By Emily Harrington
With my first son, I went to every library, every open gym, every indoor playground. And on each and every occasion, I got in and got out. For better or worse, I was there to hang out with my kid, keep active and not go crazy being cooped up with a human that can’t talk back. I wasn’t ever there to make friends. That was always my approach.
My mom told me about a group of women at Urbana’s Meadowbrook Park. They were working out with kids in tow. I thought this was a mom-child activity I could get behind! I could now combine my dependence on exercise while satisfying the common stay-at-home mom need for adult interaction.
I heart exercise. I love it. Again, I usually like it in a bubble of earbudded solitude. Exercise provides me sanity, and it allows me ice cream and pizza.
Fit4Mom started in California. In fact, I’ve seen it on west coaster Instagram feeds, and I’ve seen it on The Real Housewives of Orange County (this season is so good).
Over a year ago the popular fitness model made its way to our area. It combines cardio and community in an hour-long workout.
In inclement weather the group is notified and they change locations to Market Place Mall. The space allows for a comparable workout indoors. Our area Fit4Mom owner/instructor, Katelynn Clark, mentioned the added benefit of bringing traffic and sales to the local mall.
At 9:30 a.m., on a hot, sunny day, I met the group at Meadowbrook to try the “Stroller Strides” class. A group of five women were chatting and warming up. They meet at the Prairie Pavilion by the playground off Windsor Road. In the shade, the instructor for the day led the group through stretches and warmups.
Each mom had a running stroller with one, or even two, kids strapped in. The kids happily watched their moms run, skip or jump. My son looked at me like I was a nut most of the time. Nevertheless, he was entertained. I had just given my jogging stroller away, so I made due with a regular stroller. This turned out fine actually. The stroller just has to be sturdy as there’s some grass travel. Also, bring sunblock for your crew. And a yoga mat.
The moms were welcoming and chatty. Even as I snapped pictures of them in not the most flattering circumstances, they were game.
We traveled to five stops in the park. Some women ran, some briskly walked. At each station some sort of cardio and strength exercises were introduced. Bands were handed out to further the strength training. We did pretend jump rope, jumping jacks, even ab exercises while passing a piece of corn around. At the same time, the kids passed a ball to each other. Speaking of corn: Once a month there is a theme day. I missed the celebration of Shark Week, but I happened to be there to commemorate harvest. At one point we had to run to a grocery sack. It had popcorn and candy corn in it! This was a snack for the kids. The treats kept my little one content for the first half of the workout. He’s not used to a stroller, and he wanted out towards the end.
There were also corn pictures on the last station where we started. Here we rotated through a series of different exercises. These included bicep curls and skiers.
They passed a piece of corn to each other to keep the kids engaged.
You can make the overall experience as challenging or as easy as you want. I am in pretty good shape but I never do wall sits. My thighs were sore the next day!
One of the original members of the group said there are about eight to 10 moms who typically participate. She also explained that she hopes to instill a healthy lifestyle in her child. Hopefully, by her daughter watching, she will gain an understanding of the importance of exercise.
The beauty of these classes is that you exercise with your child. You never have to worry about childcare. Plus, you are in nature. Not the sterility of a gym. No mom guilt.
Your kids can see airplanes, deer, caterpillars — and they see their moms having fun and exercising.
In addition to the Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday “Stroller Strides” class, our local Fit4Mom hosts a “Body Back” class at Meadowbrook or the adjacent Clark-Lindsey Village, a “Stroller Barre” class and a run club. Body Back is an eight-week class with high-intensity interval training, nutritional guidance, supplemental online workouts, assessments and support. Stroller Barre is similar to strides. It uses moves inspired by barre, ballet, Pilates and yoga. The run club hosts clinics and run days. The classes are about an hour.
The prenatal class “Fit4Baby” is coming soon. This class is thoughtfully designed to prepare your body for the changes pregnancy brings.
All the classes are safe for expecting moms. Just make sure to double check with your doctor. Same with after you have a baby.
There is an “Our Village” part of the Fit4Mom concept. Anyone can be part of this free piece of Fit4Mom. It includes playdates, nights out and community service. Also, subscribe to their online newsletter. You’ll receive relatable stories, support, exercises and recipes.
At the end of the workout, the women gathered under the pavilion to participate in a corn craft. The kids were offered juice, and they were given all the craft materials. One of the moms even brought birthday treats. She baked! Often the women will end their morning on the playground. This way the kids can stretch their legs.
If you have been feeling like you need to meet some new mom friends, or you feel like you need to start exercising, I can’t think of a better community to join. Get started by checking out their membership options. Memberships are $55/month for stroller-based classes, and you can buy a 10-class pass for $110. You have half a year to use them! Body Back drop-in classes are $12, and the course is $225.
You can try your first stroller-based class for free. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for any info.
For more Prenatal Exercise classes, see our post.
Click here for area gyms or recreation centers that even offer child care.
Looking for prenatal yoga in the Champaign-Urbana area? We have a post for that too.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.