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It's time for a revival, everybody. A revival of an oldie but a goodie--one of my favorite features from the past. Oh, the suspense, right?? We're bringing back....Meet Our Village Monday! *praise hands* *fist bump* *applause* (Yes, I did just type that out. You laughed. Admit it.)

Many of you may be thinking, "What is Meet Our Village Monday and why are you so excited?" Meet Our Village Monday is a blog series that features all of YOU. We started it a couple years ago as #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) and then it morphed into Meet Our Village Monday. It has been a fun way to get to know a bit more about the wonderful ladies in our group and I'm excited to start it back up again!

Today we're excited to be featuring the fantastic Sarah Padlo! Enjoy learning more about her today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

Since last fall

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, Stroller Barre, BodyBack)?

Mostly Stroller Strides but I have made it to a few barre...

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Goodness. It's already been one whole month since I wrote about the looming event of my oldest heading off to kindergarten (which, not to gloss over it, but it went great! He did fine and I was sad but I DIDN'T CRY. WHAT? Obviously I must have been all out of tears).

Let me tell you. People, I am tired. Holy cow. This whole every day school thing is A LOT....and I'm not even the one going to school! Well, I take that back. I go to school twice each day...every morning for drop off and four hours later for pick up. I didn't really think that that routine would feel like so much to me but it surprisingly does! I mean, we were three days into the school year and I was already over it. The idea of homeschooling my children never looked so good. (1. No. Nope. Homeschooling just isn't my God-given gift. 2. My son goes to a private school where busing is an option for a fee that I'm just not willing to pay.)

I'm missing having days with no obligations. You know, those days where I could do that or I could do this but I don't have to do...

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It's two days away--the day that, if I'm being honest, I have dreaded since the day he was born. The day always seemed so far away. "I'm so glad that I have such a long time until then," I would think. Well...it's here. Once I realized how quickly the years were actually going, I tried so hard to slow down time. The day has arrived anyway. Yes, it's true. My oldest son starts kindergarten on Monday. There's an ache in my chest, in my heart, in my head that just won't go away. I told my husband last night that my greatest fear is that I didn't soak in enough moments during the last five, almost six, years of my boy being home with me. My husband's response? "No matter what, I don't think you will ever feel like you had enough time with him. It goes by so quickly, whether we like it or not."

He's right. It's never enough time. There are never enough slow mornings. There are never enough hugs. There are never enough eating cookies together while little brother naps. There are never enough adventures. There are never enough moments knowing that he loves me...

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There's something to be said about simplicity, isn't there? Slower, less demand, fewer moving pieces--I've found that it is something I greatly desire for my life and my family life. Too many activities and commitments=higher stress & less enjoyment for me. I keep a Google Calendar (What did I do before Google Calendar???? How did I keep my life organized???) and last year, I started to also post a weekly calendar in our kitchen where everyone could see what the week ahead looked like. Some people love have a busy schedule and something planned every day of the week. Me? I need at least two days each week with nothing major/social planned.

I haven't always lived life this way. It might surprise some of you to hear that I was quite the social butterfly in high school. Yes! Me! But then college came along and my first two years (and parts of year three) had some experiences and relationships that deeply damaged my feelings of self worth, my confidence, and my ability to fully open up to people. Let me tell you---it takes a while to come back from that. Those...

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I love reading blogs---thank goodness because writing a blog when I don't like reading blogs would be kind of weird... I love writing. I love words. I love how simply reading words, not even hearing their voice or seeing their face, but how reading their words can bring forth such emotion. I've felt annoyed, angry, excited, happy, but mostly encouraged by blogs. Part of that is of course my own doing because I don't especially want to return to a blog that brings about negative emotions. I loved blogs before having kids but when I became a mom, reading blogs during late night feedings was so encouraging to me. I've been following many blogs for years and after awhile, I was reading so many blogs that I finally broke down and started using a blog reader. Well...I just Googled it and it's technical name is "news aggregator". But....blog reader is just easier to type... Anyway, I used Google Reader for lots of years and much to my dismay, Google shut it down and now I use a site called Feedly to keep track of the almost fifty blogs that I follow. Yes, you read that...

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----This was one of the first things that I read this morning on Instagram and I have been thinking about it all day. While I considered simply reposting it (I post a lot of the FIT4MOM Grand Rapids Instagram content), it's a bit lengthier than usual Instagram posts and I was worried that people would simply scroll on by and not soak in all of the words. Not that more people will read it by me posting it on the blog but...maybe? :-) It just hit me as something very applicable to our community that we have within FIT4MOM Grand Rapids and, honestly, the community that we have or should have as mothers and as women.----

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Oh goodness, everyone. It's been awhile, huh? The sad thing is I don't have a good excuse for not writing. Well, this post kind of discusses my "excuses" but, in short, I'm just thankful Marissa trusts that I will eventually post another blog at some point. :-D

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You know the phrase, "Waiting for the other shoe to drop"?? Have you ever found yourself at that point? If you haven't, I'm not going to lie, I'm kind of jealous of you.... :-) April and May fell into that "waiting for the next bad thing to happen" category. Honestly, the issues that we dealt with are not that huge in the grand scheme of life and they are problems that many would rather put up with than their current situation. I completely acknowledge that and sometimes that fact makes it challenging for me to share struggles with others. I don't want to be a complainer. I don't want to make a big deal out of a situation that will rectify itself in a relatively short amount of time. But, at the same time, I'm trying harder...

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I was extremely fortunate enough last week to need to have a crown placed on one of my teeth (and a cavity filled, too). Have you ever had a dental crown appointment? Can't remember how long ago exactly but eight to ten years ago I had to get a root canal & crown done on a tooth that had impact trauma from a childhood fall onto cement. I've had fairly good luck with pain management for dental procedures so I didn't find either procedure to be painful but do remember it taking a very very long time. So, going into the appointment last week, I was prepared for periods of waiting for medicine to set in, cement to cure, etc. In my continued quest to read more books this year, I brought along the current book I was reading--"Chasing Slow" by Erin Loechner (HIGHLY recommend, by the way!). Apparently not many people bring books with them to dentist appointments (imagine that...) so this led to some conversations with the dentist and his assistants about books, topics I enjoyed, blogging (Erin Loechner has been blogging for over a decade). Well, to say "conversations" is being a...

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I try my best to not let my extreme sentimentality make me sad but some days, it's just too much to handle. When my oldest son was two, I remember thinking, "Thank goodness he'll be almost six when he starts kindergarten. I still have four more years with him at home with me." My head and my heart feel like I was just thinking those thoughts yesterday, yet here I am---less than five months from sending him off to kindergarten every day.

I am definitely thankful that 1) we were able to find a school that still offers half day kindergarten and 2) we have been slowly progressing towards him being gone every morning. He did two morning preschool last year and is in three morning preschool this year. I have learned that this progression is possibly just as necessary for me as it is for him. Still...it's hard to imagine only having weekend mornings with him starting next year. I love slow mornings. I love enjoying the morning light and not having to be on a strict schedule every day. Simply put: I love being with him.

I know. I know. I'll still have summer breaks...

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"You should have done more with your kids today." "The TV is on way too much." "Your kids are growing fast! How dare you get annoyed at them!" "Don't you love your children? Why would you be excited for them to go to bed?" "You definitely eat too many Cheetos. Don't you know that you should be eating organic kale instead?" "You're not keeping up with your reading for your book group." "Why aren't you working out more?"

Welcome, my friends, to some of the words of my Inner Critic. We all have one--as a human being, as a women, as a mother. On the sunshiny, smooth-sailing days, Inner Critic's voice tends to be silent or at least incredibly faint. But those other days? Inner Critic has lots of opinions to share and sometimes it just takes so much effort to silence that ridiculous voice within. Where do these thoughts come from? Is there any truth to these opinions? How do I silence Inner Critic or, at the very least, how do I learn to ignore Inner Critic?

Honestly?

I don't have a solid answer for you. I feel like I squash some guilty feeling and...

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Ah, Michigan in the spring. Sunshine and flowers---yay! Rain/snow and drastically fluctuating temperatures---not as exciting. I’m approaching my five year anniversary with FIT4MOM Grand Rapids (crazy!) and I’m told that this fact makes me a “veteran” mom. Well, I’ll be the first to tell you that I still have a lot to learn in the realm of parenting BUT I certainly have plenty of experience dealing with the seasonal changes with FIT4MOM classes. Can you believe that there are FIT4MOM classes in geographical locations that allow them to have classes outside all year long?? But, alas, we live in Michigan. Temperamental Michigan… So, as a *AHEM* veteran mom, I thought I’d share what I have learned about outdoor classes during sometimes less than favorable conditions.

1. The instructors do an amazing job adjusting classes and workouts to fit the current weather conditions. If it’s raining, we have stayed under the pavilion for an entire class. The workouts are still amazing, you still work up a great sweat (yes, that’s sweat, not rain), and you and your little ones stay dry. If...

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My parents were, and continue to be, amazing parents. Thinking back on my childhood, it's difficult to put into one simple phrase what my parents did well as they raised my older siblings and me. I am overwhelmingly grateful for them and I have tried to figure out how to replicate their parenting tactics. Of course, my sassy teen and early college self may not have always acknowledged what a great job they were doing and I am sure they haven't spent the last thirty-seven years of parenthood pumping their fists in the air, shouting, "YES! We are doing this perfectly!!!"

Were my parents perfect?

Of course not. No human being is.

But did they fully commit themselves to being the best parents they could be, even when I know it was incredibly hard and challenging?

Absolutely.

So, Mom & Dad, here are just a few things that come to mind that I will always be thankful for.

Thank you....for never missing one of my marching band performances (or ANY of my musical performances from fifth grade through twelfth grade). You had no interest in...

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[My apologies in advance for this post being a bit longer than usual. I attempted to break it into two parts but, in the end, I think it’s best to read this story as one lengthy post.]

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My dear second child,

You are amazing. The enthusiasm and joy you bring to our family is incredible. You have already taught us so much during these last few years and I cannot imagine our family feeling complete without you. I love you in the morning and in the afternoon. I love you in the evening and underneath the moon. You are so loved and wanted and cherished and I am so thankful that God gave you to us.

I love you.

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I wasn't ready for him.

Life was shrouded in a fog for quite some time after his older brother was born. Recovering, physically & mentally, from his birth pushed me into a realm of discomfort and loneliness that I had never experienced. In fact, he was well over a year old before I started to think that maybe I could go through it all again. I'm sure people just rolled...

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I used to own five strollers.

Yes.

Five.

Stroller #1: The Original (basic single, four wheels)

Ah, our first stroller. We asked for this one when we were pregnant with our oldest. It came with an infant car seat & it was affordable, which was ideal since we had some family members so kindly purchase it for us and I wasn't going to ask for something that was crazy expensive. Our first family walks were with this stroller. Our first born's first trip to Reeds Lake involved this stroller. First couple months of Stroller Strides? This stroller made it possible.

Stroller #2: The Old Faithful (single jogger)

This baby was purchased a couple months after I joined Stroller Strides and I learned that jogging strollers are much easier to push around for an hour. Actually, they are just easier to push overall and, almost five years later, I still use this stroller on a regular basis. She's a bit rusty around the tires and has a multitude of scratches on the tray from my two buddies who have sat/sit in...

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Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I hope this day is a great reminder to us all to love ourselves and one another every single day and not just on "Love Day" (Thanks for that phrase, Daniel Tiger...). :-)

Originally I had thought I would do three posts--one post about loving ourselves, one post about loving family & friends, and one post about loving our community. But when I sat down to write the second and third posts, I realized that how we love our family, friends, and community is, or should be, very similar. Some of the details will obviously look different but the foundation is the same: we love people with our actions and our words.

