Losing the baby fat—with the baby and other moms
posted by: Guest Blogger
When Rebecca Loy’s family relocated to Denver, researching neighborhoods was key before setting up a new life for herself and her family.
Loy’s method? Lace up her running shoes, buckle daughter Jessica into the jogging stroller and hit a few Stroller Strides classes, the franchise exercise program where moms get a 60-minute workout while pushing their kids in the stroller.
In fall 2008, she found two options: one in a south suburb and Erin Johns’ workouts in Stapleton.
“The first thing I did when I knew we were moving was search online for Stroller Strides,” says Loy, a 27- year-old mother of two, who attended classes in Knoxville, Tenn.
“Once I got to class I met all these great women — including Erin — and that had a lot to do with choosing Stapleton. It’s how I made friends.”
While not all of Johns’ clients ultimately buy real estate to get closer to her workouts, she has created a loyal following of moms who make it to class several times a week for a serious workout and quality girl time.
Loy readily credits Stroller Strides for her solid mom-network in her new neighborhood. “And I’m proud to say, after two kids, I’m in the best shape of my life,” she says.
A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found non-dieting, middle-age women with a body mass index of less than 25 still needed 60 minutes of daily moderate exercise to prevent weight gain.
For new moms looking to shed the baby weight exercise is essential.
Personally, I don’t need medical experts to remind me to exercise. My son was 3, and I still wasn’t back in my “good jeans.” Then I met Johns.
“I gained 90 pounds”
Standing 5 foot, 8 inches tall in her running shoes, her blond hair pulled into a neat ponytail, Johns, owner of Stroller Strides Denver, looks like central casting delivered the Hollywood version of a personal trainer. This 36-year-old mother of twin girls came to Stroller Strides much the same way as her clients.
“I gained 90 pounds with the girls: I outweighed my husband,” says Johns. “So while I was on maternity leave I took my stroller to City Park and power walked . . . a lot.”
Eventually she lost the weight and during those long workouts she considered starting a business to help other mothers get in shape. But when her maternity leave was up she returned to her corporate marketing job. Long hours and travel requirements were making this new mom miserable, so she developed a business plan.
“Then in my research I found Stroller Strides and realized this could be a good thing for me,” she says. Johns’ franchise opened in October 2007 and today she counts 95 regular clients on her roster.
All Stroller Strides owners follow certain guidelines for a healthy, safe workout. Instructors then develop individual lesson plans from a blueprint of short cardio bursts separating a variety of strength-training stations.
The exercises target those pesky problem areas moms know so well, but also address mom-specific strengthening for those muscles we use to hoist heavy kids and carry the myriad gear of motherhood.
The emotional strength training is less structured.
“Having a new baby is wonderful, but it can be so isolating,” says Johns. “It’s so easy to feel disconnected. I can see it in the eyes of that mother of a 6-week-old. She’s sleep-deprived, she’s self-conscious about her body and it took everything just to make it out of the house that morning.”
But once that mom makes it to class — even if she’s late — she finds a support group of women, all with empathetic ears. Johns credits that camaraderie, coupled with the almighty endorphins, for her classes’ success.
“After an hour you’ve done something for yourself. You’re outside. You’re with your kids. And you’ve spent time with other women who understand what you’re going through,” says Johns. “It’s like therapy.”
A sweaty sisterhood
Along with the official Stroller Strides classes Mondays through Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. at Stapleton Central Park, Johns offers her own early morning boot camps and running groups four mornings weekly.
Moms leave the kids at home for the daybreak classes, but that sense of sweaty sisterhood remains.
“I have never been in a group of women who were this supportive,” says Sarah Kabat, an administrator for executive health and professional patient coordination programs at University of Colorado Hospital. “I think a lot has to do with Erin. She’s this stunning, physically fit blond, but inside she’s every woman. She is one of us.”
Kabat works out with both of Johns’ morning groups while training for a half-marathon. Although her kids aren’t in tow, so knows she’s setting a strong fitness example for her two children.
“I come home in the morning and my daughter asks, ‘Did you go for a run? I want to run a race when I’m older,’ ” says Kabat. “It’s a great feeling. It’s the ultimate therapy and at the end of the day I can fit into my jeans.”
Interval training is the foundation of the workout, explains Stroller Strides instructor Erin Johns. Mini sprints bring the heart rate up for maximum calorie burns while resistance work using stretchy elastic bands tones and strengthens.
Dividing the workout into five or six bite-sized pieces makes the exercise class manageable.
That way if a baby needs attention, or a mom needs to take a breather, it’s always easy to catch up to the group. For moms pushing themselves with Johns latest lower-body torture move, knowing another exercise is only a short run away helps manage the pain for another 30 seconds.
Often Johns offers low- and high-impact options for the exercises. The variety helps make the workout effective for a new mom on her first day or a veteran training for a marathon.
The final 10 minutes of class are reserved for abdominal work and stretches. At this point older kids are released from their strollers. Babies play with water bottles on yoga mats and toddlers “help” their moms with their exercises.
Holding the plank position with a toddler climbing on your back will get any mom ready for swimsuit season.
Find a class
Stroller Strides Denver offers classes in Denver’s City Park, in addition to Stapleton. Erin Johns teaches several weekly classes, sharing the duty with a few instructors she has trained. Check strollerstrides.net/denver for info.
Cost: First class, free. Unlimited classes, $55 per month with a one-time $75 registration fee (includes set of resistance bands). 10-class pass, $115 (no registration fee). Drop-in, $15.
Stroller Strides has 11 franchises statewide, visit strollerstrides.com to find locations.
-By Rebecca L. Olgeirson