Please Note: My opinions about Fit4Mom classes are entirely my own. I was not financially compensated by Fit4Mom, but given the opportunity to attend a handful of classes to allow me to form my opinions. Photos are courtesy of Glean & Co
Last month I posted about attending a Stroller Strides class at the Fit4Mom Open House and what a great time I had. My work and childcare schedule means joining Fit4Mom isn’t an option for me, but I really wish I had thought to join when we first moved to Boise and Smalls was still a baby. I remember hearing about Stroller Strides, wanting to find time for fitness even as a mom with a newborn, but something put me off. Maybe I was intimidated by the idea of exercising again. I put on over 60lbs when I was pregnant with Smalls; we moved cross-country and lived in three different places in Boise before we settled in our current house just four nights before I went into labor. Exercise was so far from the top of my to-do list when pregnant that I was horribly out of shape after I gave birth. I got back into exercising, slowly, using running alone as my solitude and break from caring for my boys in a new city with few friends and no family. Now I’ve seen how Fit4Mom works, I wish I had just made the jump, gritted my teeth at the uncomfortableness of putting myself out there, and gone to some classes anyway.
These last few weeks I’ve attended three different types of classes and met moms at all stages of their fitness journey. Some are still post-partum, keen to get their fitness back to where it once was. Some have babies or young toddlers, have never managed to get back into exercising, and only now are finding the time and motivation to do it. Some are healthy and fit and have been attending classes for years; their kids know each other and are comfortable in their strollers and know what to do in class. Some clearly didn’t sleep much the night before and attend more for the emotional support and an opportunity to see other adults and have their kids entertained for a while. I love that all these different stories are embraced and accepted in the ‘circle’. The instructor makes it clear at the beginning that this is ‘your journey’ and only you can decide what you need from it. What other moms opposite you or near you are doing does not matter. No comparisons.
There are morning classes every weekday which start at 9.30 am, although the instructors check in on the very active Facebook page and so have a good idea who is coming, and will wait to start class if they think someone will be along soon. Moms know more than most that if you’re trying to get somewhere for a set time, life (or a toddler) will throw something in your way, figuratively and literally, as you try to get out the door. The classes run for an hour, and so somewhere between 10.30 and 11, the class is done. Conveniently, they are held right next to the playpark, and many moms will hang around for a while and let the kids burn off some energy. The kids get to play and make friends, and the moms get to chat and make connections too. I heard moms chat about their exercise goals and fitness levels, but also book recommendations and what was on TV last night. And, look at that, it’s almost lunchtime! This is a great way to pass a morning if you’re a mom who looks at the calendar and is terrified of a blank space. Red, especially, thrives on time socializing and being out of the house, and this is just the kind of thing he would have loved when he was a toddler.
What about the kids?
They have to be in their strollers, or in a carrier. As it’s summer vacation right now, some moms had school-aged kids with them, and they are allowed to hang out (not in strollers, obviously). You have to check in with Summer, the owner and one of the instructors, and sign a specific waiver if you want to bring older kids, but that’s easy enough. The kids sat and read books or checked out tablets together. During the parts we ran or walked around the park, they followed us, either running or on scooters.
For the younger kids who are in strollers, I was pleasantly surprised by how all of them, and particularly Smalls, tolerated sitting for an hour. I took a lot of snacks, as did most others. Moms were offering and trading snacks at times, I’m pretty sure between us we could feed a small army of toddlers, at least until lunchtime, and so I don’t think any kid would have gone hungry if someone had forgotten. We moved venues in the park twice during the workout, and that provided a nice change of scene. Smalls loves going fast in the stroller when I run, so he whooped along as I puffed my way around the park paths. Most moms chose to walk, and took a more direct route to the next destination, so we were all ready to start working out again at the same time. That meant there were lots of kids and moms to watch from the comfort of the stroller, all doing slightly different things. At times we would circle the strollers and the kids would all face each other with us behind, sometimes we’d have them facing out to watch us as we formed a moving ring around them. Most kids were caught up by ipads, phones, or snacks, some were happy to watch the moms dancing around them. We sang Itsy Bitsy Spider while doing rounds of squats, shook our sillies out while singing and resting between hard moves. It made it fun and silly for the moms and the kids.