Our Actions

"Actions speak louder than words." That's the phrase, right? Words are overwhelmingly important but it's a fact--we can say whatever we want but if our actions don't match our words, the words lose significance. Loving others through our actions also goes beyond saying we're going to do something and actually doing it. Don't get me wrong. Dependability absolutely plays a major role. Part...

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February=The Month of Love, right? So let's talk about love for a bit and the different ways we love in our lives---loving ourselves, loving our family & friends, and loving our community.

Starting off this discussion: how we love ourselves. It feels appropriate to start here since I'm always talking about self-care, not because I'm the best at taking care at myself but because I see the huge value and benefit in taking of myself.

When I hear someone say that they don't have time for something, especially if it involves taking care of themselves, I'm reminded of a quote I heard a couple of years ago--"Instead of saying, "I don't have time," trying saying, "It's not a priority," and see how that feels." There is so much truth there and it has really convicted me over the years. Something that recently fell into the category of "I've said I don't have time but I really just don't make it a priority" was reading. I used to read all of the time but after having children, I only read a couple books each year. I finally decided to make it a priority this year and,...

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Today we are finishing up our four part Meet Our Programs Mondays with a look at the program that started it all---Stroller Strides! (If you'd like to read the previous posts in this series, click here: Stroller Barre, Fit4Baby, and Body Back.) When I started attending Stroller Strides classes almost five years ago, it was the only class being offered by FIT4MOM Grand Rapids. Actually, the name FIT4MOM didn't even exist yet! A lot has changed over the years! Stroller Strides is what started it all for me and for so many of you, too. It truly is a unique program and I love being part of an organization that focuses on caring for the well being of mothers and their children.

Stroller Strides® is a total fitness program that moms can do WITH their babies. It...

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So... I was going to add links in Monday's post to some of the previous posts I have written about Body Back. But then there ended up being so many good thoughts about the program from instructors & former participants that I didn't want to throw tons of info at you at once. Today, in addition to sharing the links, I thought I would share the two major lessons that I learned during my Body Back session.

-- Food matters. --

I know, I know. Duh, Allison. And I knew this before Body Back but I never did much about it. I wouldn't say that I'm a health nut now AT ALL but I am definitely much more aware of how often and how much I am eating, which was my big downfall before. I used to kind of snack my way through the day and creating a more defined eating schedule made a big difference for me. Making sure I have healthy, filling options for breakfast and lunch has been a big deal, too. I am in full agreement that exercise plays a big role in being healthy/weight loss but an interesting realization for me was this: I attended...

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And here we are---part three of the four part January series featuring the FIT4MOM programs offered here in Grand Rapids! Let's talk about our amazing Body Back program today. I love all of the FIT4MOM programs but, I have to admit, Body Back is near and dear to my heart. The session I participated in was life changing for me and I think everyone needs to try it out sometime!

Body Back® is a results-based high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout designed for moms who want their body back, whether they just had a baby or their last child was born twenty years ago! Most importantly, it will help women unlock their personal possibilities in an inspiring and powerful environment. Body Back® clients experience targeted workouts, inspiration and motivation in every class. (via FIT4MOM corporate)

Our Body Back program operates in eight week sessions with two evening classes per week. Body Back combines the power of effective workouts, learning healthy eating habits, and renewed confidence in oneself to create amazing results. Two of our FIT4MOM instructors are...

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You are a good mother. I am a good mother. We both make decisions that we believe are the best for our situations. Let's remember that and give one another grace and support.

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The decision to breastfeed my children was a no brainer for me when I was preparing to become a mom for the first time. Actually, the decision to breastfeed continued to be a no brainer for me when I was pregnant for the second time, too. It just made sense to me. It's "liquid gold", right? I'm sure you have all heard all of the stats about breast milk before so I won't even go there right now. Plus it is certainly cheaper than buying formula, although nursing pads & nursing bras & breast pumps can definitely add up.

My breastfeeding experience with my oldest was wonderful. I nursed him for 13 months and aside from the usual adjustment period at the beginning (ouch.), there weren't any major problems. He gained weight well, was content, and everyone was happy. So when I was expecting my second baby, I prepared for the same experience. Why wouldn't I?...

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Welcome to Part Two of our four part January feature, Meet Our Programs Monday! Last week we introduced Stroller Barre (check out that feature here) and this week, I'm very excited to be discussing our prenatal program, Fit4Baby! Did you know that out of over two hundred and fifty FIT4MOM franchises, FIT4MOM Grand Rapids is one of only thirty-six franchises that offers Fit4Baby??? Pretty awesome, isn't it? Not all Fit4Baby participants are new to FIT4MOM but for the moms who are not yet participating in Stroller Strides, Fit4Baby is such a great introduction to FIT4MOM and the amazing, supportive community of moms that create this group. Our community is here for you, physically & emotionally, through all stages of motherhood.

Fit4Baby is a prenatal fitness program that teaches women how to exercise safely and effectively throughout their pregnancy. The hour-long Fit4Baby class is interval based, combining elements of strength training, cardiovascular...

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Welcome to the Monday feature for the month of January! For the next four Mondays, we will be highlighting the four programs that FIT4MOM Grand Rapids offers: Stroller Barre, Fit4Baby, Body Back, and, of course, Stroller Strides. With the new year here and the start of a new program, it felt like a good time to offer a deeper look at what amazing options we have for you.

To start off Meet Our Programs Mondays, let's hear it for the new kid on the block: Stroller Barre!

Stroller Barre is the newest program being offered here in Grand Rapids. It's actually so new that when you read this, there will have only been two classes so far! Check out the FIT4MOM Stroller Barre page for a great, short video about this program. This class will be taught by Amanda, who has also taught some Stroller Strides & Fit4Baby classes. Here are some thoughts from her about Stroller Barre.

How Stroller Barre Differs from Stroller Strides:

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Welcome to 2017! The last two weeks were filled with lots of family time, organizing my house, and starting to plan for the year ahead. There are lots of fun things planned for the blog and I'm looking forward to it! Hope you enjoy the upcoming posts, too! :-) So here we go. The first post of the new year!

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I'm not a fan of the phrase, "New Year, New You". Was the "old" me so terrible that I need to reinvent myself every January 1st? I completely agree that the beginning of a new year sparks some extra motivation to create goals and ideas about what one would like to accomplish in the year ahead. But does that mean abandoning who you were on December 31? We all have habits and tendencies and quirks that could use some improvement (or perhaps need to be given up entirely). So perhaps the phrase, "New Year, New Opportunities" is better? Or "New Year, Renewed Motivation"? Or maybe we should just stick with the obvious---"New Year" plain and simple?

While there are great intentions with creating goals and commitments for this new year, it...

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Short but sweet post for you all today! First of all, can you believe that Christmas is only THREE days away? I hope that whatever emotions this holiday season evokes within you, you are able to find love, warmth, and joy from your FIT4MOM Grand Rapids village. We are so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you.

Since we aren't offering Saturday classes during our "inside months", I wanted to extend a little Christmas Eve workout challenge to you all. I am not very good at motivating myself to workout at home but when I have a little fire under my bum (i.e. when I was doing Body Back & public challenges like this), it helps me immensely. I searched "holiday movie workout" and found this one that I'll be doing on Christmas Eve at some point while my boys are watching this movie:

The Grinch movie workout

10 Pushups--each time "The Grinch" song is played

5 Burpees--every time the Grinch steals something

15 Tricep Dips--each time you hear a made up word

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Cold weather is ridiculous.

Snow is ridiculous.

Ice is ridiculous.

Want to know what I think? I think we should hibernate for the cold winter months (those of you in the southern states are not allowed to hibernate). I’m serious. My five year old asked me the other day why there was smoke coming out of all of the cars on the road and why it looked like the football players were smoking. That, my friends, is winter weather. I command that we all stay in the warmth of our pajamas and homes until spring.

Ha! C’mon! Do you really think I’m going to write a blog post, for a fitness organization nonetheless, about NOT working out? Click bait, my friends, because let’s be real---if there’s any time of the year that I would encourage you to exercise, it would be right now. I am right there with you about it being a challenge. The weather can be less than ideal. Kids actually require coats and hats and boots. You have to replace the LuLaRoe leggings with activewear....

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We have been counting down the days until Christmas by giving ourselves a special gift - the gift of a healthy core. As moms, we tend to overlook ourselves, particularly during the holidays. But we want you to take some time to keep yourself healthy and give yourself the strength for motherhood.

Most often when we hear the words “core muscles,” we automatically think of our abdominal muscles. But our core is actually made up of lots of different muscles that run the whole length of our trunk, from our diaphragm at the top to our pelvic floor at the bottom. And all of these muscles are very important to strengthen so we can perform the tasks of motherhood to the best of our ability. Also, during pregnancy and childbirth, the muscles of our core tend to get stretched and weakened which makes it even more important to strengthen them!

Here are 3 tips on how to strengthen through these important core muscles safely and effectively:

  1. Know your body - Many women experience issues after...

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[Ok, obviously I lied. I said at the end of my last post that I would be back on Thursday and seeing as it's Monday, that didn't happen. Sickness is a real thing and it is not so fun. My apologies!]

I love traditions. The excitement and anticipation of something consistent and meaningful is unrivaled. My childhood was filled with traditions---over the top, decorated kitchen on our birthdays, baked chicken, lasagna, or Taco Bell after church on Sundays, singing songs (hymns, Christmas tunes, Disney themes, etc) around the piano while my sister played. I especially remember traditions we had surrounding Christmas---decorating for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving, driving around to see Christmas lights, visiting the Hackley & Hume houses in Muskegon, participating in Christmas activities at church, Christmas Eve with family friends, and Christmas day with extended family. I really am overwhelmingly thankful for the childhood I had. My parents didn’t have high paying careers but I never felt like I was missing out on anything. I always felt like my...

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After seven months of Meet Our Village Monday, we are taking a little hiatus while our stack of questionnaires (and new members!) rebuilds. (There are still some emails & Facebook messages---probably in the 'others' folder---floating around out there, so if you have yet to respond with a completed questionnaire, please feel free to do so. It's never too late!)

In the meantime, I'm working on some new info for the next couple months and hope that you will all continue to tag along and follow the blog. We're working on finding a nice balance between interesting, thoughtful, entertaining, and informative. Hopefully we are already doing those things but a little fine-tuning every so often is never a bad idea!

Speaking of balance, today I attempted to balance recovering from sickness, a child home sick from school, and working on this blog. As you can see by my much later posting, the blog lost and was delegated to "after the kids are in bed". In the end, though, what matters is us and our families, right? I am still striving to meet goals I have for this blog, but...

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So...this post is a bit different from my usual posts, plus it’s a pretty short one. Do you guys read books to your kids? I mean, I certainly hope you read to your children but over the last few months, I realized that my oldest (turned five on November 1) was probably ready for some chapter book reading. He isn’t reading independently yet but, man oh man, he wants to be able to read so badly so as part of that process, I thought introducing more advanced books would be helpful. We just finished up a wonderful, four book series by Kathy-jo Wargin called the Mitt Midwest series. The main characters are two mice, one named Mitt from Michigan and the other named Minn from Minnesota. The chapters are fairly short and there are a few beautiful black and white drawings in each book. I loved that he would beg for me to read “just ONE more chapter” and, a few nights, he asked if he could go to bed early so we would have more time to read. :-) No complaints about that from anyone!

