Striding with a Stroller: One mom's journey from exercise-hater to working out 3 times a week
A couple of months ago, I saw a friend on Facebook tagged in a post about this CRAZY-SOUNDING exercise class called Stroller Strides. Although, I have hated pretty much all forms of exercise apart from yoga during my whole adulthood, I must admit, I was immediately intrigued. During my last pregnancy, I dealt with borderline gestational diabetes (borderline because I vomited through the definitive test--yuck), and this was a wake-up call on my overall health. After my diagnosis, I had to eat incredibly healthy--balancing proteins and fats and only eating carbs in extreme moderation. Basically, I ended up losing weight instead of gaining it during the last trimester of my pregnancy, but I still wasn't where I need to be health-wise.
At every appointment, the midwife would ask me about exercise, and I would exaggerate (Ryan Lochte-style) and say um...yoga--referencing the 2.5 times I made it through my prenatal yoga video--and then mumble something vague about chasing my toddler around the house. Chasing a toddler is exhausting, believe me I know, but I also know that it is probably not enough for me to receive a cardiovascular benefit. I knew I needed more, but where was the time? What would I do that I wouldn't quit after a week?
I decided to facebook message the friend, and ask her "what is this crazy class that you can do with your littles in a stroller??" She told me how it worked, and I immediately signed up for a free trial class. Three months later, and I'm absolutely hooked. I'm even trying to tweak some other commitments, so I can attend more classes during the week. Stroller Strides is the most amazing answer to my prayers! I wanted to give any moms or future moms a bit more information about how it has changed my life!
Stroller Strides is a class held by local franchises of an amazing company call Fit4Mom. They hold a variety of classes to help mothers live healthier lives. It is an amazing way to get fit, stay fit, and VERY IMPORTANTLY set an example of fitness for your children. My daughter will push around a stroller with a dolly in it and say she is "playing stroller strides." She does hilarious versions of burpees, "lungeys" and "skauts" (squats). I know she is always watching and learning from what I'm doing. I love that three times a week she sees a group of women coming together to work hard and get stronger. It isn't just about fitness and weight-loss. In a world of "sanctimommies" (I hate that word) and internet trolls and social media stress, for an hour three times a week, she sees grit and grace and enthusiasm from an extraordinary group of women.
Since I have become a Stroller Strides Fit4Mom apologist in the last few months, I get a lot of questions about how this class works! I thought I would write a little play-by-play, so that nervous mommies can know what to expect and feel more comfortable when they sign-up for their first class. At Fit4Mom Montgomery County they offer a free trial class, so you can try it out before joining. (Also-- this isn't just for stay-at-home moms, they offer a 10 class membership as an alternative to the monthly membership. This would be great for working moms who can't attend classes super regularly, but want to come when they can.)
Arrival: All moms arrive with their 0-3 children in tow (yes, some moms do the class without a kiddo). Strollers are set up. All different types of strollers are used for classes. Most moms have jogging strollers because they are easier to push, but you can definitely do the class with a normal stroller as long as it's in good condition and the kids are safely buckled in.
Warm-up: We start in a circle. We do a low intensity warm-up with marches, toe taps, hamstring curls, etc. As we warm-up, all of the moms introduce themselves, their kiddos with their ages, and then answer an ice-breaker type question. At the end of the warm-up the teachers give a few reminders. The kids should remain buckled in during the entire work-out for safety. They encourage all of the moms to keep their work-out about a 5-8 in level of intensity on a 0-10 scale. The teachers are wonderful at helping you push yourself, but they don't want anyone vomiting or getting injured.
Stations: After the warm-up, the moms travel with their strollers either by jogging or power-walking from place to place. We park the strollers and do a work-out. We also use resistance bands as a part of the work-out. The teachers have some available, but many of us have our own because two come with the new member package.
Examples of types of exercises: Lunges, squats, wall-sits, step ups, dips, monkeys. high-knees, sprinting, bum kicks--I could go on and on. I've never had the same work-out twice, so it never gets boring. They move between strength training and cardio throughout all of the stations of the class to ensure a whole body workout. The teachers are always watching for good form, and they always have a modification ready if you need one due to an injury or pregnancy.
During the stations, we sing kids songs to help entertain the little ones and to help with breathing and counting reps. For example, we will do bicep curls for one verse of "The Wheels on the Bus." We switch sides and do more verses. It's a great way of ensuring balance without just counting.
The teachers always watch the babies if the moms are running or doing exercises any distance away from the strollers, and they are always willing to help soothe crying babies. I think this is most moms' biggest fear in doing a class.
How will my child handle being in a stroller for an hour??
I have a two year old and a four month old. The two year old had a rough time the first class I went to, but she has done very well since then. My little guy is in a difficult phase as far as being stuck in the carseat, but he can usually make it through the class with some extra pushing of the stroller and the teacher helping to jiggle him from time to time. The kids all have good days and bad days, but the great thing is that we are ALL moms. We all get it when it's tough. No one is judging you for a baby who is fussing. The atmosphere is so supportive and uplifting. I leave each class with more energy, and it is not only because of the exercise. Even if the kids are acting a little nutty, I know that five minutes of crying won't hurt them, and I am certain the example I'm setting for them by being consistent, working hard, and staying active will be invaluable as they grow up.
Abs and Cool-down: We bring yoga mats to class and use them during our work-out when we are doing exercises on the ground. Then we do a thorough cool-down with stretching. At this point sometimes the little ones do get restless, but any baby can survive five minutes of fuss time. I will admit to doing breastfeeding crunches last week, but that was definitely not the norm.
We end with three calming deep breaths. Then, our final stretch is always a "Smile :)"
Playgroup: Many of the classes have a playgroup that follows where the kids will do a craft or activity together. It gives the moms a great chance to chat and some great socialization for the kids. As an introvert with a mild case of social anxiety, I have always been pretty shy and uncomfortable with moms' groups and play-dates in other situations. I think because we are all united by a common purpose of getting fit and being active, it makes the socialization aspect much more natural.
I hope this overview has made any nervous moms out there feel more comfortable about trying a stroller strides class. Fit4Mom does offer other classes, but I haven't been able to try them yet. Fit4Mom Montgomery County offers Body Back (moms without their kids in the early mornings or evenings), Fit4Baby (for pregnant moms), and a Running Club.
Find a Fit4Mom franchise near you! Try out a Stroller Strides class as soon as possible. You will absolutely not regret it.
All photos used with permission from Fit4Mom Montgomery County.