If there’s one piece of advice worth taking as a new parent, it’s ‘get out into the fresh air’. When you’re frazzled, a stroll in the park with the baby in the pram puts everything into perspective.
Ellie Brown, one of London’s most influential post-natal fitness experts, recognised the wisdom behind such advice and ran with it. She set up Buggy Runners – a fitness session where your baby/toddler comes too – in Greenwich Park almost ten years ago, and has now launched a class in Dulwich Park.
Dulwich Buggy Runners is a joint initiative with Run! Southwark, whose mission to promote athletics in the Borough includes participation at all levels, and for all ages. They clearly believe in catching them young: babes-in-arms (but preferably in buggies) are essential for these fitness classes.
It’s recommended mothers start coming to the weekly classes when their baby is six weeks old (after natural birth) or eight weeks old (C-section), to give the body a chance to heal after the rigours of childbirth.
Fancy meeting up?
As a veteran marathon runner, qualified running coach, mother of three and a new grandmother, I am delighted to be leading the Dulwich Buggy Runner sessions. You can find me outside Dulwich Park Café every Wednesday morning from about 10am (the class starts at 10.15am). The first session is free, then it’s £3.50 thereafter. A loyalty card lets you claim every tenth session free.
As long as your doctor has pronounced you fit to exercise, you can bring your baby to Buggy Runners in any sort of pram or buggy (you don’t need to invest in a posh all-terrain running buggy, but make sure the setup you have is sturdy enough to run with).
As well as the baby, bring with you, if possible, some water, a rain cover for the buggy, a mat or waterproof picnic blanket for core work. It’s also wise to have some sort of support around your sleeping baby’s head – a rolled-up towel or baby blanket will do.
Buggy Runners isn’t just for mums: dads or grandparents who fancy a fitness class can bring the baby if they want. If you have a preschooler to entertain during the morning, you can bring them along too, free of charge. I’ve found that three and four-year olds enjoy the drills and exercises, especially anything that involves counting or blowing the coach’s whistle….
What does Buggy Running entail?
Each hour-long session starts with a powerwalking/powertalking warm up, followed by dynamic drills to wake up the body. Participants choose whether to run, jog or power walk the routes we take around the park on our main ‘distance run’, and everyone finishes with some core work: a body conditioning and stretch session designed to strengthen and lengthen those warmed-up muscles.
It’s amazing how quickly your fitness improves after a few weeks of well orchestrated buggy running. Many of my clients are inspired to take their running further – and faster – once they’ve mastered the art of exercising with the baby. And, as I always tell them, the extra weight of pram and baby helps burn extra calories and provides a full-body work out. There’s no need to fret about childcare, either.
For more on the beauty of buggy running for fitness, read my Guardian blog, here