We found all four books at the library and he’s already asking that we read them again. Each...

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Wow! Can you believe it's already the last Meet Our Village Monday of November? I know I say it every month but, goodness, time flies! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and are looking forward to all of the holiday goodness that FIT4MOM Grand Rapids has planned. :-)

Today's Meet Our Village Monday is featuring the wonderful Kelsey Helmus! I love that Kelsey became part of FIT4MOM Grand Rapids via our Fit4Baby program. There aren't too many moms out there that found our group through that program (most have joined via Stroller Strides) and I'm excited to see what happens in the future with Fit4Baby! And, without further ado, enjoy learning more about Kelsey today! :-)

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I've been with FIT4MOM for 10 months.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I started out with Fit4Baby and after Bertie was 8 weeks we started Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family.

My husband's name is Matt and we just...

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Welcome to Thanksgiving week and another installment of Meet Our Village Monday! We have so much to be thankful for and we are absolutely thankful for all of you. Thank you for making FIT4MOM Grand Rapids what it is!

Today I'm excited to be featuring the wonderful Brittney Jewett for this Meet Our Village Monday. Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I've been with this group for 2 months now.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I participate in Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family.

I am married to a United States Marine Corp veteran and we have one son who is almost 7 months as well as two rescue dogs; Dashboard and Harley.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

Stroller Strides is more than a great full body workout. I love the connections I've made with other mommas.

Favorite exercise?

I love to run.

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And we meet again! I don't usually post blog posts back to back (In case you missed it, check out the Random Acts of Kindness challenge post from yesterday), so this feels a bit strange. :-) But introducing you to another fantastic member of our village is certainly anything but strange! Today brings yet another Meet Our Village Monday and this week, we are featuring the wonderful Kristi Krass. Enjoy learning more about Kristi today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

Since the summer of 2016.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family.

My husband, Jeff, and I moved to Grand Rapids in June 2014 after bopping around the country for nearly a decade. Jeff now works for Herman Miller and I work freelance from home for Nike. We had our son, Mayer, in June 2016.

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So it’s been awhile, huh? I mean, I guess I still technically write the Meet Our Village Monday posts but it’s been a bit since I wrote about something else. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been taking my own advice. I have always said, “Don’t wait until you feel like writing because most likely, you will rarely end up writing.” It’s felt like a bit of a slump, which as moms/parents/humans, I think we can all relate to at some point in our lives. Anyway, enough of that. I’m here. You’re here. Let’s see what I have up my sleeves for you today, shall we?

Today is World Kindness Day. Did you know that? I was doing some research about the day and I love that it was created “to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” Kindness, compassion, love, grace… So many positive and hopeful things can come from such (seemingly) simple acts. There is such great power in words but there is even greater power in our actions. How do we SHOW kindness, how do we SHOW compassion, how do we SHOW love,...

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Welcome to November! I don't know about you but OBVIOUSLY the most exciting (?) part about this week is happening today and not tomorrow----Meet Our Village Monday! Today we are featuring the fantastic Anne Stevenson! I actually met Anne back in 2004 when we lived on the same floor in college, so it has been a lot of fun reconnecting with her via FIT4MOM Grand Rapids. Enjoy learning more about Anne today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM and in what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

My first class I tried was Fit4Baby almost exactly 2 years ago when I was in my third trimester pregnant with Jonas! I took some time off after having him and just decided that this fall was a good time to come back to FIT4MOMand try out Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family.

I've been married to my husband Adam for 8 years and we have three kids - our daughter Penelope who is 5.5, our daughter Imojean who is 3.5, and son Jonas who is 1.5.

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November starts tomorrow. Just throwing that out there... Crazy, right? Well, let's enjoy October while we still have it and what better way than to feature yet another fantastic member of our village! Today we are featuring Loren Livingston and I'm excited for everyone to learn more about her. Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I joined FIT4MOM at the end of September.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I participate in Stroller Strides!

Tell us about your family.

I've been married a little over 7 years to my high school sweetheart and best friend, Nick. We have 3 amazing and beautiful little girls, Ella (5.5) Anna (23 months) and Nora (2 months) old. Life is busy!

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

Stroller Strides allows me time with other moms who are in the same season of life. I love that I can bring my girls with me so they can enjoy interaction with other...

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Welcome to our last full week of October! It's been a beautiful month, hasn't it?? Hope you are enjoying Meet Our Village Mondays and enjoying this amazing fall weather! Today I'm excited for you to learn more about the wonderful KC Laskey! Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

Since September 2016

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides for now

Tell us about your family.

My husband, Rob, and I met at Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) We have two fur-kiddos and welcomed our son Eli last October. We moved to the Grand Rapids area in the spring to get out of the Washington DC rat race and to be closer to family. Rob works in data analytics for Spectrum Health and I work remotely part-time for the US Navy in procurement.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

It's one of the very few mom & kiddo activities I've been involved in that is as much for the mom and it is for...

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I'll be honest---I'm starting to not feel so bad about Mondays anymore! I've said it many times but Meet Our Village Mondays are so wonderful and since the addition of classes in Wyoming, it has been such a great way to get to know members that I don't see very often/never see. Thank you all for participating in Meet Our Village Mondays, for putting up with my badgering ;-), and for taking the time to learn more about the other moms in our group.

Speaking of learning more, today we are learning more about the fantastic Katie Crystal! Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I started this summer.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family.

My husband, Alex, and I have been married for 4 years, and we had our 5 month old son, Kyle, this past April.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

That you can bring your baby with you--I wouldn't get a...

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Is it really Monday again? Already? Well, at least that means it's time for another Meet Our Village Monday! This week we are excited to be featuring the wonderful Sarah Harrah. Enjoy learning more about Sarah today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I have been part of this group since May 2016.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides

Tell us about your family.

Mike and I have been married for 6 years. Charley is 10 months old. Lou is a 4 year old loving Golden Retriever.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

The support system it provides and the bond that it provides for mama and baby.

Favorite exercise?

Walking lunges

Favorite food?

Crab cakes and butterscotch budino

What are some things you like to do outside of exercising and being a mom?

I love being at the beach and...

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Hey, you! Yes, you! You delightful person that is reading this blog post! Guess what? You are a wonderful parent and you are doing it right! Don’t you shake your head at me or roll your eyes. I’m totally serious! What’s that? You want to know how I know that? Well, thank you for asking. I’d love to tell you!

We are all parenting the “right” way....whatever that means for our current situation. Sure, I believe that there are some universal “right” ways to doing parenting (i.e. Don’t let your child wander into traffic. Don’t let them eat candy and nothing else. Teach them to be kind, brave, compassionate individuals.) Don’t get me wrong. None of us are perfect parents (because none of us are perfect people) and none of us never make mistakes. We don’t have great days every day. We don’t have bad days every day. Sometimes a day is just a day. Nothing over the top happened---no first steps were taken, no one required a band aid, no one’s day was ruined because big brother got the Paw Patrol plate instead of him, etc. The danger with inventions...

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Welcome to a special edition of of Meet Our Village Monday! Or should I say Meet Our Village/New Instructor Monday! By now I'm guessing that many of you have had the pleasure of meeting the fantastic Amanda Patterson at class and maybe you have even been lucky enough to have her as your instructor. :-) Amanda is currently teaching our Fit4Baby classes, an occasional Stroller Strides class, and will start teaching even more classes in the new year. We are so excited to have her as part of the FIT4MOM Grand Rapids team! Enjoy getting to know more about Amanda today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I started attending Stroller Strides 5 months ago when Jack was 3 months.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I currently participate in Stroller Strides and teach Fit4Baby classes.

Tell us about your family.

My husband Richard and I have been married for almost 3 years. We have a son, Jack, who is 8 months.

...

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LAST Meet Our Village Monday of September! I'm pretty sure I was JUST informing you all that it was the last one of August... Time is flying by. To finish out this month, we're excited to be featuring the wonderful Wendy Sojka! Enjoy learning more about her today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

One year

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I attend Friday Stroller Strides classes.

Tell us about your family.

Our family is my husband Bart, myself, our daughter Sophia, and our dog, Buddy.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

Camaraderie

Favorite exercise?

Running

Favorite food?

Lobster

What are some things you like to do outside of exercising and being a mom?

Traveling

What do you do for work or what did you do before baby?

I am a...

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Let’s see a show of hands from those of you who can remember me talking about self-care on this blog. If you aren’t raising your hand, then you probably have some reading to do. :-) I am all about self-care. The field that my bachelor’s degree is in (social work) has an extremely high turnover rate and because of this turnover rate, my professors were constantly talking about the importance of self-care and challenging us to find ways to care for ourselves. At the time, my husband and I owned a hot tub and my answer for self-care was ALWAYS, “I’m going to go home and sit in my hot tub.” Well, after I became a mom, the hot tub was still an important part of my self-care but Stroller Strides quickly became an even more important part. And I make a point to say “Stroller Strides” and not “working out” because FIT4MOM programs are about so much more than working out. I can work out by myself at home and while I’m thankful that I did something good for my body, it’s still not the same invigorating fulfillment that I feel after a FIT4MOM class.

I'm currently in the midst...

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Not sure about the rest of you, but it's hard to believe we're already two thirds of the way through September! Something I love about doing this weekly feature is that it helps keep our community connected, whether you come to class four times a week, twice each month, or just for play dates and MNO. Today we are excited to feature the awesome Holly Lake! Enjoy getting to know her more!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I have been attending classes through FIT4MOM since January.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I have taken Stroller Strides classes in Phoenix as well as here in Grand Rapids.

Tell us about your family.

I have been married to my partner-in-crime, Ryan, for almost ten years. September 23rd is our anniversary, as well as our daughter's 4th birthday! Adalyn is in preschool but still attends Stroller Strides once a week or so. Ethan, our little man, is 15 months old and is my main jogger stroller...

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Happy Monday! Hope you all enjoyed the beautiful day yesterday and are looking forward to what looks to be a fantastic week! Today we are featuring the amazing Andi Barber and can't wait for you to get to know her more!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

Since about June of this past summer. I attended the Metro Health Stroller Strides kickoff class in May and absolutely loved it. I would have loved to join at that point but the previous week my husband and I had just signed up at the YMCA. Problem was that my daughter could not handle the daycare while I tried to squeeze in a workout. Therefore I joined Stroller Strides after canceling our membership and have never looked back!

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I have done Fit4Baby & Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family.

My husband Shawn & I met almost 10 years ago now and have been married for 6. After a struggle with fertility we were bless with our daughter...

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As far back as I can remember, my life has been on a “school year” schedule. My sister was already in kindergarten when I was born. My mom, a retired teacher, took fifteen years off from teaching to stay home with my siblings and me and went back to teaching full time when I was in third grade. I married my husband while I was still in college (squeezed the traditional four year college degree into six years). For the year in between college graduation and the birth of our oldest son, I was a nanny for a teacher’s family. Did I mention that my husband is a teacher, too?? We make our plans based around school breaks, exams, parent teacher conferences, and professional development days, and now that our oldest is into his second year of preschool, the school year has taken on a whole new layer.

With the school year officially starting this week (although my husband was in his classroom every day for the past two weeks…), there is so much transition happening in my life right now. He’s re-entering the consuming, never ending work of the school...

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It's September! We may not be having class today but that doesn't mean you have to miss out on connecting with our FIT4MOM community. Today we are featuring the awesome Dayna Roede! Enjoy learning more about her today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I have been with FIT4MOM for just over a year.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I have done Stroller Strides and Body Back.

