Amber McGrath warmed up her Fit4Mom Stroller Barre class by having the 15 attending mothers circle their strollers. Going around the circle, each mom introduced herself and her children, while they marched, stretched, jumped and kicked.
After the warm-up, the moms, with little ones strapped in their strollers, spent the next hour moving around Harris Community Park via the Nolan Creek Hike and Bike Trail for different activity stations of the barre class. As mommies worked out, kids were kept engaged with singing, smiles, tickling, toys and, of course, snacks.
After class, the little ones played together on the playground, while moms oversaw their activities and socialized with each other.
For these mothers and moms-to-be, meeting in the park to workout is more than an exercise program; it’s a community.
Fit4Mom is a national fitness program offering pre and post-natal fitness classes for every stage of motherhood. The Temple chapter was started by McGrath two years ago after she moved to Texas from Arizona.
“When I moved out here, I suffered with post partum depression,” she said. “I was separated from my family and my friends, and I just needed something. So the first thing I looked for was this group, and there wasn’t any out here, other than Austin and Dallas.”
McGrath said she immediately looked into how to start a local Fit4Mom group. She said the program ended up being a lifesaver for her.
“I knew with Fort Hood being so close, and with all the medical moms being so close, everybody has to be kind of going through what I’ve going through,” McGrath said. “So it was just really important to me to get moms connected.”
McGrath expanded the group to include Belton after the first of the year. Instead of meeting at a gym or studio, the classes meet in different parks in Temple and Belton throughout the week. Moms are encouraged to bring their children with them, so they can participate in the classes together.
The kids are kept engaged with bubbles, a giant parachute, tickles and singing whimsical songs.
“The moms hate me when I make them sing because it’s, like, 10 times harder to do your exercise and sing at the same time,” McGrath said.
The classes offered include Stroller Strides, a fast-paced, high-intensity interval training workout; Stroller Barre, a more concentrated workout with strength and toning movements, and Body Back, a moms only, eight-week program designed for moms to focus on themselves.
Aside from the venue, McGrath said what makes Fit4Mom classes unique is the connection the moms have created.
“It is very important that you create a community, because the reason we’re hear is not just to get fit physically, it’s to get fit mentally… you are a completely different person when you have a child, and you’re kind of identity-less,” she said “You’re basically just a mom and a wife, and this actually helps you to see your true potential and see that you have more to offer.”
McGrath said many of her students have gained more confidence since joining the community. She said it gives them confidence to be more than “just a mom.”
The Fit4Mom Temple/Belton community has about 40 mommy members. McGrath said it’s important for new moms to find a community who understands what they’re going through.
“I couldn’t imagine going through this life without having so many women who are going through the same thing that I’m dealing with,” she said. “So just find that tribe, and stick with them, and become a part of them and help them as much as they help you.”
Hannah Weekley has been part of the Fit4Mom tribe since August 2016. Weekley said she has benefited from the community in unmeasureable ways.
“Mentally, it has been such a lifeline to know that other moms are experiencing what you’re experiencing in your darkest days, and then just having a community to bounce ideas off of, and just feel supported in this crazy thing… and to have help and other ideas and just feel like someone else is experiencing it with you,” she said.
Weekley said the program has also had a positive impact on her son, Carter.
“That’s one thing I really like, is that we have play dates and we have activities and structure for him, and he gets to interact with other kids and I feel like he has had positive impact in his development, just seeing other kids do things,” she said, “and I think that’s made a really big difference in his abilities.”
Weekley said taking an hour of her time to do something for herself, like exercising, makes her feel more present, and ultimately makes her a better mom.
“It’s been not only a physical life saver, I mean this is honestly the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life, but also mentally,” she said. “That’s one thing that I don’t think is really talked a lot about as a new mom, is just the emotions afterwards, and that’s not something that I was prepared for at all, and this is really what’s helped me the most with that, is doing something for myself one hour a day, and just taking that time, and that’s really what it all comes down to for me. It just makes me happier.”
These moms are also setting an example for their children, who get to experience exercise in a positive environment.
Stacy Huffines has been bringing her daughter to classes for more than a year and a half, and now she’s expecting a second child.
“It’s great for me, but it’s also been great for my daughter,” she said. “She has all her friends here, and she gets to watch me work out and sees that it’s a positive thing and not a negative thing. It’s not about negative body image; it’s about keeping yourself healthy. So I love that she associates exercise with a positive thing.”
Huffines said the Fit4Mom classes are a great way for moms to incorporate having their kids with them while they do something for themselves, since moms have very little free time.
“I love it,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do without it. I think it’s wonderful.”