The one downside is that the kids don’t get any activity during class. When I think of how I exercise with my kids, however, they are either doing something else while I follow an exercise video, or Smalls sits in the stroller while I run, so it’s not so very different. I liked that the kids had an easy opportunity to run around after class. The moms looked tired and happy, they had done something for themselves, met with friends, and passed a morning. I’m guessing it was a win for everyone. As both my kids are getting older, I want to be active with them, and these classes certainly don’t encourage the kids to be active during class. But there are playgroups, opportunities to play after, and a chance to connect with other moms who like to be active and outdoors, and therefore many do want to encourage their kids to do the same outside class times. If you’re okay with letting your kids snack and have screentime while you exercise, knowing you’ll be active with them later, then these classes are a great choice.
Exercise, and be social
One of the things I really liked about Fit4Mom, that I hadn’t anticipated, was being a member of the private Facebook group. It was an active, supportive group with moms posting looking to borrow strollers or asking who would be at an event, but also looking for parenting advice or even moral support on a hard day. One of the biggest reasons I always look for a mom group when I move towns is to get that support, and I think it’s vital for moms in this world where we often don’t have family close by to help. The peculiar mix of online and offline interaction and support is something that I think defines motherhood for us in the trenches with young kids at the moment. Sometimes it’s easier to be vulnerable and open up about things we’re struggling with through the interface of a phone. When that’s paired with those reading it being moms you know and meet on a regular basis, who can check in with you the next time you’re at class, or who get back in touch if they notice you haven’t been working out recently, it really takes that support to the next level. This kind of support and interaction is not exclusive to Fit4Mom; I have it in a variety of other FB mom groups I’m in with other local moms, each one having a slightly different focus. In Fit4Mom, it is an important part of the community, however. Their focus is on you as a mom getting fit, and so all these moms have that one thing in common. From there, the support in the group bursts out in all life directions that is glorious to watch.
More than just support
One of the instructors posted a picture of her niece in the private Facebook group one morning. She told us that her sister had just attended her first Stroller Strides, in a different state, with her 2-month-old. Her sister had been feeling isolated and was struggling with moving into her role as a mother, and had received all the love and support she had hoped for when she attended her first class. Floods of comments followed on this post, with moms in the group reminiscing about their first class and tagging the instructor they had that day, confirming how much it meant to find their mom friends, find solidarity, and find a way out from the isolation.
To me, this is what a group like Fit4Mom is really for; any of us can exercise at home, or run with strollers. The motivation to attend classes, plus the support of other moms who likely know some, if not most, of your struggles, plus a place to find your way into a new role as a mom, these are things you just can’t get at home in front of an exercise video. There’s no doubt that membership isn’t cheap, but if you’re the kind of person who needs that external motivation (I know I do!) then the membership costs may be justified.
You don’t need to bring the kids!
I mostly went to Stroller Strides or Stroller Barre with Smalls in tow in the stroller, but I also attended a Body Back session one evening. These classes are minus kids, and are either held in the early evening, or during the day but with a daycare option (that you pay for) available. There are also Fit4Baby classes available for pregnant moms (I wish I had attended some of these when pregnant with Smalls!), and Run Club for those moms looking to try something different, or to run with supportive women.
If you are interested in attending any of the Fit4 Mom classes, I would encourage you to get in touch with Summer and try a free class. And for one lucky winner, Summer is giving away one month of free classes; you pick either Stroller Strides/Barre or Body Back (Boost).
If you would like to enter the giveaway, please follow this blog (if you are not doing so already!), and comment on this post with the ages of your kids and which Fit4Mom class you would pick and why! I will pick a winner at random on July 6. Contest open to those who can physically attend the Boise Fit4Mom locations.