Tell us about your family.

My husband’s name is Kyle and my 14-month old daughter’s name is Samantha. We call her Sam Bam. The picture below is of us hiking in the Porcupine Wilderness State Park in the upper peninsula. My husband is a framer and I work part time as a physician assistant.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

Stroller Strides is what first got me off my butt after having Samantha. I always underestimate how hard these workouts are, but I appreciate how efficient they are! I usually skip...

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Welcome to our last August installment of Meet Our Village Monday! I can't even believe it... I really do feel like the month of August ends the day after it begins. On a positive note, we get to end this month learning about the fantastic Annie Bosch! Annie joined after we added classes to the southern part of Grand Rapids, a location I don't get to very often due to living on the northern end of town. After being part of this group for almost 4.5 years, it's been a little strange to have a whole new group of moms that I don't know very well! That makes Meet Our Village Monday even more special for me---it allows me to get to know moms in our group that I don't see very often. Hope you all are enjoying these features as much as I am! :-)

And now, without further ado, Annie!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

4 months!

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides

Tell us about your family.

My husband and I live in...

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I love my minivan. I do. I never ever ever thought that I would love a minivan but I just can’t and won’t deny it. “I’m NEVER driving a minivan. I’m DEFINITELY going to drive an SUV with third row seating when I have kids.” That was my line for years. When we were expecting our second child, that was still the line I said to my husband. But once I saw what luxuries (and low mileage) I could get with a van that we couldn’t afford in an SUV, I was sold. I know, I know. So many people are adamant that you don’t need a minivan when you “only” have two kids but I’m quite certain that those people: 1) don’t need to cart around a massive double jogging stroller multiple times each week; 2) don’t have an 80 lb neurotic black lab with personal space issues; and 3) just don’t know what they’re missing.

Roll your eyes, all you van haters, but as a former member of your squad, I can refute all of your arguments. But, since this is a happy, encouraging place, let’s skip the arguments and I’ll just state some awesome facts for you about my personal...

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It's a new week! Let's start it off right, shall we?? Today we are featuring Allison Petroelje! In addition to having a fabulous first name, Allison is such a fantastic person and I'm excited for you all to learn a bit more about her!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I first came to FIT4MOM on their 6 year anniversary (2015).

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I have participated in Stroller Strides, and I'm currently doing a Fit 4 Baby class.

Tell us about your family.

Brian and I have been married for almost five years. We have a daughter, Sena who will be two in November, and a baby girl on the way (due in December).

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

Besides the people, I love how I feel when I leave. I feel like I just accomplished something great, and I have a burst of energy to get through the day.

Favorite exercise?

My favorite exercise...

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Let’s start this off with a little question to ponder: why do you do what you do? I think it is a good all-life encompassing question.

Why do you do what you do?

Think of all of the areas of life that this can apply to: activities with your children, working full time, staying home full time, running a small business from home, volunteering, social events, exercise, rest.

Why do you do what you do?

I know that the answers may look different for each of us. We each have different needs and wants. Our desires and goals vary. The things in life that bring me fulfillment may not be the same things in life that bring you fulfillment.

Why do you do what you do?

In addition to staying at home full time, I absolutely love being part of the FIT4MOM Grand Rapids team. When the topic came up of me becoming more involved with the day to day tasks of the group, I was so excited. At...

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Welcome to another Meet Our Village Monday! This week we are excited to be featuring Melissa Bugai! Since joining our community, Mel has been one of the biggest advocates for FIT4MOM Grand Rapids and I hope you enjoy getting to know more about her today.

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

Probably about 2 - 2.5 years.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides is all I've done so far. I'm planning on doing a full session of BodyBack once we move indoors this fall.

Tell us about your family.

That's a big question! LOL. I think of my family as so much more than those who live in my house. In my house are me and Hubs and our son Tyler (3yr) and our baby girl Kiley (4mo) along with our doberman Sprocket.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

Bringing my kids. I do everything with them. They see and experience what it's like to be a part of this world. They go shopping with me,...

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So you know those participation medals that kids receive? I’m not a fan. I have many reasons but, well, that’s a blog post all on its own. You know who I DO think deserves a plethora of participation medals??? MOMS. Well, to be fair, dads definitely deserve participations medals, too, but since the four people who read my blog posts are probably moms, I’m going to focus on you. With the Olympics starting last weekend and our FIT4MOM GR challenge that we have going on during the Olympics, my mind started thinking about how parenting can be compared to basically anything, including the Olympics.

Think about it. What is the Olympics? It’s many things but in an extremely simplified nutshell, it’s a bunch of different events where a bunch of people show up to hopefully show that they are the best. That’s certainly not the most eloquent explanation I have ever written but quite simplified, yes? Not seeing the connection yet? I’m getting there, no worries.

There is so much discussion about comparison between women, mothers,...

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The best day of the week is here! Today we are excited for you to learn more about Carol Rudlaff! My first memory of Carol is her coming to her first Stroller Strides class four weeks (I think it was 4 weeks??) after her daughter was born. I was in complete amazement that she was there and continue to be in awe of her work ethic and focus during Stroller Strides and Body Back classes.

Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I have been involved with FIT4MOM for almost 2 years and have loved every moment!

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I have participated in both Stroller Strides and BodyBack.

Tell us about your family.

My family consists of my amazing husband, Rob and my daughter, Emma.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I love that this group welcomes you with open arms (even when you only come to class once per month!)

...

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August! How is it August?? We're kicking off a new month with a feature about the awesome Jyoti Kataria! I met Jyoti during Stroller Strides classes and then had the pleasure of being in some Body Back and Body Back Boost sessions with her. Enjoy learning more about her today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I joined FIT4MOM in 2014

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I've participated in Stroller Strides and Body Back. After Mik turned a year old I was really frustrated with not being able to lose my post prego weight, I was actively looking for friends with kids who I could interact with and who are going through similar stuff. My friend Becky introduced me to Stroller strides. We attended the birthday bash in May 2014 and I felt I found what I was looking for. A support system that was in the trenches of mother hood with me that gave me that boost for self-preservation, self-care and a tribe that you can have fun with.

...

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I’ve dealt with anxiety ever since my oldest son was born. I never reached a point where I felt the need for counseling or medical intervention (both of which I am a huge advocate for when there is a need) but there have certainly been some tough moments. For a few months after the birth of our first son, I had a difficult time falling asleep because I was scared that something was going to happen to my baby or someone was going to take him. I’d wake up in a panic in the middle of the night, convinced that my baby was going to roll off our bed (both of our boys slept in the crib in the nursery from day one). My husband was smacked a time or two by my attempts to “catch” our child before he fell off the bed. It was awful. I dreaded nighttime because sleep did not bring rest.

After a while, the anxiety lessened and I got better at not thinking that the worst possible outcome was going to happen to my son (and now sons). I’ve learned what things trigger those emotions--any news articles about something bad happening to a child or parent, Facebook...

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How is it already the last Monday of July?!? We're finishing out this month featuring the hilarious Katrina Cullison! I have loved participating in both Stroller Strides and Body Back Boost with Katrina. She always brings equal parts awesome work ethic and a sense of humor to Body Back work outs! :-) Enjoy learning a bit more about her today!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

A year in September.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides and BodyBack

Tell us about your family.

My husband Adam and I have been married eight years. We have two awesome kids, Audrey who is three and a half and Oliver who just turned one. We also have a dog named Iggy and two cats, Marzipan and Uhla (Oola). Oh, and a fish named Freddy. It's a packed house.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

Only one thing? I love the feeling of community. Everyone is always friendly and encouraging. If...

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Another new week! I hope you all had a great weekend and are ready to start the week the best way possible: by reading the latest Meet Our Village Monday, of course! Today we are excited to feature the amazing Stephanie Smith. I know I say this all of the time, but I really enjoy learning new facts and tidbits about everyone. I hope you do, too! :-)

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

Almost 2 years

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides and BodyBack

Tell us about your family.

I have been married to my husband, Greg, for seven years. He's a physical therapist and loves to make everyone laugh. Our daughter, Bryn Lee, turned two in May. She's a sweetie mixed with a little sass 😉. We have a seven month old son named Brooks (I'll do the math for you--they're 18 months apart!) He is the smiliest baby around.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I love...

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And we're back! Hope you all had a great holiday last Monday, celebrating our country and honoring those who have been and continue to be dedicated to preserving our freedom.

This Monday we are excited to be featuring Kendra Ruppert! I remember meeting Kendra for the first time right before I took Summer 2014 off from Stroller Strides when my second child was born. It's been great getting to know her more during these last two years AND I love that she has beautiful news to share in her answer about her family. :-)

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I've been with FIT4MOM for about 2 years!

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I attend Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family.

My family consists of my husband, Daniel and my son Micah, 2 1/2 years old. I am from the U.P. and my husband is from southern Illinois, but we've lived in Grand Rapids for about 7 years. We are also expecting another baby in January!

...

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My whole life has been structured around seasons. For as far back as I can remember, every year has had a basketball season in it - whether it was with my parents coaching or being a part of the team myself. Because of this, the idea of seasons is very normal to me. You are either “in season” or “out of season.” The time in season is usually a little hectic, with lots of things being put on the back burner and not everything going according to plan. But then the off season is about catching up, relaxing, and preparing for the next busy time. While being in season is crazy, it is also so much fun to be a part of a team and experience all the joys of games, tournaments, and team activities. The off season doesn’t include much team experience but the pace is slower and it’s a great time to relax. And it’s time to look forward to what the next in season will bring. There is beauty in both periods of time, as well as the cyclical nature of this pattern of life.

As I sat in my doctor’s office and discussed the mood difficulties I had been having...

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When my husband and I were expecting our first child five years ago, we were constantly bombarded by “helpful” individuals who would tell us all about how hard and exhausting parenting was going to be. After this happening on multiple occasions, we commented to one another about how strange it was the no one seemed to have uplifting things to say to us about becoming parents. It was a bit of a killjoy, to be honest. At the time, my husband’s parents owned a house in Grand Rapids that they were renting out and since my in-laws live over an hour away, my husband was the point of contact for the renters. An amazing family lived there and during one of our visits to the house to make sure everything was going well, we talked with the husband and wife for awhile about the pregnancy and the new stage of life we were about to enter. We will never ever forget that conversation because they said, “It can be a tough job but it’s so much fun and so worth it.” I remember actually saying, “THANK YOU! We needed to hear something positive and it means a lot that you said...

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Our final Meet Our Village Monday for the month of June! Crazy! I certainly hope that July & August won't fly by nearly as fast! Today's featured mom is Rachel Folkertsma. At FIT4MOM GR, we always joke about how pregnancies come in groups and Rachel was one of two other moms who were also expecting their second child during the summer of 2014. Hard to believe our babies are/are almost two, isn't it, Rachel?? Enjoy learning more about this awesome mom!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I started Stroller Strides in October 2013 when my daughter Ava was a year old. Thank goodness I stumbled across Stroller Strides. I was new to Grand Rapids and didn't know anyone. Not only was Grand Rapids new to me, so was being a "stay at home mommy". This group has saved me both emotionally and physically.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides

Tell us about your family.

My husband Mark and I have two daughters, Ava who is 3 and...

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Being a first born, I was always skeptical of the idea that second (or subsequent) children get shafted in certain respects. But, try as I might, there was nothing I could do to stop this stereotype as a parent. Number two is just not the same! One way I have noticed this is in my journals. My big boy has pages and pages of entries - documentations of milestones along with daily reflections. Baby girl on the other hand has about half of a journal from the course of her first year. Oops!

