Running is often one of the easiest ways to keep fit; simply pop on a pair of trainers and head out of the door at a time to suit you. But once you have a baby that can become trickier.
Perhaps your baby is breastfeeding or wants to be with you 24/7. Perhaps you feel guilty about leaving them with your partner (you shouldn’t but we all know mum guilt is real). Buggy running is therefore a brilliant way to get the miles in, with your baby in tow – and is a great workout for you too.
Buggy running gives your baby much needed fresh air, allows you to make the most of a nap if they are young enough to still sleep in the day, and if they’re a bit older, gives them a chance to see any number of interesting things to see on your routes. As an experienced buggy runner herself, our founder Claire Gleave shares 11 things you need to know before you start buggy running.
This is important for both you and your baby. The ‘Return to Running Guidelines’ published last year, recommend waiting around 12 weeks before starting to rebuild your running fitness. This is because your body needs time to properly recuperate from the strains of both pregnancy and birth.
Ideally it is best to gently rebuild your running fitness a bit before taking on the additional strain of running with the buggy too. Something like Couch to 5k is great for this and will also help give you some confidence with your running before heading out with your little one in tow.
Another reason to wait is that ideally your little one should be over 6 months old before you start running with them in the pushchair. Even with the best suspension they will get bounced around, so head and neck control are important – although you can guarantee that if they are not comfortable, they will let you know about it!
INVEST IN A PROPER RUNNING BUGGY
Yes, you can try and run with a standard pram or pushchair, but they won’t have the build, the suspension or the safety mechanisms to make sure that that your baby is as comfortable and safe as they can be when buggy running, and also that you are comfortable with your posture etc. too.
Ideally you should look for a three-wheeled stroller, with a lockable front wheel. Proper suspension and air-filled tyres will absorb the impact of uneven terrain and hopefully help rock your baby to sleep. Your running buggy should also have a hand brake for safety (and for speed control on the down hills as the weight of the pushchair can easily run away with you!) as well as a 5-point baby harness for extra safety if you were to have an accident.
ALWAYS LOCK THE FRONT WHEEL
Locking the front wheel might seem awkward when you first start buggy running and admittedly it does take a bit of time to get used to going around corners, where you have to essentially swing the running buggy on to its back wheels to make the turn. But this is important – if you were to hit a pothole or a stone with the front wheel not locked, it can cause the buggy to wobble and tip. The locking of the front wheel gives you a lot more stability – both on uneven surfaces and also in the event of you encountering something unexpected on the floor en route.
DON’T RUN WITH THE CAR SEAT
It’s logical that you might think a car seat clipped to the running buggy is safe to run with. After all it has the 5-point harness and is designed to protect the baby in the event of a crash at speeds much faster than you are going to get to on foot. However, the issue with car seats is that due to the nature of the pushchair attachments, they sit high and heavy, and therefore completely change the centre of gravity in your running buggy, making it a much higher risk of tipping over.
ALWAYS STRAP UP
Not just your baby, but your own wrist too. Its VERY important to always wear a strap that connects you by the wrist to your running buggy. If you were to trip, the last thing you want to see is your precious baby hurtling down a hill or towards a road without you being able to do anything to stop it. That strap is essential in preventing your baby going anywhere without you.
Another benefit of the wrist strap is that it also gives you the security to push with one hand while swinging your free arm to help propel you forward.
FIND A SAFE ROUTE
Access to a suitable buggy running route will depend very much on where you live. Ideally you want a nice clear concrete path for ease of pushing as well as safety. Try to avoid long stretches of running near busy roads if you can, and also avoid country lanes if you live outside of the city, where cars can unexpectedly come flying past. If you live near a big park, park routes are often great but always consider pedestrians!
TAKE A PUNCTURE REPAIR KIT
As mentioned before, your running buggy should have air-filled tyres. While these are great for comfort, it can be a bit of a nightmare if you typically pick up a puncture, the one time you don’t take a repair kit. Invest in a little bag that stays in the buggy and make sure you know how you would fix it before you head out.
CONSIDER THE WEATHER
It doesn’t take much sunshine even in lower temperatures for you to get quite warm and want to strip the layers off when you are running, but it is important to remember that your baby isn’t doing anything other than sitting there. Always make sure they are wrapped up - a great investment is something like a Felhof sheepskin footmuff – aside from being generally amazing for winter, they are super comfortable, allowing you to not have to layer up your baby too heavily, and have the added benefit of being able to remove the top layer so your baby can just lie on the bottom layer on warmer days, keeping them cool and comfortable.
And don’t forget, on a sunnier day always make sure they have a cap and sunscreen on, and if they’re a bit older maybe consider getting them a little pair of baby sunglasses like these Baby Banz.
TIME WITH NAPS
Buggy running can be a great way to help get your baby in to a routine or for you to make the most of their routine if they nap during the day. The fresh air will often send the most ardent nap refuser off to sleep and it’s a great way for you to get a bit of headspace to listen to a podcast or your favourite music, uninterrupted.
As your baby gets older, you may find they are too interested in the world around them to sleep. And while sometimes they will love looking at whatever you point out to them as you whizz past, there will also be days where they will moan and want to walk, or get out, not matter what you do.
Here is where snacks and a smart phone are your friends. May be controversial to some but I’m a big believer in doing what you need to do to carve out that bit of time in your day. So, if it’s a pack of baby crisps and Peppa Pig on the iPhone to get you round, so be it. We also did plenty of singing nursery rhymes too but it’s not the easiest when you’re already trying to catch your breath.
A FINAL TIP
You will have good days and bad days with buggy running. Sometimes your baby will cry and you have to turn back, other days they’ll be clamouring to get in the pushchair to go with you (usually the one time you want to go it alone). I ran with my youngest in the buggy until he was four and as he got more verbal, he soon became my personal PT, telling me off if I was too slow! Always be prepared to go with the flow and you’ll look back on what is actually a very special thing to do with your little one. He’s six now and just recently got very cross that I’d now sold my running buggy and we couldn’t go out together…