Elliot is now nine and we've added Etienne (five) and Alan to the family. I think the tips below are is still relevant as we've gone through the whole process with two more passengers. Elliot and Etienne now cycle while I jog. I've therefore added a section about Biking & Jogging at the end. Just before Alan was born we also upgraded to a two-child Croozer.
The Baby Jogger
Don’t think that you need a lightweight, name brand Baby Jogger. Many generic brand buggies with 3 big wheels will work. Why not try and pick one up second hand? Make sure the front wheel can be locked in position so that the buggy will roll straight.
Check that the buggy has a high, possibly adjustable, handle. Pump the tyres up hard and maybe zip-lock a bottle cage to the frame. A compartment underneath is handy for carrying your stuff. I often use my jogs with the buggy to run errands around town.
Manufacturers’ websites suggest 9 months as a minimum age for a baby in a sling seat style baby jogger and 3 months for children in the car seat style attachment. We checked with our doctor and were given the all clear when our son was 10 -12 weeks old.
The doctor essentially wanted to make sure that the baby could support his neck and spine sufficiently and was adequately thermo-regulating. This time frame also coincided with Gwen's return to running after the birth.
Our son seems to enjoy every outing and generally spends the 1st half of the run looking at the countryside and the 2nd half sleeping. Younger children should face you and older children will enjoy facing forwards.
Make sure you've got extra clothes for you and the baby, water for both of you, nappy changing equipment and maybe an extra blanket. I also carry money and a mobile phone.
Even in fairly good weather, don’t hesitate to install the clear rain cover on the baby jogger. In warmer weather ensure the baby is not over-dressed and is in the shade of the buggy's canopy. Avoid temperature extremes and monitor your child’s condition throughout the run.
Will They Enjoy It?
In the 1st year I could jog for as long as I wanted. Sometimes up to 90 minutes. The relaxing motion and wind on his face would send Elliot to sleep. In fact, going for a run became a tactic for getting him to sleep. I’d leave the watch at home and just tour our city’s parks.
In the 2nd year he still loved getting out to see town, the forest, parks and other runners. My runs became shorter and always finished at the playground. In the 3rd year, I couldn’t get more than a kilometre down the trail without Elliot asking to get out and run beside me.
It’s vital that you stabilize your core and run tall to ensure the most efficient forward propulsion, maximise fun and minimize the risk of injury. If you want to run anything like you run without the baby jogger, you have to push with just one hand.
This is a skill that is tough at first but is soon developed with practice. Try to spend as much time pushing with each hand and constantly check that the carriage of the non-pushing arm is as natural as possible.
Set your pushing handle nice and high and as far away from the body of the baby jogger as possible. I probably swap hands every 2 minutes and use both hands when crossing roads or on technical sections.
As all of my baby jogging runs are are on flat, smooth and traffic free trails means that on straighter sections I can even push the baby jogger a metre in front of me and run a few normal strides before catching up.
The Fitness Benefits
Just as swimming with a band on the ankles will highlight any dead spots in your stroke; baby jogging will highlight any inefficiencies in your running stride. I concentrate on a powerful, precise footfall, a cadence of over 180 steps per minute and minimal contact time.
I've measured the Baby Jogging HR response to be about +10 BPM for a given speed. This extra cardiac stress and increased tension in the muscles means that you should be careful not to over-do it. However, I had my best XC season after an Autumn of Baby Jogging.
Make sure that your baby is dressed appropriately for the ambient temperature and the effects of the wind. Fasten the seat belt and always slow down on bumpy or downhill sections. I also try to never be more than a 15 minute jog from home.
Finally, although, parenthood insists that full-on training plans are put on hold for a while, family fitness can continue with a couple of Baby Jogger runs per week. I really get into it and after a while I prefer to be pushing something along then running alone.
Biking & Jogging
Elliot learnt to ride a bike pretty quickly. From the age of two alternating a Balance Bike and a Tricycle with a chain-drive and pedals in the right place. By three he had mastered both and when he was about 3 and a half we bought him a second-hand 12 inch two wheeler.
The combination of the hours spent free-wheeling on the Balance Bike and pushing down on the Tricycle's pedals had done the job. He was proficient riding his two-wheeler in one weekend and confident starting, braking and stopping a few days later.
From the time that Elliot was on the Balance Bike he was coming out on jogs with me. We'd stay close to home or take the car to the forest. I realised that the goal of these outings was for both of us to get some outdoor exercise rather than me getting a workout done.
Sometimes I'd push an empty Jogging Buggy. When Elliot got tired he'd climb into the buggy and I'd strap his bike to the handle. Your child will definitely want to stop to look at stuff and play. Be prepared for this yet also encourage them to push on and improve their endurance.
Now Elliot and Etienne ride their Frog road bikes and Alan has taken up his spot in the Croozer. If the boys decide to stop and play or run I use the time to do some short sprints, body-weight exercises or plyometrics. Happy Family Trails!