Reading through my thoughts from when my big boy was first born, I see an interesting pattern develop. One day I’ll write about how hard the day was, give myself encouragement for the next day, and come up with some sort of resolution. But the next day I comment on how great everything was and how we must be reaching a turning point.

...

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Monday, Monday, Monday. It's now the highlight of your week, right?? I hope that you have been enjoying getting to know more members of our community! I know that I certainly have. Case in point: today's feature about the wonderful Lena McDonough! I learned some new things about Lena and her family, such as the fact that Lena is rarely in want for fresh flowers. :-) Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

About 2.5 years (started when Mollie was 6 weeks old)

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Monday's are my only day off of work- so I try to make it to SS on that day. Wish I could do more!

Tell us about your family.

My husband, John, and I met while living in Chicago. I am originally from Ky, and he is from Michigan. When we got pregnant with Mollie we decided Michigan would be a better place to raise her. John is a Michigan boy through and through. ;-) He went to Michigan State for horticulture and works for the largest rose company in...

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My first day of counseling was a disaster. I still wasn’t convinced this was something I really wanted to do, and the day continued to point me in that direction. I brought baby girl with me. Up to this point, she had never been great in the car and this morning was no exception. She screamed the ENTIRE. WAY. My frayed nerves were struggling to keep the car on the road rather than pull over and scream with her. But we finally arrived and when I went back to get her out, I realized the little hood on her sweatshirt had come over her eyes, which was probably why she was so frustrated. Awesome.

The day wasn’t extremely warm but I always sweat, and that only gets worse in stressful situations, like having a screaming baby. So even before my session started, I was feeling hot and uncomfortable. I was wearing a light yoga skirt - one of the only items of clothing that really fit me at the time - which meant my bare legs kept sticking to the leather chair in the therapist’s office. Baby girl had calmed down some but was awake, even though it was...

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Woo hoo! Meet Our Village Monday is here again! Today I am looking forward to you all learning more about Alisa Pearson! And can we all agree that Alisa's family picture is the most genuine, awesome, real life family picture ever? :-) I smile each time I look at it! Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I started attending stroller strides in January 2014 when Cole was 6 months old.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides and drop-in Body Back classes.

Tell us about your family.

My husband Eric and I have two boys (Cole, almost 3 and James, 1) and a bulldog named Bentley. Eric runs a family business and owns a cold brew coffee company and I am taking break from my accounting career to stay home with the boys.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I was drawn to stroller strides because I loved the idea that I could take my baby with me to work out so that I can...

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In 2013, it was downstairs in our newly remodeled basement. In 2015, it was in our family room overlooking the backyard. But in both years, in both rooms, the same cozy, sand-colored couch was there to meet me as I poured out my sadness in sobs and tears. Even though they have dried now, I can still picture the round, damp tear-stains left behind when I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.

The tears. The tears that came every day, multiple times a day, and just wouldn’t stop. Tears of frustration, sadness, fatigue, fear. I remember sobbing silently in my baby girl’s room as I was trying to get her to fall asleep, believing in my head that this would be hard forever. I remember going out one afternoon as a family and crying about something that had happened earlier in the day but not being able to stop the tears. I remember coming down after a long day and collapsing on that same familiar couch to pour out my soul in watery words. And sometimes I would cry with joy as I put my big boy down for his nap, thinking about how much I loved him. But...

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And it's Monday again! Don't lie. You look forward to Mondays now because of this feature on our blog. :-) Today we are featuring the awesome Melissa Trierweiler! Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I joined in January 2015.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I do Stroller Strides and did one session of BodyBack boost and plan on joining BodyBack when I return after having my baby!

Tell us about your family.

I have been with my husband Max for 12 years this October. He works so hard owning The Mitten Brewing Company that I am able to stay home with my little man, Owen, who will be 3 in September. We will also be welcoming a baby girl to our family at the end of August!

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I love Our Village and all the friends both myself and Owen have made over the past year and are still making. I also love that my son gets to see me working out...

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In honor of the upcoming start of a new Body Back session, I wanted to take a moment to share how my life has looked since I completed my full Body Back session last October. During the session, my biggest concern was determining how I would maintain what I had achieved after I was done with Body Back. After all, what was the point of full committing myself to the program for two months if I didn’t plan on learning from it and implementing it full time into my life?

I had been stuck at a certain weight for a very long time and simply did nothing about it, even though I knew what needed to be done. I did Stroller Strides classes two to four times a week (for 3.5 years) and was definitely in the best shape of my life (at the time). But I knew I could do better. I knew I could lose that extra pregnancy weight and, to be honest, I knew that if I fixed my eating habits, I would be able to achieve what I wanted to achieve. The food aspect of Body Back was definitely what had the biggest impact on my weight loss success. I think a common misconception...

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Today we are excited to feature Laura West! Although I have known Laura from the time she started Stroller Strides, I loved reading her answers and learning even more about her! Enjoy!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I've been with Fit4Mom for 3 years.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides and I did the very first session of Body Back

Tell us about your family.

My husband, Clay, is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the western district of Michigan and he is a JAG in the Army Reserves. I have one son, Zachary, who is 4 1/2.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I love our village and I think Stroller Strides is a great workout. When we first moved to Grand Rapids from Chicago a few years ago, I didn't know anyone. Meeting friends through Stroller Strides was such a blessing.

Favorite exercise?

Skater Strides and sit...

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My oldest son finished his first year of preschool today (uhh...what?!? I know. Trust me. I know.) and it has me thinking about what the end of school year/summer felt like for me when I was in school. I was pretty fortunate that my mom was an elementary school teacher and had every summer off. I have many great memories of going to the beach in Muskegon, playing at the Imagination Station playground in Grand Haven, Thursday morning garage sales, tubing down the White River, and visiting Pentwater on the weekends. I also remember spending a lot of time reading, mowing the lawn, and hanging clothes on the outside clothes line that hung between our garage and shed. I’m a ridiculously sentimental person and I love that the memories I have from my childhood aren’t necessarily of extravagant, once-in-a-lifetime adventures but of experiences that we did on a regular basis and I could look forward to. I knew that on most Thursdays during the summer, my mom and I would gather the newspaper, a paper map of the county, her well-organized list of sales, and her fanny pack and head out...

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A new week, a new Meet Our Village Monday feature! Well, it's somewhat new....I realized that there is ONE more feature that was done last year that I need to re-share before we get any further into introducing new features! Today you have the pleasure of learning more about Sarah Moratti, one of the very first individuals to participate in our Body Back program! Click the link below to see her original post (with a few updates, of course).

Meet Our Village Monday: Sarah Moratti

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My dog knocked two baby robins out of their nest yesterday. Well, to be fair, I don’t know for a fact if she did because the nest is at a strange height under our deck (the deck is three to four feet off of the ground and the nest is built on a support beam) and if she had in fact knocked the birds out, I’m fairly certain the nest would have fallen, too. Perhaps they were already on the ground before my dog came outside. Thankfully they seem to be ok and landed in a soft layer of leaves that remain under our deck from last fall. I was outside with her when I realized what had happened and as I was chasing her away from the nest, I was overwhelmed by the amazingly loud noises coming from the robin parents. It was so incredibly loud that Eli covered his ears and yelled, “What’s going on?? Why are they making all that noise??” I carefully explained to him what had happened and we went inside a few minutes later after I confirmed that the babies were still alive and seemed to be uninjured. The mother and father birds were flying around the area like crazy and squawking back and...

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Welcome back to another edition of Meet Our Village Monday! This week we are featuring the amazing and hilarious Alyson Wickens!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

3 years

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

Stroller Strides

Tell us about your family.

Our family is busy traveling and going on adventures . The Wickens Clan consist of five members: Ivan, Harper, Olivia, and me. Oh, we can't forget Baxter, our Goldendoodle . Ivan, my husband, builds custom homes for the Johnson group. Harper Grace is going to be four in July and attends preschool at Early Childhood Discovery, and baby Olivia, aka Chuckles, is 11 months. My interests include working-out because I enjoy local restaurants and craft beer. I'm excited about essential oils, running, and real estate.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I love teaching my children by example that being healthy and exercising is second...

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This was not an ideal week. One thing about life as a parent is that one day things can be normal and the next day---BAM!--one of your kids is sick. Life just kind of screeches to a halt and the calendar basically gets wiped clean for the next few days. There’s also the added bonus of getting to be freaked out that your other child (or you or your spouse) is going to get sick now. Yay for strep... After three rough days and the first 24 hours of antibiotics, we are finally seeing some improvement which was greatly needed for this exhausted mom. I was/am spent. It’s so physically and mentally draining to be constantly needed and having to juggle the very delicate emotions of a sick child. Throw in the guilt of not being able to focus as much as usual on my other boy and having to keep him housebound, too. It has been rough. Pending that no one else gets sick in the next couple days, I’m hopeful that we are heading back towards being a healthy household!

I am all about self-care. Between the importance of self-care being drilled into my brain...

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This week's Meet Our Village Monday features our veteran members! These four moms joined after our grand opening event in 2012 (four years ago!). We have loved being part of their fitness and motherhood journeys and are so grateful for the role they play in our village. Click on the names below to learn about these lovely ladies! (In case you missed last week's post, we are reviving #WCW from last fall/summer, so these links are to the original posts but some updates have been made! We wanted to make sure you didn't miss the chance to learn about some members of the group before we start introducing more members of our village.)

Megan Barnum

Erin Elder

Allison Kelly

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Enjoy getting to know the wonderful Erin Elder!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I have been a member for four years now!

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I attend Stroller Strides.

Tell us about your family?

I have a wonderful husband, Jason, and our one and only child, Owen, who is 4.

Favorite exercise?

Can't say I love any kind of exercise, but it's a necessary evil. Guess I'll go with push ups!

Favorite food?

Do chocolate malts count as food?

What are some things you like to do outside of exercising and being a mom?

Enjoying nature, reading, going to music festivals and concerts.

What do you do for work or what did you do before baby?

I was an operations team lead at a third party logistics...

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Our FIT4MOM program is saturated with terms such as body back, prenatal modifications, and postnatal fitness. And this makes sense since we are a fitness program targeted towards moms of young children. But there are a lot of mothers out there who find no connection to these concepts. There are moms who can’t relate to the idea of wanting their bodies back, not because they were able to fit into their skinny jeans four weeks after giving birth, but because their bodies didn’t change before they became a mother. There are moms who have never been prenatal or postnatal. And these moms are just as “real” as the mom who watched her body grow and change for 9 months, or the mom who spent 48 hours in labor before delivering her child.

I listened to a podcast the other day and both the interviewer and the woman being interviewed were adoptive mothers. They both talked about how they had to battle feelings of not being in the “real moms club” because they didn’t have stories of pregnancy, or labor, or breastfeeding. But I want to stand up and say you...

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(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...

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#WCW is making a comeback! On Mondays. With a new name. Ok, so maybe it's not quite #WCW but it IS still the same "get to know our members" feature that we had last summer and fall.

Since we already featured our instructors and a few of our moms, the first two Mondays are going to be group features with links back to their original posts. I thoroughly appreciate learning more about the other moms in our FIT4MOM community and I hope that you'll enjoy it as well!

This week we are featuring our incredible instructors! These ladies make us sweat, feel the burn, and, most importantly, teach us how awesome it is to have a fit and healthy lifestyle in a great community setting. Click their names below to learn some fun facts about each of them!

