Moth­ers push strollers in their strides for fit­ness

FIT4MOM of­fers work­outs geared for moms and chil­dren

Maryland Independent - - Business - By DARWIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­ Twit­ter: @somd_bized­i­tor

Ever y Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day, a small flock of strollers de­scends on Chan­cel­lor’s Run Re­gional Park in Great Mills, pushed by moth­ers in work­out clothes of­ten singing child­hood fa­vorites.

The women are par­tic­i­pat­ing in Stroller Strides, a fit­ness pro­gram for moth­ers with their chil­dren and is part of FIT4MOM of St. Mar y’s Countr y, a new fit­ness fran­chise in the area.

The hour-long work­out is held at Miedzin­ski Park in Leonard­town on Tues­days and Thurs­days. “Satur­day is ‘Dadur­day,’ you can bring the whole fam­ily, and it’s at Lau­rel [Ridge] Park in Me­chan­icsville,” said Kathy Stod­dard of Lex­ing­ton Park, who is co-owner and a work­out leader.

Ni­cole Ru­maker of Hol­ly­wood bought a FIT4MOM fran­chise ear­lier this year. Stod­dard, who dis­cov­ered the group when she and her Navy hus­band were sta­tioned in San Diego, signed on right away and helped lead work­outs for the 60 moth­ers that showed up at the grand open­ing on April 20. The two have since be­come co-own­ers and have 20 moth­ers signed up now and get at least 10 moth­ers to each of the six classes a week.

“I loved fit­ness. I was al­ways work­ing out,” Ru­maker said. “Af­ter my first [baby], I would still go to the gym at least four times a week, but the gyms have a no-cry pol­icy. If your child’s cr ying, you get called out and you have to leave. It takes a lot of work to get your­self and your chil­dren ready [for the gym] only to leave af­ter 10 min­utes. You start get­ting down on your­self that you can’t work out.”

Ru­maker be­gan search­ing for an al­ter­na­tive and ran across FIT4MOM, which has an ac­tive fran­chise in An­napo­lis.

“I was driv­ing to and from An­napo­lis just to do FIT4MOM,” the St. Mary’s na­tive said. “Af­ter the sec­ond class, I said, ‘I can’t do this any­more. This is rough on my chil­dren, just for me to get a work­out.’ So then I started re­search­ing be­com­ing a fran­chise owner and that’s how I got into it.”

“For her to be open­ing it right when I was mov­ing back here, and I had been do­ing it for a year and a half al­ready, [was a stroke of luck],” Stod­dard said. “I had al­ready been teach­ing classes in San Diego. I loved it. I was happy to come back home be­cause my fam­ily’s here, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave FIT4MOM be­hind.”

Stod­dard was in the Navy when she met her hus­band. She was an aero­g­ra­pher’s mate for four years, ob­serv­ing, col­lect­ing and an­a­lyz­ing me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal and oceano­graphic data. Her last duty sta­tion was in Iraq.

“Get­ting out, hav­ing kids and get­ting mar­ried all hap­pened very quickly there­after,” she said. “I went from work­ing full time, trav­el­ing and do­ing all this stuff to be­ing a mom.”

Both Stod­dard and Ru­maker grew up in St. Mary’s County but grad­u­ated from dif­fer­ent high schools — Chop­ti­con and Great Mills, re­spec­tively — and didn’t know each other un­til cross­ing fit­ness paths.

“It’s a great pro­gram for moms to get out and meet other moms, get healthy and set a healthy ex­am­ple for their chil­dren,” Stod­dard said. “It’s not just the work­outs, we get in­volved in the com­mu­nity. We have play­group ev­ery week for the kids. We have a moms’ night out once a month where we do dif­fer­ent stuff — we did a movie last month, and we’ve done a pot­tery class.”

