How to Start Your Own Moms’ Walking Group — and What To Do While You’re Out

So, let me guess:  you have young kids and the springtime weather is inspiring you to get out and reclaim your pre-baby body but you’re not sure how to do it.  Am I close?

I’m cheering for you – and for your whole family!  The good things you do for your health will benefit your kids and spouse, too.  So, step 1 is giving yourself a generous pat on the back for feeling the inspiration to get moving.

One of the easier ways to begin your journey is to join a group that’s already established.  Stroller Strides  has locations in several states, and their M.O. is to walk with stroller-bound kids and do some toning along the way.  Oh Baby Fitness  (my Atlanta-area favorite, hands-down) offers lots of different kinds of classes, including stroller walks plus water aerobics, yoga and more – many of which include babies.  They have the advantage of providing experienced instructors as well, who are specially trained in perinatal fitness.

But what if you don’t have one of these near you – or you can’t get to the class times offered?  You might know my motto – it’s how I founded ClickAClass.com and its parent company:  if you don’t see what you want, make it yourself!  Here are three easy steps to creating your own walking workout for moms and kids (with a bonus sample workout!).

First, gather your team.  Meet them on the playground, at the grocery store or anywhere you frequent.  “How old is yours?” is the new “Come here often?” in this crowd.  Carry “mommy cards” – business cards with just your personal information on them – for when you meet someone and feel enough “click” to exchange information.  If you don’t already know some others, start a Facebook [www.facebook.com] group or a MeetUp  – social media makes it so easy to spread the word and meet real-world people.  (And of course, put your online group information on the mommy cards!)

Next, set up a few walks.  Start with one a week for three weeks.  Aim for 45 minutes on each walk.  I’ve found that’s about the level of commitment that new moms can handle, and veteran moms will be okay with it, too.  Announce it in whatever communication mode you choose.  Start and end at a local park, unless all the participants live very close to each other.  To map out your path, use Map My Run,  which can also help you find other walkers and track your activity.  Another idea is to find a park with a nice paved trail.

Have a plan in place.  If you’re in the city, plan to stop every 3-4 blocks for toning; in parks and more suburban spots, gauge it by your path.  Aim for a toning stop about every 10 minutes or so after a quick warmup.  Your plan will depend on the age of the kids involved.  Very young ones will stay in the stroller, of course, but toddlers and preschoolers will want to get involved!  Consider this another cheer for healthy moms, because kids are always watching and emulating what we do .  If yours wants to hop down and move around, you’re doing something right.

On your toning stops, be sure to include a few exercises each for upper and lower body parts.  Resistance bands are a fun, portable, inexpensive way to use resistance training; you could also use light handweights, but you don’t necessarily need any equipment.  Follow the childrens’ lead sometimes – watch how they move around and try to imitate them.  They love it, and it’s a much harder full-body workout than you’d ever imagine!  (A research study once pitted a professional athlete against a 9-month old baby; after about an hour of trying to copy the baby’s every move, the athlete was toast!)

With that in mind, here’s a sample workout for the hopping-down crowd – kiddos can get down and copy Mommy at each toning stop:

Minutes                     Activity

0-5                              Brisk walking warmup

5-10                            Light dynamic stretching:  arm swings (open wide and cross over chest), torso rotations (feet planted, swing arms to left side, then right; alternate and repeat), jumping jacks, high-knee marches/runs alternating front kicks (kick left leg straight out front, reaching to it with right hand; alternate and repeat).

10-20                          Fast walking – just short of a run.  Focus on keeping abs tight and hips tucked under.

20-25                          Upper body:  wall or bench pushups, kiss-lifts (mom holds child by armpits with mom’s elbows glued to her sides, lifting child slowly in a bicep curl for a little kiss)

25-35                          Brisk walking and isometric toning:  grip stroller handles on the sides, with palms facing each other and pull outward while still walking forward.  Hold for a count of 10, release for 10 and repeat twice.  Then place hands with right palm up and left down; pull up with right while resisting with left (the stroller wheels stay on the ground, moving forward).  Hold 10, release 10 and repeat; switch sides.

35-40                          Lower body:  chair squats (feet hip-width apart, push hips back as if to sit; arms reach high overhead).  Do 15 at a moderate pace, then 5 that are held for 10 counts each.  Then try frog jumps (keeping chest up, bend knees to touch fingertips to the ground; leap up, reaching for the sky and jumping as high as possible; land in starting position and repeat 10 times).  If frog jumps are too much, simply jump from the chair position instead.

40-45                          Moderate walk 2-3 minutes, 2-3 minutes repeating easy version of warmup exercises.

 

That’s it!  Now you have the initial tools to start your own group of family fitness enthusiasts, and there’s no better time to do it than now.

Note:  as with any new exercise routine, participants (especially pregnant and postpartum) should get a doctor’s clearance first. Women who’ve given birth in the last 6 weeks or who are pregnant should avoid twisting motions of the torso and certain other strenuous movements.

 

 

 

Article first appeared at www.myfamilyexercise.com.

Copyright 2012, Jessica Covington and FIT-ology Wellness.  All rights reserved, use with permission only.

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