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I had a crazy realization yesterday. In June, I will celebrate being married to my husband for eight years. Next week, I will celebrate being a member of FIT4MOM Grand Rapids for four years. Did you catch that?? I have been part of this amazing community for just over half of my marriage. That is just nuts. I remember when Marissa was the only instructor, didn’t have any children yet, and pushed around an empty stroller with a flat tire that she refused to fix. I remember when we had to sign in on a clipboard at the start of each class and all classes were at 9:30am. I remember when this whole deal was called Stroller Strides, not FIT4MOM. I’ve seen many people come and go during the years. Every time someone new joins, I always have a little flashback to what my life (and emotional state) looked like when I joined four years ago and - goodness - both of those things are quite different these days. I feel like I have shared a very brief synopsis of why I joined Stroller Strides in a few of my blog posts and wanted to dedicate a post to sharing the full story.

If you...

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Ah, Michigan in the spring. Sunshine and flowers---yay! Rain/snow and drastically fluctuating temperatures---not as exciting. I’m approaching my four year anniversary with FIT4MOM Grand Rapids (crazy!) and I’m told that this fact makes me a “veteran” mom. Well, I’ll be the first to tell you that I still have a lot to learn in the realm of parenting BUT I certainly have plenty of experience dealing with the seasonal changes with Stroller Strides classes. Can you actually believe that there are Stroller Strides classes in geographical locations that allow them to have classes outside all year long?? But, alas, we live in Michigan. Temperamental Michigan… So, as a *AHEM* veteran mom, I thought I’d share what I have learned about outdoor classes during less than favorable conditions.

1. The instructors do an amazing job adjusting classes and workouts to fit the current weather conditions. If it’s raining, we have stayed under the pavilion for an entire class. The workouts are still amazing, you still work up a great sweat (yes, that’s sweat, not rain), and you and your...

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Are you pregnant and looking for some ways to make the most of these 9 months? Your body goes through more changes during pregnancy than a man’s will in his whole lifetime! I am 26 weeks right now with my second baby so I am on this journey with you :) Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned to help with all the ups and downs and changes that happen during this time that can create a healthy, happy pregnancy:

Those first 14 weeks… Just survive the first trimester! Let’s face it - those first few months can be awful. From extreme fatigue and nausea to anxiety over the pregnancy, you just want to make it to the second trimester. Eat whatever you can tolerate and do what you need to make it through the day. If that means going to bed at 7 o’clock and eating only bread for a week straight - you do what you have to do, right?! Soon (hopefully!) you’ll be feeling better, be able to eat more balanced meals, and start feeling like a human again. Even though exercise is probably the last thing you want to do, it actually made me...

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Without strollers, there would be no Stroller Strides. Without kids, we’d have no need for strollers (although I did see an elderly woman using one to carry her purse, snacks, and water bottle during her walk around Reeds Lake---not a bad idea at all!). But let’s be honest. Sometimes the kids just aren’t feeling the whole “being strapped into the stroller” deal. Another moment of honesty: I didn’t actually fully get this until my second child was born. My oldest is a rule-follower to his core and for the most part, being in a stroller for class hasn’t been too much of an issue for him. I didn’t realize what a luxury this was until Aaron came along. Aaron is my *ahem* spirited one. He’s hilarious and loving and mischievous and has a million other things he would rather be doing than be forced to stay in one place for an hour. When I returned back to class after his birth, it was quite the adjustment. I’m not going to lie, it was certainly stressful at times but when I looked at the alternative (not go to class so that I don’t have to put him in the stroller), dealing with...

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(reposted from Keeping Up with the Kellys)

So it's been a long month around here. Not a bad month but not a month I care to repeat, either. Eli and I were both dealing with some stuff and the end of October/month of November brought us multiple doctor visits. The final doctor visit of the month was this afternoon and I was concocting a Facebook status in my head tonight. (Don't scoff. You do it, too.) My apologies to you all that I never actually finished constructing it so I can't share it with you but it was something along the lines of being thankful for medicine and insurance and doctors but being thankful that November was almost done. Something like that. In the midst of my creative process, I realized how selfish of a thought it was and how UNthankful I was actually being. I was proclaiming my thankfulness for things but in the same breath, I was complaining and not recognizing all that I truly have to be thankful for. Don't get me wrong. I am all for not pretending that all is perfect in one's world and not trying to hide when life gets hard. But I am also all for...

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"The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature's beauty and simplicity. As long as this exists, and that should be forever, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances." -Anne Frank

In the grand scheme of things, the morning wasn’t that horrible. I have had worse days before and I know I will have worse days in the future. But in the middle of the chaos, all I could think about was how miserable I was! Here’s a snapshot of how my day began - I got half of the top rack of dishes unloaded before the toddler started wreaking havoc; in my attempt to distract him I brought out a stamp pad which he proceeded to get all over his hands and jeans and IT WOULD NOT COME OFF; I spent the next hour trying to get the ink off of his skin and pants while my dishes stayed dirty in the sink and the clean...

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We are closing in on our half way point! Let's first take a moment and applaud ourselves on how far we have come. It has not been easy with all the amazing delicious temptations and cravings around but we are staying strong!

Through this experience I have learned that what we put into our bodies, we will get out. As a kid I was told that if I ate an apple seed, an apple tree would grow in my tummy. With that frightening news, I was so cautious to never eat a seed. When I finally did eat one I cried for hours, just waiting for the tree to grow. (I thank my parents for that scarring - now funny - memory!) I was so scared that what I put into my body was going to hurt me. And even though I now know that seeds are not going to make an apple tree grow in me, I still hold to the fact that what you put in your body can have an affect on how you feel, and in some ways we should be cautious.

Before this challenge, I was eating high sugar yogurts, juices, cookies, cake, and candy whenever I wanted. And I was moody, sometimes grouchy, and always tired by the end of the day! But...

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Today we celebrate Nicole, not just because she is our #WCW, but also because it is her birthday!!! Happy birthday to Nicole, an amazing instructor and friend!

What do you teach/do to help with FIT4MOM Grand Rapids?

I teach Stroller Strides, Fit4Baby, and Body Back! I love being able to work with moms at all different stages of motherhood.

How did you get started?

I started out as a client participating in Stroller Strides and fell in love with the program. I decided to become an instructor after a few months of taking the classes. It was a perfect way for me to blend my passion for fitness and my new passion of motherhood!

What is your exercise to participate in?

I love high intensity workouts where you leave nice and sweaty and sore :)

Tell us about your family!

I have a wonderful husband, Elliott, who works super hard so I can stay at home with our daughter Ellsie (almost two and a half) and we have a Golden Retriever named Stinker...

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Here we are---the final blog post. On September 1, this day seemed so very far away. But now that I have completed the program, it’s hard to believe it! Since last week had such an interesting start and taught me a great lesson, I felt realistic and optimistic going into the final week. As I stated in last week’s post, I have been very consistent with my eating habits and workout habits throughout Body Back. This final week was no exception. So imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scale and had lost three pounds! What?!? I believe I said, “Holy crap!” Of course I was pleased but I also would have been pleased with losing half a pound. I think what’s most important in weight loss and developing a healthier lifestyle is consistency. That’s a HUGE lesson I have learned during the last eight weeks and something that will help me maintain what I have achieved and help me continue to progress in my “after Body Back” life. Well, technically, I’m not actually done with Body Back but more on that at the end of the post (plus my final results)! And before I move on, there are...

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It’s September 1. The weather is still nice and warm. We are enjoying the last days of summer - soaking in the sunshine, enjoying long days - and all I can think about are....HALLOWEEN COSTUMES!! I have a very strange obsession with dressing up for Halloween. I can pretty much say that Halloween is my least favorite holiday of the year. I absolutely DETEST scary things and I don’t really appreciate the darker side of this holiday. And yet, it is one day of the year I really look forward to simply because I love coming up with new costume ideas!

I was thinking about this the other day as I was scrambling around, trying to get everything together for costumes at the last minute. I had spent the previous month preparing ideas, gathering materials, and meticulously assembling our attire. And I asked myself, “Why is this so important? Why do I spend so much time on a holiday that I don’t even like?”

I think there is a two-part answer to this. The first part is that I have always loved to imagine. I love to dream and create, and dressing up...

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This week had an interesting start. I’ve been feeling great and pleased with my workout consistency and following of the food plan. On Tuesday, I even noticed that a shirt I had worn a couple weeks before was fitting more loosely and the pants I put on for Body Back were loose in the back. Of course, more importantly, mentally I was confident in my progress during this session. I arrived at class, stepped on the scale for the weekly weigh-­in, and….the scale said I had gained half of a pound. I was shocked and upset. I had a hard time focusing one hundred percent on the workout and cried on the way home.

Before you scoff about a mere half pound, I hope you let me explain why I was bothered (and why it isn’t bothering me now). Throughout the session, I have consistently lost weight each week. I have maintained the same workout schedule, the same food plan, etc., for the entire time. When I saw a gain, I was incredibly confused. It just didn’t make sense and I couldn’t shake the frustration. In that moment, any explanations, reasons, and rational thought wasn’t where my mind...

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Marissa has built FIT4MOM Grand Rapids to what it is today! We have her to thank for bringing us all together to this amazing village! Learn more about this amazing mom and instructor:

1: What do you teach/do to help with FIT4MOM Grand Rapids?

I am the owner of FIT4MOM Grand Rapids. I have owned it for four years. I also teach Stroller Strides classes. I am on my 6th year of teaching!

2: How did you get started?

I was approached by a fellow fitness instructor who was the owner of FIT4MOM Grand Rapids (actually just called Stroller Strides at the time) to see if I would be interested in teaching some classes. I started teaching in the spring of 2010. Then in the fall of 2011, she let me know that she wasn't going to continue on with the business and wondered if I would want to take it over. I didn't have kids at the time but I knew this would be the perfect business to have with children. And even more importantly, I wanted my kids and I to be able to be involved in the program when that time came! I am so glad I made the decision to buy and...

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Well, another week has finished which means we only have two weeks left of this Body Back session. Now that we’re entering the final stage of this journey, I’ve been reflecting on how things (and I) have changed and, as I mentioned in my week four post, how I plan to implement what I have learned after Body Back is done. After the first class of the session, I came home, made a grocery list of all of the food I needed to follow the meal plan, and then went grocery shopping the next day. I returned from that shopping trip exhausted, overwhelmed, and cried while I was putting everything in the cupboard. How’s that for a selling point for trying out Body Back? :-) Let me explain so you won’t be scared of the program! At the time, I thought all of these emotions were because of Body Back but looking back now, I recognize all of the huge changes that were happening at once in my life. The first day of the session was also my oldest son’s very first day of preschool. It was an incredibly emotional morning for me as it was the first time I had entrusted him with someone I didn’t...

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Today we are celebrating Sarah Greidanus, one of our super talented FIT4MOM instructors! Here's a little bit more about this energetic and fun-loving lady -

What is your role with FIT4MOM Grand Rapids?

I teach Stroller Strides and love every minute of it!

How did you get started?

I heard about Stroller Strides in a college class and was instantly intrigued. When a professor emailed me about an opening to join this amazing team, I jumped at the opportunity to combine my passion of helping to promote healthy living and love for working with families!

Favorite exercise to participate in?

I maybe alone in this but I do love burpees!

Tell us about your family!

I am blessed to have an amazing husband (Mark) who is always up for adventures.

Favorite food?

Anything made with pasta!

One piece of advice for moms out there?

Just remember that all of you are amazing. Take it from someone not yet having her...

