Stroller Running Biomechanics

I have run a BOB Duallie nearly every day for the past 4 years. On those runs, I have had countless people say something like, “Wow, that must be tough!” or “Go, Superdad!”. I always play along and give them a thankful smile. But the truth is that running a BOB Duallie with two kids feels easier on my legs than running without a stroller! Seriously, I love to use the stroller run as a “recovery run” on my “easy day” after big workouts and races! In this article, I will explain how this can be true. I will also present the stroller running technique I use which I have nicknamed the stroller cheat.

My work in sports biomechanics inspired me to develop the stroller cheat. It’s quite simple and easy to learn. I will present the 4 critical aspects of the technique. And you should know that the BOB Revolution PRO Duallie is perfectly designed for this technique, with its new adjustable handlebar (that will optimize the fit for any height runner). There is more good news: the handlebar is now equipped with a hand brake so you can easily control your pace on declines; this is especially helpful when running a fully loaded Duallie.Overview of Stroller Run

Overview of the stroller cheat

1) Take a wide grip and push down slightly.

I present “handle bar biomechanics” first because the handle bar is what allows you to “cheat”. Here is how it works. Imagine you tripped while walking… To avoid slamming into the ground you would use your hands to “cushion your fall”. This is essentially what I do while running with a stroller. When my foot is landing, I push down on the handle bars, just a bit, to “cushion my fall”. Basically, I am able to use the stroller to land softly by “gradually lowering” myself to the ground instead of “smacking” into the ground. Examine the following photos that illustrate this technique.

You can see from the photos that this stroller cheat technique is quite subtle. This is why I am able to fool all the dog walkers and bikers! You just need to push down a little bit. Don’t push down hard—the last thing you want to do is “pop a wheelie”!

You must take a proper grip to pull off the stroller cheat. First, adjust the height of the handle bar—the bar should be just below your waist. If the bar is too high it will be difficult/impossible to push down. If the bar is too low it will be very awkward. Second, notice that my arms are kept in a “strong position”—my grip is wide (shoulder width or more) and my arms are nearly straight (elbows flexed just a bit). This arm position prevents upper-body fatigue. If you stray from this arm position you will feel discomfort in your shoulders, triceps, etc.

2) Run with a high cadence (take short, quick steps)

When running a stroller, I strongly recommend that you take short, quick steps (see the previous articles I wrote about how to establish short, quick steps). This is the “second secret”. The short step makes it really easy to land softly. In contrast, long powerful steps greatly challenge your ability to land softly—most long striders “smack” into the ground with great force when they land. Long, powerful strides may be great for sprinting, but they will fatigue your legs quickly during long runs (and especially when pushing a stroller). When you push a stroller, try to keep your cadence (stride rate) at 90 steps per minute or more (each foot should hit the ground 90 times or more per minute). I typically run the stroller with a cadence of 100-105. This approach will make you breathe hard (because your feet and legs are moving quickly) but your leg muscles won’t “burn” (because you don’t have to “push” very hard to take a short step).

3) Lean forward slightly

Notice in the following picture that I am leaning forward slightly.

This technique works great for two reasons. First, it naturally positions your upper body over the handle bar (so it is easy to push down on the handle bar). Second, when you lean forward it naturally forces your feet to land directly below your body. This promotes great biomechanics. When your foot lands below your body, your leg is in a strong and safe position to bear your weight. When you land in this position you can begin to push Handlebar Cushionyourself forward immediately; there is no “braking phase”. This is efficient.

In contrast, if you keep your torso upright, your feet will land out in front of your body, instead of below your body. The biomechanics are very different when the foot lands out in front of the body. Typically, the heel “smacks” into the ground. Then, the runner gradually “rolls” onto the foot. The runner is not able to “push forward” until the foot is flat and below the body! This style of running is inefficient and it promotes big “braking forces” that can place dangerously high loads on your joints and muscles. Try to stick with short, efficient strides, especially when pushing a stroller.

4) Do not swing arms (use a subtle torso rotation)

I see a lot of stroller runners running with only “one hand” on the handle bar. This is problematic for three reasons. First, this is obviously dangerous—you are not able to easily steer or apply the hand brake! SecoTorse Rotationnd, the biomechanics are “asymmetric”—the right and left side of your body are loaded differently. This could lead to imbalances and/or injuries. Third, you are not able to push down on the handle bar (and cheat!).

Forget the traditional arm swing! When stroller running, all you need is a subtle torso rotation.

The subtle torso rotation is simple and effective. Simple is good in running; it’s easy to establish and maintain a nice rhythm when your mechanics are simple. The torso rotation is also great because it requires minimal energy—this contributes to the “cheating” concept.

Conclusions                                                                        

The stroller cheat has worked great for me. I have remained injury-free for the past 4 years, despite completing a stroller run nearly every day and maintaining high overall mileage. This past year I ran 50-75 miles per week (about half my miles were completed with the stroller). I was able to compete in 20+ races without “breaking down”. I attribute much of my health and success to the stroller cheat. It is easy on my legs (because I can land softly) yet it greatly challenges my “physiology” and forces me to breathe hard (because I am pushing a load).

In closing, the stroller cheat feels good and it is effective—I can run the stroller relatively close to my 5k pace (about 20 seconds per mile slower). The following pictures demonstrate the stroller cheat at about a 5:30 mile pace.

 

Stroller Run Frame by Frame

Frame by frame view of a 5:30 mile pace using the stroller cheat technique.

 

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