a Stroller
Ok, so if running with a stroller is so hard? Why try to make it harder by doing a speed workout? Because, #Goals. Many of us Mother Runners have goals, racing dreams, and big PRs to chase. But running with a stroller can impede these goals because trying to run a 6-minute mile pushing a stroller around a track is likely impossible for most of us.
Related: The Best Running Strollers on the Market
You can run less while training for a race with a stroller.
You can run with a stroller and still train for a race even if you aren’t hitting the mileage or speed your training plan calls for. How? The key is to think time over distance and heart rate over pace.
According to Bobby Holcombe, running coach and founder of Knoxville Endurance, heart rate zone training is where it’s at when training with a cutie in tow. Here’s how it works.
Say you have a training plan that calls for 3 one-mile repeats with one-minute interval rest. Instead of trying to run those at your threshold pace, run them at your threshold heart rate which is about 85-88 percent of your max heart rate.
To calculate your heart rate zones, check out this calculator, or use the standard formula of 220 minus your age. (Or get really fancy and get a max heart rate or VO2 test for accurate zones.) Many Garmin watches have heart rate monitors built-in, but they aren’t always accurate since they take your pulse on top of your wrist. The best monitors use a chest strap which you can buy to go with your Garmin watch or separate like this Polar one.
Related: How to Use Heart Rate Zone Training
Don’t think you can do speed with a stroller? Alyssa Bloomquist qualified for the Olympic Trials marathon training with a stroller. Alyssa’s key tip: guide the stroller rather than push it:
“I think my biggest tip for running with a stroller is that you have to guide it rather than pushing it. When I tried to run really fast on intervals, I’d sometimes lose control of a wheel, and almost spin out. I learned that I was putting too much pressure on the handlebar trying to firmly steer. I relaxed my grip and then began to guide the stroller around the curves of the track, almost letting it float along with me. I know that sounds strange, but our runs and rides became much smoother!”
Running with a stroller gives you quality time with your kids.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of all for running with a stroller is that it gives you quality time with your kids. Yes, they may want to get out early or bicker with one another but you’re showing them something you love and instilling healthy habits in them. There’s a good chance, if you make it fun like by ending at a park, they’ll think of those stroller runs fondly and be begging to go with you next time.