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And here we are yet again! We are officially over the halfway mark and heading into the final three weeks of this Body Back session. I do bi-monthly grocery shopping trips and had the realization that I only have one more grocery shopping trip before this session is done! Pretty crazy!

Initially I would have put week 5 in the “just okay” category but after thinking about the week as a whole, it was actually a pretty decent week. I dealt with some issues of fluctuating between motivated and unmotivated and it was a little discouraging. I think part of it was that I have gotten into a certain routine and this week, I didn’t attend Thursday’s Body Back class because we were celebrating my husband’s birthday. That threw me off a bit and put some extra pressure on me to make up for not having that intense workout. As I mentioned in an earlier post, each week I have been doing two Body Back classes, two Stroller Strides classes, and two workouts at home. This week I added an extra Stroller Strides class and while I don’t regret doing that, I’m thankful that I don’t do...

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I’m going to admit it - I’m addicted to Facebook. So many times I have tried to give it up or at least severely limit my time browsing but I just can’t do it! I love watching babies grow and looking through wedding pictures and seeing my witty friends comment about their days. But - let’s be honest - most of all I like to see the perfect and exciting lives of OTHER people. Because that’s what Facebook is all about right? Showing the world that we have it all together? That we have the most adorable kids who never throw tantrums, that we look cute all the time, that we are great moms who do so many educational activities with our children? But how REAL is all of that?

Here’s something I’ve never posted on Facebook - I have postpartum depression. I spent the first 6 weeks of my daughter’s life crying multiple times a day and hating the season of life I was in. I DIDN’T look cute and my kids cried ALL the time. But why didn’t I share that? Why is it so hard to be real sometimes? I think for me, it opens up the possibility that people won’t like me...

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Halfway done with Body Back! Hard to believe it, isn’t it?? In my last posts, I’ve waited until the end to talk about that week’s picture but since I’m pretty excited about this picture(s), I thought I’d just talk about that first. :-) I am so pleased with the progress I’m making. Like I said when I posted the comparison pictures after week two, I feel much healthier than I have in a long time. Now that I’m seeing some obvious physical changes, it’s incredibly encouraging and motivating to continue the push towards the end. This program works, people!

At the first Body Back session, we were tested on various things (pushups, sit ups, etc.) and this week, we did mid-session testing to gauge where we are at this point. I was so excited to see that I improved on all of my tests! There were a few that I was so surprised by the drastic change from week one. I was telling one of the Stroller Strides instructors that it’s interesting how you know you are working hard and pushing harder but sometimes you don’t truly realize how much of a difference it’s making. Something...

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Well, it’s been an uneventful week (thank goodness!). No injuries to report. No mental breakdowns to explore. Other than Satan attending our Thursday night Body Back class in the form of extremely successful mosquitoes, it’s been a pretty good week! Ahhhh, so nice to write that. I lost a couple more pounds this week so that has certainly added some extra motivation and encouragement! Workouts are going well and, overall, I feel like I'm doing well following the meal plan and not feeling like my life is terrible because I'm limited to a certain list of foods.

Speaking of food, I had a couple people ask me about that part of Body Back so I thought I’d take this “don’t-have-lots-of-craziness-to-share” post to talk about that a bit. As part of the Body Back program, each participant receives a program guide, two food journals, and a workout DVD. The food journals offer 15 options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (so between the two journals I received, I have 30 options for breakfast, 30 options for lunch, etc.). Each option is labeled as a “Best”, “Better”, or...

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Let’s just start this post out with a little honesty (because that’s what we all want anyway, right?). The first half of week two was really tough. It was tough in different ways than week one was tough. As you read in my first post, my biggest challenge week one was the food aspect of Body Back. I entered week two feeling like I was starting to create some sort of rhythm with Body Back….and then I pulled a muscle in my neck the next day. Holy moly. It was extreme pain for two days, tolerable pain for one day, and just a little pain for a couple days. A week later, I’m finally feeling almost back to normal. Thankfully my husband was home for the days when the pain was at its max, and I was able to rest and take it much easier than I could have if he had been at work. I think my favorite “I’m in excruciating pain” quote was, “This is why I was never athletic or worked out. You don’t get injured in marching band!” :-)

Thanks to being in pain, I was left feeling pretty defeated and frustrated. I wasn’t sleeping well and the pain from the left side of my neck also...

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Welcome to the first week of my Body Back journey! My name is Allison and I am really excited about the opportunity to share my journey through this program with you! (Here’s a link with some additional info about Body Back.)

For those of you who don’t know me and my “FIT4MOM story”, I have two sons (an almost 4 year old and a 14 month old) and joined Stroller Strides when my oldest was six months old. I was the first of my friends to have a baby and was lonely and in need of a community of fellow moms. One of my friends sent me information about the FIT4MOM GR 3rd Birthday Party and the rest is history. I am incredibly thankful for the physical, mental, and emotional support that this group has offered me and love how much my children also benefit from this group.

Now that my youngest is over a year old, it feels like it’s time for me to take an additional step in my “fit and healthy” journey. I’m excited and intimidated by the challenges ahead and appreciate the extra accountability that this...

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This week we spotlight a veteran of Body Back and a member of Our Village - Sarah Moratti!

How long have you been a part of FIT4MOM?

I have been with FIT4MOM since April 2015.

In what ways have you participated in FIT4MOM?

I have participated in two sessions of Body Back!

Tell us about your family.

I am a mom to a sweet boy, Louie, who turns two this year, and am married to my wonderful and supportive husband, Louis. I am also expecting a baby girl who is due this summer!

What is one thing you love about Body Back?

One thing I love about Body Back is the feeling I get after I finish my workouts. It’s so euphoric! And I feel powerful, like I can accomplish anything.

Favorite exercise?

My favorite exercise is surprisingly squat jumps.

Favorite food?

My favorite food often changes, but lately I’ve been loving ripe, juicy nectarines.

...

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Today we celebrate the sweet Allison Kelly!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I joined in May 2012 when Eli was 6 months old.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I have been a regular Stroller Strides attendee for all four years. I have also completed (1) eight week session of Body Back and (2) six week sessions of Body Back BOOST. I recently started writing blog posts and working on marketing and social media posts for FIT4MOM Grand Rapids.

Tell us about your family?

I married Jake (my 7th grade math teacher's son--it's a fun story :) ) in 2008 and have two sons (Eli--4.5 and Aaron--2 in June) and a black lab named Abby. Jake is a high school math teacher and we love being able to spend summers together.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I am so thankful for a group that strengthens me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I can't imagine motherhood without Stroller...

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Thanks to Lisa for sharing this super yummy recipe found on the Cooking Classy website!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled if desired and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5) oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed and drained
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Corn or flour tortillas
  • Romain lettuce or purple cabbage, cotija or feta cheese (monterrey or manchengo would also be good), diced avocados, fresh salsa or pico de gallo and hot sauce (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil then...

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This week we celebrate Rebekah Spoelhof! Get to know this fun-loving mom :)

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I joined Stroller Strides in May of 2012, when Ronin was 16 months old.

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I've done Stroller Strides and Body Back drop-in classes.

Tell us about your family.

I married my husband Ryan in 2008. He is a Software Engineer and works hard so I can be a stay-at-home mom to our 2 sons. Ronin is 5 years old and Rhys is 2.5 years old. We recently moved from or starter home in Southeast GR to Ada, Michigan.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I love being able to workout and take my children with me, I think it's good for them to see their mom taking care of herself. I love Our Village and all the friends that we as a whole family have made over these last three years. It's a wonderful community.

...

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We are excited to be highlighting moms from Our Village for #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday)! This is a way to get to know each other a little more and appreciate the women behind the sweaty faces :) Today we celebrate a long time member of Our Village - Megan Barnum!

How long have you been with FIT4MOM?

I have been actively involved since Spring 2012. Joining has been one of the best things I have done as a mom!

In what way(s) have you participated in FIT4MOM (Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides, BodyBack)?

I have been an active Stroller Strider for 4 years! During these years, I have also had the privilege of planning and organizing the fun events for Our Village, our moms group associated with FIT4MOM.

Tell us about your family.

My very supportive husband, Beau, and I have three fun kids. Andrew is 8, Jayce is 5, and Carley will be 3 in June. We love spending time together and exploring new places.

What is one thing you love about Stroller Strides/Fit4Baby/BodyBack?

I...

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It's that time of year and we are all feeling it - the winter blues. We are smack dab in the middle of winter and the combination of cold, snow, and being stuck inside all the time is starting to wear on everyone. Not to mention the sickness floating around - yuck! Is it spring yet?! It often seems like all anyone talks about is the weather or the latest cold/flu virus everyone is catching during this season. And it can get depressing!

Actually, seasonal depression is a real thing. It's called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Fitting name, right? Although we probably all feel the winter blues, some of us may actually feel more deeply and truly depressed. New moms may also experience postpartum depression, which can be worsened by the winter season. If this is you, I encourage you to talk with someone - either a health professional, or at least someone you can confide in.

While serious depression is something that needs to be professionally dealt with, there are some things we can do to fight the more general winter blues:

  • Eat well
  • Get...
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During this time of year, we reflect on the things we have to be thankful for, and if you sit down and write all of them down, you'll see there is SO much! (We should do that all year long!) Included in my list is FIT4MOM - specifically Stroller Strides. When I started out with Stroller Strides, I was a new mom with this squishy postpartum body and a little baby who I was learning day by day how to take care of. I was proud of my body as a mom in the fact that I knew I was nourishing my baby with my breasts and that my stretched out belly had held a growing human for 9 months. But my self confidence as a woman was low. My pre-pregnancy clothes didn't fit right yet, I was out of shape, and I felt stuck in a fitness rut. I have always been fit but now found myself in a place I didn't necessarily have the motivation or energy to get out of. I also didn't know many other moms, and was across the country from family and friends.

Then I met a neighbor who had a baby about the same age as me (thank you, God!). Jenny brought me to my first class. She had heard about Stroller...

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I think an infectious smile is one of the best features someone can have. A joy-filled smile can bring hope to the hearts of all who see it. I first met Crissy a few years ago and her smile was one of the first things I noticed about her. It was bright and beautiful, and something she also passed on to her daughter (my soon-to-be sister-in-law). As long as I have known her, Crissy has had a wonderfully positive outlook on life. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer early in 2014, I prayed that she would be able to continue smiling through all of it. Here is a little bit of her story...

Friday, February 21, 2014 will be a day forever etched into my memory and the memories of my family. That was the day the doctor told me, my daughter, and my future son-in-law that they were 95% sure the spot found earlier in the week on a mammogram was cancerous. A biopsy later would indeed confirm that suspicion. The next few days were spent making serious decisions in short amounts of time. I decided to undergo a double mastectomy with lymph node removal on March 17th and...

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Motherhood is tough. Period. Let’s just start with the physical aspect - Labor and delivery is one the most physically exhausting experiences a woman goes through in her life. Most moms leave the hospital feeling like they just participated in an MMA fight - but at least you get to go home with a cute little prize :) And as soon as that precious little bundle comes into the world, the fun has just begun! So much is demanded of a mother, especially in the first few months. You are required to care for this newborn 24/7 - picking up, laying down, carrying, rocking, lugging a car seat, rocking some more - all on an average of 5 hours of sleep a night! This job takes pure STRENGTH!

But that’s just physical. Motherhood also takes a huge emotional toll on women. The combination of crazy hormones, lack of sleep, and the huge responsibility of caring for another human being can leave many women feeling absolutely drained.

At FIT4MOM, we believe in giving women the strength they need for motherhood - not only physical strength through our fitness classes but...

