Running is hard, right?
I mean, it’s so hard that for a lot of people, the simple and straightforward difficulty of heaving air in and out of the lungs, hammering the legs one after another against the pavement, swinging the arms like disembodied chicken wings, and proceeding in that fashion for — what, five minutes? ten? twenty? — is enough to send them screaming from the prospect of ever running again. “Not for me,” they’ll say. “Maybe if I’m being chased,” they’ll say. “Bad for my knees anyway,” they’ll say.
AND it’s hard making the time to do it. Even just starting out, you have to budget a solid thirty minutes to each and every run (walk-run, walk-walk-run, twenty minutes of walking with two minutes of running, and every other permutation included). Add to that a few minutes of stretching (you are stretching, right?) and a few minutes of warm-up. Then, of course, unless you’ve somehow mastered the leaking of pain and suffering out through your pores, there’s a requisite cool-down and shower when you get back. Personally, I can attest that if I neglect the post-run shower, my wife will maintain a ten-foot bubble around her person at all times until I get around to it. So round up and call it an hour. That’s an hour. Each and every time you step out the door, that’s an hour of your life down the drain, until you really catch the bug, and then the hour can easily turn into two or more on the weekend. But let’s be conservative and call it three hours a week. That’s a Law & Order marathon. That’s a hellagood nap. That’s a Lord of the Rings movie, which you’re watching again instead of exercising because help, Legolas is so dreamy.
So it’s hard to do and it’s hard to make time for. And that’s before you’re married. And before you have kids. Once you check those little boxes on your triplicate form of life, running gets even harder — because you’re more tired all the time — and tougher to make time for — because you have no time left! So if you want to keep it going, you make sacrifices.
What form do those sacrifices take? Well, you can give up sleep and start running at 4 in the morning. If you live close enough to work, you can run there and back, although you might run into some interesting difficulties caused by your hygiene. Or you can find ways to double up and do two things at once.
That’s what my wife and I did not long after our son was born — we bought one of those jogging strollers. And I loved it. And I hated it. Loved it because suddenly I could get my runs in when it was convenient, get the boy out of the house and into some fresh air, and give my wife some time to herself. Hated it because it makes the run into a full-body workout about twice as intense as the run itself. But the sprout loved riding in the stroller, so it was all good.
Then we had sprout #2. And suddenly all the headaches and impracticalities of parenting get magnified — not doubled, as you might expect, but exponentially more difficult. Time is even harder to come by. Luckily, the same solution presented itself anew: my sister and her husband were generous enough to get us a double jogging stroller.
I’ve written before about the singular experience of being a dad pushing around a double stroller. The reactions I’ve had are universally positive, and I get a lot of reactions, because this thing is hard to miss. While the single stroller is a somewhat odd-looking variation of a well-known accoutrement of family life, the double stroller is a whole different animal. It’s massive. It’s unwieldy. It doesn’t fit down the aisles of some grocery stores.
Knowing all that, I’ve been tentative about the prospect of actually using it for its designed purpose — to load the kids up in it (both of them, simultaneously) and go for a run. It’s a damn sight heavier than the single, partially because it’s so massive in its own right, and also, obviously, because it carries two sprouts instead of one. It’s harder to steer, by dint of being heavier — with the single you can just press down on the handle a little bit and the front wheel will lever up off the ground, making steering a breeze. With the double, the same mechanic works, but the lever is not nearly so responsive, and really requires two hands to accomplish gracefully. “Next time,” I routinely promised myself, or, “when the weather gets nicer.”
Well, this weekend, the weather got nicer than it’s been since October, and the wife had to work, and well, I had some miles to make up, so — into the stroller the kids went. And you know what? It wasn’t nearly so bad as I had feared.
Yes, the stroller is heavier, but that cuts both ways. It’s harder to get it moving, but it carries a momentum all its own. Once I got up to a good trot, all I really had to do was steer the thing, and that was accomplished easily enough with a bit of pressure on the handle. Uphills were a bear, there’s no sugarcoating it; but downhills make up for that. Sprout the second fell asleep in about fifteen minutes, and sprout the first sat merrily watching the streetlights and bushes drifting by for the duration. I’d feared that the double would be about 50% harder to wrangle than the single, but in practice, it felt more like 10%; there, but hardly noticeable. The uphills were the only place where I really felt a difference.
But oh, the pain that would come after. If pushing the single stroller turns a run into a whole body workout, then pushing the double is like doing p90x at 3x speed. Okay, maybe not, but the subtle trick of the stroller is that it works entirely different muscles on the run than running by your lonesome. The shoulders and core get a share. The forearms feel the burn. The glutes… my god, the glutes get hammered. And of course the effect is exacerbated by the fact that we’re just coming out of hibernation, and I haven’t pushed a stroller at length since September.
But summer is coming.
And summer means daddy at home with the kids, and when daddy is at home with the kids, daddy needs to get out of the house with the kids. So the stroller is going to be a staple around here.
Luckily, with cargo like this, I think I can get used to the extra workload…