The Stroller Strides pro­gram in­cludes walk­ing, jog­ging and run­ning — de­pend­ing on the mother’s ca­pa­bil­ity — with their strollers and older chil­dren walk­ing and jog­ging along. The group stops at dif­fer­ent sta­tions to per­form dif­fer­ent ex­er­cises while singing chil­dren’s songs and en­gag­ing their young ones. On Wed­nes­days they have a craft class for the chil­dren af­ter the work­out, which al­lows the moth­ers to talk and get to know each other bet­ter.

Marie Aitkins of Lex­ing­ton Park started with the fit­ness pro­gram at the grand open­ing and has since shrunk her waist and im­proved her health.

“I’ve been in and out of gyms,” Aitkins said, cool­ing down from a work­out in Au­gust. “I’ve tried var­i­ous dif­fer­ent work­out schemes and I just never stuck with it. I have kids that need my at­ten­tion a lot.” She has four boys rang­ing from 16 months to 7 years.

“I, per­son­ally, was try­ing to get in shape be­fore my hus­band’s grad­u­a­tion [from Navy test pi­lot school] in June and needed to lose a cer­tain amount of weight,” Aitkins said. “Ni­cole took the time to send me ex­tra work­outs in the evening and checked in with me. She was very ded­i­cated to help­ing me reach my goal.”

“I’ve lost 13 inches around my waist and 9 per­cent body fat. It’s been life chang­ing for me, for sure,” she added. “I love it. I get re­ally high about it.”

Shan­non Crush of Lusby, who has five chil­dren, has been in the fit­ness pro­gram since day one and is the group’s play­group cap­tain re­spon­si­ble for or­ga­niz­ing the craft projects and lin­ing up field trips.

“We went straw­berry pick­ing [one day],” Crush said. “We ac­tu­ally went straw­berry pick­ing twice be­cause every­one loved it so much.” They’ve also gone to the Ni­co­let Park Spray Ground in Great Mills and the Cove Point Pool in Lusby.

“Some­times it’s nice to just hang out with the moms af­ter class,” she said. “It’s a way of find­ing a com­mu­nity. That’s what I like, it’s a com­mu­nity of moms. And the kids get to play with other kids.”

Ru­maker said one of the main rea­sons for pair­ing up with Stod­dard was the two plan to ex­pand into Calvert County soon, and pos­si­bly into south­ern Charles County. “We’re ex­pand­ing into Calvert [County] and, po­ten­tially, Charles County. Not Wal­dorf, but pos­si­bly Charlotte Hall, La Plata area,” Ru­maker said.

Along with Stroller Strides, FIT4MOM has FIT4BABY — for preg­nant moth­ers — and Body Back, which is for moth­ers look­ing to get back to a youth­ful body and is even open to moth­ers whose chil­dren are grown and out of the house. Ru­maker said she and Stod­dard planned to of­fer FIT4BABY this fall, but weren’t sure when they would be able to of­fer Body Back.

The costs are sim­i­lar to gym mem­ber­ships: three-month com­mit­ment is $55 a month, a trial month is $65 and a 10-punch pass is $110. The three-month mem­ber­ship in­cludes a mem­ber bag, wa­ter bot­tle and head­bands. Mil­i­tary and first re­spon­ders — nurs­ing, po­lice, fire­fight­ers — re­ceive a 10 per­cent dis­count.


At left is Ni­cole Ru­maker of Hol­ly­wood with her chil­dren, Ha­gan, 6 months, Bella, 3, and Zoey, 2, and right is Kathy Stod­dard of Lex­ing­ton Park with her chil­dren, Stella, 4, and Dagny, 19 months. The two are op­er­at­ing a FIT4Mom fran­chise in St. Mary’s County, soon ex­pand­ing to Calvert and pos­si­bly Charles coun­ties.

Above, Moms push their strollers to an­other ac­tiv­ity at a FIT4Moms Stroller Strides class in Au­gust at Chan­cel­lor’s Run Re­gional Park in Great Mills. Be­low, Christina Stover of Great Mills does sit-ups with her 10-month-old daugh­ter, Naomi.

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