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As you all know our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy! A woman’s body will go through more changes during the 9 months of her pregnancy than a man’s will in his entire life! It’s important to know how these changes can affect your exercise routine. And it’s also important to know what signs your body will give you to tell you to slow down or stop.

One of the ways your body prepares to give birth is through the hormone relaxin. This hormone kicks in to loosen your joints, particularly those of the pelvic bones in order to more easily deliver a baby. However, relaxin can affect other joints of your body as well, and you may notice that you feel a little wobbly at times. It is important to be careful during exercise when doing side to side movements or balance activities because your joints are more likely to give out in these situations. Another time to be careful of this is during stretching. Stretching is very important during pregnancy but overstretching can be a problem while the joints are so loose.

As the baby grows and the uterus enlarges,...

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The best rule of thumb for exercising during pregnancy is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If your body is telling you to slow down, then do it. But if your body is feeling great, then continue to work as hard as you feel comfortable. Instead of focusing on what your heart rate is (which is what doctors used to recommend) it is better to rate how you feel on an exertion scale. If 0 is not moving at all and 10 is going “all out”, you should try to keep your exercise between 5-8. Many women find that they can continue to do the same types of exercising they were doing before they were pregnant throughout most of their pregnancy. There are even pregnant women out there running marathons! But if that puts you over an 8 on the scale, you might want to stay away :)

One group of muscles that is really important to focus on during pregnancy is the upper back and shoulders. With the changes in a pregnant woman’s body structure, the shoulders tend to get rounded and the back hunched over. This only gets worse as the baby is born and you are spending time nursing, rocking, reaching into...

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Most likely - YES!! The majority of women are able to exercise safely and effectively throughout their pregnancy. However, in the case of a high risk pregnancy or complications, your doctor may advise you to stop exercising - either for a period of time or for the duration of your pregnancy. But for women experiencing a normal pregnancy, exercising can be one of the best things you do during these 9 months!

Exercise is so important during pregnancy because right after delivery, when you are at your weakest physically, you are asked to care for another human being - and you want to be ready for that! Staying fit helps you to go STRONG into the second act of motherhood. Exercise can also help decrease or prevent:

  • Excessive weight gain and postpartum weight retention

  • Gestational diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Maternal discomforts (nausea, leg cramps, back pain, constipation, swelling, depression, etc)

  • Surgical or medical preventions in pregnancy

And not only is exercise great for mom,...

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No matter what it looked like for you - plus sign, blue line, double line - the moment you knew you had a new life growing inside you, there were so many questions that filled your head. What should I eat? What should I not eat? What do I actually FEEL like eating? What should we register for? What classes should I take? Do I want a doula? Do I want a midwife? Is this normal? Is that normal?

And for many new moms, there are questions about exercising. Should I be exercising? What type of exercise can I do? Can I run? Can I do core work?

Oftentimes these questions become too overwhelming and too confusing, but that is where FIT4MOM comes in! We would like to help answer all these questions for you so you can continue to feel great all through your pregnancy!

In the following weeks, we will be answering these three questions:

1) Should I exercise during pregnancy?

2) How should I exercise during pregnancy?

3) What should I be aware of during exercise while I’m pregnant?

If you or someone you know is pregnant, make sure to...

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Over the years, I have watched my community change and morph - from college friends, to couple friends, to mom friends. The communities I have been a part of have had little to do with where I live and more to do with people in the same stage of life as me.

I have found that I need to have people surrounding me who I can live life with. To have someone who is in the same day to day - celebrating my joys but also willing to get dirty with the not-so-glamorous parts of my life.

I am so blessed to have been able to jump right into the FIT4MOM community as soon as I started my journey of motherhood. These women have been willing to get dirty with me - to embrace me when I felt overwhelmed, to give me advice when I was at my wit’s end - but also to rejoice with me over the little things that only another mom could understand.

Yes, FIT4MOM is about helping women get fit and become healthier. But we are also about helping moms find a community they can belong to - a place they can call home.

So call it your community.

Call it your...

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While this is the perfect time of year for fresh veggies from the garden, an obstacle many moms face is getting their children to actually EAT this delicious produce!

When C first starting eating solids, I was amazed at everything he would eat. There really wasn’t much that he didn’t seem to like, even with all the crazy concoctions I would come up with! And even as he moved from pureés to finger foods, he still would eat just as many of the vegetables as he would the other foods on his plate. I was pumped that I wouldn’t have to deal with a picky eater! But then one day the tides turned…

All of a sudden, I started seeing more and more green particles on the floor than I actually saw go into his mouth. (At least the dog is getting some good nutrients!) He would put a pea or a bean in his mouth and then immediately spit it out. I still try with most meals to make sure I at least offer a vegetable, but it’s hit or miss on whether or not he will actually eat it.

We have had pretty good luck with smoothies and pouches (either homemade or store-bought like...

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I’m so happy that our farmer’s markets are up and rolling again for the summer! Even though our growing season in Michigan isn’t very long, I think it makes us appreciate all of our fresh produce even more. Not only does the farmer’s market bring the best in fruits and vegetables all together in one place, it’s also a great learning experience for our kids!

In our world of big box stores and processed foods, it can be hard for kids to get a good grasp on what REAL food looks like, or where it comes from. For many of them, the idea that food isn’t actually grown at Meijer may be a complete shock! But a trip to the farmer’s market, or better yet to a local farm, can be a great way for our little ones to learn more about where our food comes from. They can see first hand what real produce fresh out of the ground looks like. Or watch as little seedlings grow bigger and bigger until they burst with fresh fruits and vegetables we can put on our table.

What produce have you been buying so far this summer? What ways have you been able to show your kids the beauty of...

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At the national FIT4MOM conference that took place last month out in California, the corporate team revealed our new manifesto. As a franchise, we have been focusing on our WHY - the reason we do what we do. We already know WHAT we do - offer top of the line fitness classes to women in all stages of motherhood - but we want more than that. We want women to make strides in fitness AND motherhood AND life. So this new manifesto describes what we at FIT4MOM are dedicated to offering you. This is who we are and what we believe in. Stay tuned as we dig into each part of this manifesto in the coming months…

WE BELIEVE IN YOU!!

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Summer is here in full blast so I know we have had many conversations going around about sunscreen and bug sprays for the kiddos! What have you found to work best for your child(ren)? Is there a particular brand you have had a great experience with? Or maybe you have found a homemade or non-traditional way of protecting your kids from the sun and bugs!

Please share your thoughts!!

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It appears that we have decided to skip all the 60 and 70 degree days and go right to summer! So we can move on from how to keep the kiddos warm during class to how to keep them cool! Here are some helpful tips on how to dress for our summer classes:

FOR MOMS

  • Wear breathable fabric - If possible, try to dress in clothes that breathe, such as cotton or exercise specific gear, in order to keep yourself cool.
  • Stay hydrated - We are going to sweat A LOT this summer and in order to keep your body at equilibrium, you will have to put back in all the water that you are sweating off. You should make it a goal to drink a full water bottle during class and then another full bottle once you get home. And if you are pregnant or nursing, this becomes even more important!
  • Find a hat - Having the sun beat directly on you causes your body temperature to rise so wearing a hat on sunny days can help to keep you cooler. If you don't have one, we have FIT4MOM hats available for purchase!

FOR KIDS

  • Dress lightly - Also make sure that you...
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In honor of our 5 years of business here in Grand Rapids, I would like to share 5 reasons why I think every mom should be a part of our FIT4MOM program:

1) YOU DESERVE IT - As moms, we spend most of our days looking out for those around us - whether that be our kids, our husbands, etc. But YOU are important too and you deserve to take some time out to care for yourself! Our classes allow you to do just that, by giving you a chance to get in a workout and also interact with other moms.

2) BUILD A VILLAGE - No mom can do it on her own, which is why building a support system is so vital. Our classes provide an opportunity for you to meet other moms - women who are going through the exact same things you are. The friendships you make in Stroller Strides will go beyond just our classes. These are the friends you will be able to turn to no matter what!

3) FITNESS FOR MOM - Motherhood takes a lot of physical strength and energy, which is why it is such an important time to make sure you are keeping up with a regular exercise routine. Our classes are offered every...

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We are finally busting out and heading outdoors! But now that we are moving beyond the climate control of our indoor locations, we must pay closer attention to what both ourselves and our children are wearing during class. Fortunately we live in Michigan, so the task of getting dressed for the elements is an adventure every day!

Here are some tips to help you navigate our ever changing wardrobe:

SPRING FOR MOMS

  • Dress in layers - You can always take off clothes but you can't add any that you don't have! By the end of class, we are usually quite warm but the beginnings can be a little chilly. It's always best to bring a long sleeve with a t-shirt or tank underneath.
  • Bring a head covering - Because we will be sweating, our heads can get pretty chilly from all the moisture evaporating. It may be in your best interest to wear a hat or earband to keep some of that warmth in.
  • Footwear - Unfortunately for the next few months our park is going to be fairly soggy. If you just bought brand new shoes and you're nervous about getting mud on...
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Today's guest post comes from Melissa Weaver, who shares the stories of two small miracles...

The first time I ever seriously thought about a NICU (newborn intensive care unit), I was 32 weeks pregnant and in the hospital. We had gone in for a non-stress test and a check-up and were sent to Labor and Delivery because I was having contractions two to three minutes apart! I remember laying in the hospital room, looking out at the mountains and thinking something to the effect of, we could have a tiny preemie. We could be navigating the NICU. Not some family on TLC 's “Baby Story” but us. The thought was sobering. Thankfully, we were sent home after things calmed down and my daughter was born at 39 weeks. The care we didn't need to receive was soon forgotten in a blur of receiving blankets to wash and late-night feedings to endure.

I wouldn't have guessed that two families close to me would be walking through what we worried about within the next year. The first was my sister-in-law and brother-in-law with our niece, born unexpectedly at 32 weeks. In another time, we...

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We’ve all been there - you just finished a great workout but after chatting with friends, getting the kids’ lunch put together, and finishing naptime rituals, all of a sudden it’s been hours since you’ve eaten and you’re STARVING!!! Most likely at this point in time, your main focus is survival from the hunger pains that are threatening to tear apart your stomach, not what exactly you are deciding to feed it with. Half a bag of chips later, you realize that all the hard work you put into exercise today was negated in 30 seconds of ravenous eating.

So how can we prevent these post-workout binges? One of the best strategies is to have healthy and energy boosting snacks readily available so they can be quickly eaten soon after your workout has ended. Preparation is the key to preventing the overeating that is likely to occur when your energy reserves have hit rock bottom.

But prevention is not the only reason to have these healthy snacks around. Good fuel, in the form of real food, is essential to getting the most out of your exercise routine. Your body craves...

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The first time I ran across Fit4Mom (Stroller Strides at that point) was in 2009, when I was a senior in college. I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree in exercise science, planning a wedding, and deciding what I wanted to do with my future (which is still a work in progress!). I distinctly remember being in the library with a friend, avoiding our studies by browsing the Internet, and running across the Stroller Strides website. I thought to myself, “Hey I could do that someday!”

Fast forward to 2010 - I was working as a personal trainer and fitness instructor at Calvin College where I met Kendra Bylsma, another fitness instructor who had just started Stroller Strides in Grand Rapids. She needed some help instructing and I had some openings in my schedule so I jumped at the opportunity. I loved kids and was looking forward to having some of my own so it was a perfect fit for me. I started teaching that spring and absolutely loved it! I loved bringing moms together and helping them meet their fitness goals. I was able to combine two of my greatest passions in life -...

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