Mothers push strollers in their strides for fitness
FIT4MOM offers workouts geared for moms and children
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.