So, you are a runner! And now you are a parent! Yes, you can be both. This article is written to help you make the most of your runs when you have your stroller along.
First off, make sure you have your doctor's permission to start a running workout. Most doctors will recommend a six week "break" from exercise after childbirth. From there, take care to build up slowly and listen to your body.
The better shape you were in before baby, the quicker you will recover. But, you do need to recover. Exercise should be stress-reducing not stress-promoting.
What kind of stroller can I use?
A jogging stroller (often called an off-road stroller) is recommended for running workouts. Benefits of the jogger are that they are easier to steer and maneuver and are designed so you can get a proper stride. Make sure your baby is the appropriate weight and age for your brand of stroller. Ideally, find a stroller that has shock absorbers and is easy to fold.
Turning your stroller in to a workout
Single arm chest press - This exercise is best done pushing up hill. A sloped driveway will work fine. Start with stroller just in front of you, with one hand on the handlebar and arm bent. Use that arm to push stroller up hill, with upper body slightly opening through range of motion. Focus on chest muscles for the push. Return and repeat about 12 times. Switch and repeat on other side.
Stroller row - Walk back to your driveway or another small hill. This time you will have the stroller face down hill. Legs are about hips width apart, hands spaced about shoulder width apart. Let stroller roll forward so that arms are extended and then use upper back muscles to pull stroller back in to you. Focus on a strong back to pull stroller in towards your body.
Isometric bicep lift - Find flat ground for this station. With arms shoulder width apart, have palms facing up as you hold your handlebars. Very carefully lift back wheels of stroller an inch or two above the ground. Front wheel stays on the ground. Use your biceps to "hover" the stroller. Safety is first. If you feel your stroller cannot be lifted safely, please omit this exercise.
Bent over shoulder press - Ideally, use an incline for this station. It will still work if you only have level ground. Bend forward at hips, keeping spine in neutral alignment. Keep abs and back strong. Grip handles with arms shoulder width apart. Start with arms bent and stroller close to your body, and push stroller forward (or up hill) until arms are extended. Focus on your shoulders to create this movement. Repeat for time of station.
Back extension - Start with feet on either side of front tire (you are facing your baby). Legs are bent and you are sitting on your sits bones. Sit up nice and tall with a very erect spine. Hands can cross in front of your chest. Very slowly, lean back a few inches. Go only as low as you can control. Use back low back muscles (erector spinae) to lean back and then use abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis) to return back up.
Basic crunch - Start basic crunch with feet resting on baby's foot rest or on either side of tire. Legs are bent and torso is on ground. Let head rest lightly in your finger tips. Focus on quality instead of quantity. Focus on bringing ribs to hips rather then the height. Keep space between chin and chest as if you had an orange there.
Side crunch - This one is for your waste line (your obliques). Instead of bringing your crunch straight ahead, angle it side to side. Focus on bringing your shoulder towards your opposite knee. Remember, it is not about how high you go, it is about how you get there. Your abdominal muscles should be the only muscles creating the movement.
Reverse curl - Turn around so that your head is at the base of the tire and resting on ground. Hold on to the foot rest or the tire behind you. Bring legs up at a right angle off the ground. Using the lowest part of your abdominal muscles, focus on bringing your legs in towards you, with hips off the ground and then releasing legs towards the ground. The range of motion may be very small. The most important part of this exercise is to keep your low back pressed into the ground on the release. Keeping your legs tucked in tight will be your easiest level and extending your legs straighter will make it harder.
Lunge walking - The lunge is by far one of the most effective exercises a woman can do to tone and strengthen her lower body. It is a compound exercise which basically just means it works a lot of muscles in just one move! A good lunge will effectively work your quadriceps (front of your thighs), hamstrings (back of your thighs) and your gluteus maximus (your bottom).
Stroller squat - The squat is the second best (or maybe tied) exercise for the lower body. It is especially great for the lifting your bottom! Stand behind your stroller with the break off, hands about shoulder width apart on the handlebars. Feet and knees are facing forward with legs about hips width apart. Sit your bottom way back, with your weight in your heals. You can push your stroller out in front of you during this motion and pull it back in as you pull yourself up to standing position. When squatting back, keep your spine long and strong, with upper body only slightly tilted forward. A common mistake during this exercise is to do too much forward bend from the upper body when it should be the lower body that is reaching back.
Squat plie - Yes, it is another squat. This one uses lots of inner thigh (adductors). Stand behind stroller with legs wide, feet and knees angled out. Lower your upper body until thighs come close to parallel with the ground. You know your stance is wide enough if your knees are directly over your ankles. If they go past your ankles (towards your toes), your stance is too narrow and you should step wider. Lower down and squeeze your bottom and thighs up. Both directions are important so stay slow and controlled.
Calf raises - An often neglected body part are our calves. But let's face it, nicely sculpted calves look pretty good when you are wearing shorts or a skirt. Park your baby on a side walk so that the handlebars are facing the street. Obviously, park where there are not cars driving by. A residential sidewalk or park sidewalk ususally works great. You will stand on the edge of the curb with the balls of your feet on the curb and your heels hanging off the edge. You are holding the handlebars just enough for balance. You don't want to hang on that stroller. Start with feet and knees facing forward. Drop your heels down and squeeze your calves to bring up yourself back up. Do one set.
Please remember to get doctor's approval before starting this or any exercise program. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends waiting six weeks postpartum before beginning an exercise program. This article was expressly written for Run The Planet by Lisa Druxman, M.A., founder of Stroller Strides (www.strollerstrides.com), America's stroller fitness program. Stroller Strides is a total fitness program for new moms that they can do with their babies. It includes power walking and intervals of body toning using exercise tubing and the stroller. Taught by nationally certified instructors, it is a great workout for any level of exerciser. Text copyright © 2004 by Stroller Strides. Illustration copyright © 2004 byRun The Planet.