(Just in case you missed it, here is How a Band Geek Became a Fitness Nerd: My FIT4MOM Story-Part 1.)
I remember that first visit like it was yesterday. I was so nervous but so hopeful. I recall Marissa coming up to introduce herself to me and saying hi to six month old Eli (now four and a half!) who was in his car seat with the harness strap covers with bears on them. I remember the stay at home dad who came, not realizing it would be ALL women (perhaps there’s a market for FIT4DAD?). I loved that Stroller Strides combined community with developing a fit and healthy lifestyle. It connected everyone in attendance with not just a common role in life--Mom--but with a common goal--to take care of ourselves and our well-being. The combination of the two was the golden ticket for me---had it been one or the other, I’m not sure if I would have been inclined to check it out.
I was so excited for Jake to come home from work so that I could tell him about the class and he immediately could tell it was something that was a good fit for me. We have always lived on one (teacher) income so there’s always been a need to pick our “splurges” wisely. To me, a Stroller Strides membership was a splurge and while I felt like I had found something awesome, I also wasn’t sure if it was something I should add into our expenses. But my dear wonderful husband said, “I think you should do it. We’ll make it work. It makes you happy and that is really important.” What a guy. I really can’t say enough about the tremendous amount of support and encouragement I have always received from him. That day began the retreat of my feelings of loneliness in this motherhood journey. There have certainly still been moments of frustration and defeat and even helplessness (specifically during the weeks following the birth of my second child, who suffered from reflux, but that’s a story for another day) but those deep feelings of loneliness that I experienced during Eli’s first six months have not returned.
I have contemplated many times about what makes FIT4MOM so special and have reached many conclusions. This organization does a wonderful job of meeting mothers wherever they happen to be in life, in parenting, and in their fitness journey. Thanks to taking the Zumba classes for a couple months (and some extra pregnancy pounds), I was experiencing a new desire to pursue a more active lifestyle but I had no idea what to do or where to begin. I was also relatively new to this whole mom and stay at home mom business and I was in search of activities that encouraged, or at the very least, made it possible for me to bring my baby with me. The classes are beneficial to all levels of fitness and I greatly appreciated that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or out of my element at the first classes I attended. The workouts were definitely challenging but not something I felt like I couldn’t participate in. Most importantly, I was in need of a group of moms to encourage and support me during this stage of my life. Stroller Strides really did seem like a perfect fit. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that something like this program even existed! I love that the breadth of this program goes beyond class time---there are always activities happening for moms and children together or just the moms and, thanks to social media, you are never far from receiving advice or encouragement.
Since that first class four years ago, I have developed a true appreciation for taking the time to care for myself. There is so much power in consistency and I have seen this ring true over and over again. Attending class is not always easy. Children can be cranky. It might be raining or cold. Maybe I’m just flat out tired because being a parent is tiring. Maybe my garage door opener is broken. (True story. I was trying to leave for class and my garage door wouldn’t open. Have no fear! I used YouTube to figure out how to use the emergency release so I could manually open it. My oldest son thought I was absolutely awesome and still talks about it. It’s the little things that make us feels like heroes, yes?) I think that what has pushed me to get to class on a regular basis for the last four years is that I know how much better I feel about myself after a workout. Just getting out of the house makes me feel better but devoting an hour to something that takes care of ME has an incredible impact on my emotional state.
Last fall I participated in the FIT4MOM Body Back program and that really kicked my adoration of fitness into high gear. I will say this repeatedly but what I love about FIT4MOM is the desire to care for both physical and emotional well-being. Rather than making excuses or just accepting that how things were was simply how they were going to always be, I grabbed onto that experience and took full advantage of it. I remember the first time since having kids that I looked in the mirror, SMILED, and thought, “Wow! I look beautiful!” Now, I’m not trying to sell vanity or that there’s a certain shape/weight you need to be in order to feel beautiful. For me, that moment was finally defeating the battle of “I can’t” and being able to say “I can and I did”. I never would have reached that placed had it not been for Stroller Strides getting me into shape and then Body Back pushing me beyond what I thought my limits were. Stroller Strides (and the occasional Body Back workouts) has continued to help me maintain what I achieved over the last four years and what I worked so hard for during Body Back.
FIT4MOM regularly discusses the concept of our “why”--why does FIT4MOM exist, why do members attend class, why do we do what we do. Some of my “why” has evolved over the years but for the most part, it is the same as it was four years ago.
--I believe we were all created for community and to love and encourage others. Being part of a community of moms has created an important support system for me and for my boys.
--While I wanted both the community and fitness aspects of Stroller Strides, I was drawn in by my need for community. Now I believe that I need both aspects much more equally than when I first joined. I still need the support from other moms and I need to workout since it has become such an essential part of how I care for myself as an individual. I love the energy, encouragement, and motivation that occurs during group workouts and it’s always awesome to be with those who are working towards a common goal.
-I acknowledge and recognize that I am worth the time and effort it takes to care for myself. It’s so easy as moms to take care of everyone else’s needs and neglect our own needs. I want my sons to see that taking care of yourself is very important and that I always made it a priority. I want them to see that I pushed beyond the comfortable and convenient so that I could be a better mom, wife, and friend. The confidence that I have gained from being in shape is absolutely priceless. I’m proud of who am I, what I look like, and what I have achieved. I hope you know that my words come from a genuine appreciation for what I have seen happen over the course of my time with FIT4MOM and that I’m not trying to be some sort of motivational speaker. Although if FIT4MOM offered me a one million dollar speaking circuit, I might consider it...if I can bring my family. And pay for nothing. And meet Lisa Druxman.
Phew! So that’s my story. I think that’s all of it, at least. I’m sure as soon as I publish this, I will think of something else I wanted to say. I suppose if there’s anything I want you to take away from my FIT4MOM story, it’s that I never imagined that after going to that one Stroller Strides class four years ago, I would be where I am today. It didn’t happen overnight and I’m not done yet. Motherhood and fitness are journeys that never end---they change and shift but are always ongoing. I have made the conscious effort to embrace the power of consistency, even if that has sometimes meant working out with a screaming child in my stroller. It’s not always easy. I’ve sometimes “missed” some chances to “train in the rain”. Kids get sick. Moms get sick. Schedules get busy. But I made it happen and I wholeheartedly believe that you can make it happen for you, too. In the words of the great Christopher Robin to the wonderful Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Thank you for reading my story! If you find learning about me to be so incredibly interesting and want to read more about the Body Back chapter of my FIT4MOM story, I’ll post the links below for the weekly blog I wrote during the session I did last fall.
Until next time!