It's one thing to go for a run, it's an entirely different beast to run with a stroller!
Whether you are pushing a single or double stroller, there are important things to keep in mind about your running form. Most people learn to push a stroller after having a baby, while also still recovering from childbirth and navigating motherhood.
There's not a lot of helpful or strong research on the topic of stroller running form specifically, but there is excellent research on running form in general. As a physical therapist specializing in running injuries and postpartum return to sport, I've created 5 tips to help you run better and more efficiently with a stroller. (also, being a runner mom with 3 kids includes ample stroller running experience;)
Let's take what we know about good running form, and apply it to stroller running!
Tip #1 Cadence
If you could pick1 tip to improve your running form, this would be it.
You should aim to run with a cadence between 170-190. What does this mean? Your feet should hit the ground somewhere between 170-190 times per minute. You can check your cadence by counting how many times your feet hit the ground during 1 minute.
Research has shown a slower cadence below 170 can increase your risk for running related injuries.
To practice: If your cadence is below 170 steps per minute, work on increasing your cadence 2-5 steps per minute at a time. Focus on increasing your cadence for 2-3 min at. a time, and no more than ~20% of your run for the first 2-8 weeks. For example, if you're running 4 miles, focus on cadence at the beginning of each mile for a couple minutes, then move on and don't worry about it for the rest of your run. Once you reach your desired cadence rate, increase the amount of time you practice from 20-50% for the next 2-4 weeks. From there, spend the next several weeks to months working on your cadence 75-100% and it will become automatic!
Tip #2 Push with one hand
Unless you are running up a steep hill, push your stroller with one hand at a time. Alternate sides as much as you need, and try to keep the pushing relatively equal between both hands. Meaning, maybe you push for 2min with your right hand, then get tired, and switch over to your left. This helps keep running a symmetrical sport and avoids imbalance.
Running with one hand on the stroller allows for a more natural running gait, and helps avoid a stiff upper body (we will talk more about this next:).
Lastly, there will be times when you just need both hands to run with the stroller.
That's ok, we're not going for perfection, just overall balance and awareness.
Tip #3 Rotate your ribcage
When you're pushing a stroller while you run, it's easy to become stiff in your upper body and let your legs do all the work. Good running form allows your trunk to rotate the opposite direction as the leg you're pushing off with, as a way to provide reciprocal motion and keep your body moving forward efficiently. The reciprocal motion of your upper body is often lost when running with a stroller because our hands are fixed and pushing something heavy. Another reason it's lost is because of weakened abdominal muscles during pregnancy. The normal changes that happen to our abdominal walls as a baby grows during pregnancy stretch out the tissues, which causes weakness. It takes time, coordination, and strengthening to restore movement patterns like trunk rotation with running.
To practice: If you are postpartum, restoring strength is important here, especially obliques. This is the first step. Once you return to run, practice letting your trunk rotate naturally as your legs turnover.
Tip #4 Lean forward from your ankles
"Shoulders back and chest up" is what most people think of when they aim for good posture. However, lifting your chest flares your ribs and actually puts your breathing at a disadvantage - not ideal for running. You want to keep your ribcage stacked over your pelvis and your shoulders follow naturally (don't squeeze them back!)...of course posture is a whole other can of worms, but this is the right place to start thinking about it!
Before you take your first step running, keep your good posture and start leaning forward from your ankles. This will force you to take a step so you don't fall, then another, and another. As you continue to run with a stroller, think about leaning forward from your ankles (not hips or back, & not slouching from your shoulders). Pushing a stroller can make you run stiff and upright, but cueing your body to lean forward from your ankles will make you more efficient and even faster!
Again, don't focus on this every second of your run, just a little bit at a time over several weeks to months until it becomes a habit.
Tip #5 Bend your elbows
As tempting as it is to lock those elbow and PUSH your heavy stroller, keeping your elbows bent allows you to maintain reciprocal motion through your upper body. This shouldn't be tricky to incorporate into your stroller running, maybe just some getting used to. Think "relaxed" and "rotation" and you'll be all set!
You do you mama, we are not going for perfection here.