Stroller Strides exercise classes mix patty-cakes and pushups
By Tiffany Walton
What do you get when you add strollers, songs, babies and bubbles to your fitness regimen? Perhaps what could literally be called the mother of all workouts.
It’s close to 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, and Playa Vista Sports Park is teeming with activity. Like usual, young children scurry about screaming with joy and laughter as they climb the playground equipment. But something else is happening.
On the basketball court, a woman standing next to a stroller with a baby inside instructs another woman standing next to a stroller, also with a baby inside, to do squats. A Beyoncé song floats out of the instructor’s stroller.
After the squats are completed, next are instructions for the student to run around the basketball court. While she is off running, the instructor places her attention on the babies.
When the student returns, the instructor leads a patty-cake exercise to entertain the babies as well as a soundtrack, if you will, for the student to do her pushups.
Five days a week, mothers gather at the park for hour-long fitness classes like these. They powerwalk and do strength and toning exercises — all while interacting with their little ones, lovingly strapped in strollers, through songs and activities.
Stroller Strides is the name of this unique mother-child class, which fits under the umbrella of the national company Fit4Mom, which tailors fitness classes for all levels of motherhood.
“On my first day of coming to Stroller Strides, I got to the class and all of these moms just surrounded me and told me how important it is to get out of the house. This is a good routine to get into because it’s lonely being at home as a mom,” says Jennifer Bauer, owner of Fit4Mom Westside.
Bauer, who is also currently one of the weekly fitness instructors, started coming to Stroller Strides in 2011 when her first-born son was just 11 weeks old.
“To be surrounded by a group of like-minded moms while you’re working out and also having your babies with you, I got both camaraderie and lessons at the same time,” she says.
The instructor today is Shuryn Barnes, who is accompanied by her 18-month-old daughter Aven. Barnes and her students have now moved beyond the basketball court to the next fitness station, a more tree-laden area. Music by Rihanna now plays from her daughter’s stroller, as she directs students to do Tabata drills, which are high-intensity movements for short intervals.
Barnes exemplifies the balancing act that Stroller Strides instructors play.
“I go to the station and demo whatever workouts we’re doing, and when the moms start those I do something for the kids, like bubbles or singing,” says Barnes.
Because the class takes place in a park, it uses the environment to create each fitness station, incorporating a combination of strength and cardio. Military presses, for example, are performed using bands against a tree. The exercises focus on the larger muscles groups that moms use, and the ultimate goal of each class is to have worked the entire body.
“You’re not doing everything in perfect alignment throughout the course of having a baby. So we design exercises taking that into account and making sure that, as a mom, you are strengthening the muscles that come into play the most. Because you might be doing something like this …” says Bauer, demonstrating an awkward backwards movement, “… when you wouldn’t be doing that for any other reason except to hold a kid down and pick up a Cheerio off the floor,” she says laughing.
Student Kate Ward, a triathlete, first found Stroller Strides after her boss recommended it to her. Initially she laughed the idea off, but five weeks after her first child was born she was desperate to find her mom-tribe. She found it, albeit, a week too early. When Ward showed up for her first class, Bauer told her she had to be at least six weeks postpartum (and have a doctor’s note) to participate. Ward left in tears, but not before Bauer gave her a card for a free week of classes. She came back the following week.
“I was hooked,” says Ward. “It’s more than just meeting for an exercise class. It’s really a community. It’s one of those things I recommend whenever I see a pregnant mom or someone in Playa Vista who’s shuffling along in a haze with a brand new baby. I talk about it with all of the moms that I meet because for me it was vital to have that connection.”
For more information, call (703) 477-5999 or visit westside.fit4mom.com.