Lake Norman Magazine

Health: Bouncing Back After Baby

11/17/2010 Stroller Strides of Lake Norman class at Huntersville Athletic Park. TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
11/17/2010 Stroller Strides of Lake Norman class at Huntersville Athletic Park. TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com Todd Sumlin

When I started working on this article, I suddenly recalled that moment in the hospital, just a day after my eldest child was born, when I decided to put on a pair of maternity pants I’d worn somewhere around the seven-month mark, figuring I would revel in their looseness.

I was so wrong.

Of course, the pants were too tight.

I did regain a large degree of my fitness after the birth of my second little person, however. But I had to do things largely on my own – and, sadly, without the benefit of a social network to tap into.

Today, things are different – and there are opportunities for new moms, especially in the Lake Norman area, to regain their fitness while keeping their new babies and their new workout partners by their side.

Mom-centric classes

Missy Isom and Marty Kirby are mothers and business owners who know just what new moms need in the way of exercise and camaraderie.

“From what I’ve seen, the biggest challenge is time,” says Kirby, owner of Stroller Strides of Lake Norman, a franchise with roots in San Diego, California. With Stroller Strides, moms incorporate their strollers and babies right into the workout – whether it’s power walking or body-toning moves.

Local workouts are held outdoors at Huntersville Athletic Park and at Prosperity Park in the Highland Creek community. Since moms keep baby with them during the exercise session, there’s no excuse for setting aside fitness.

“Mothers don’t have time for anything throughout the day,” Kirby says. “We put ourselves last, obviously. Our nutrition suffers, sleep goes away, and we find ourselves in a mess.”

Kirby knows well what that mess feels like. “I hit bottom with self esteem after my first baby. I couldn’t lose the last 10-15 pounds. I did Weight Watchers after the second child. Then I was challenged by a friend to run a race – an 8K.” The support of friends, spouses and family members, says Kirby, makes that process of refocusing and getting fit a much more do-able endeavor.

When Kirby read about the nine-year-old Stroller Strides in a women’s running magazine, she decided she had to know more. After researching the company, she decided to buy a franchise in June 2010.

Challenged with pulmonary edema after the birth of her son just over a year ago, Stroller Strides client Heather Stewart struggled with extensive health issues before getting into her post-baby fitness routine. The condition brings about fluid build up in the lungs, which is usually caused by heart failure.

“My health and my heart were my number one priority,” Stewart says. “I was in the hospital for about four days after my son was born. I had fluid in my lungs. I couldn’t breathe, my lung capacity was terrible. I didn’t know what was going on. It was really scary.”

Stewart, who meets up with the Stroller Strides group five days a week at the two different parks, received an excellent report card from her physician after spending weeks being put through the paces of Kirby’s group.

“My general practitioner took me off of one of my blood pressure medications,” Stewart says. “My goal is really to be fit. If I drop weight, great. But more than anything, I want to be fit and healthy and have my heart feel good.”

Pushups – with baby kisses

Like Kirby, Isom also has a devotion to helping new moms find their way through the maze of post-baby challenges.

Isom owns the company Moms Evolution, formerly known as MomStrong of LKN. The classes, based at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic Center, still go by the MomStrong name. Exercises incorporate children not yet crawling right into the workout.

In class, mommy can do pushups with baby underneath, and give baby a kiss when she dips low enough in the exercise. Mom can carry baby in a front pack to add resistance to squats and lunges. Mom also can do abdominal crunches while the baby sits on her hips. If she can reach the little one for a tickle or a smile, mom knows she’s crunching up high enough.

Children that are more mobile get the time to run around to get the energy out, or, they get play time in the aquatic center’s child watch area, Isom says. Either way, moms get to focus on their fitness goals without feeling guilty about taking time out for themselves.

“Many moms come to us post baby and they have a totally different body than they did,” says Isom.

“Their hips are wider, rib cages are wider. They come to us to work primarily on their core, but we also focus on cardio vascular, which helps target the fat layer. Then we focus on strength training. That’s what burns the most calories.”

Isom became hooked on the mom-themed approach to exercising after having a baby and attending a stroller fitness class about two years ago. From that first class, she knew she wanted to be an instructor.

“I am so passionate about moms and helping them get their bodies back,” Isom says. “My goal is to help each mom reach her goals. The reason I’m so passionate is because I went through real challenges emotionally and exercise helped that 100 percent. It’s also about being able to talk to other moms.”

So, what’s the best way for a new mom to get back in the exercise groove?

“Baby steps,” says Kirby. “Moms just have to take baby stepsand stay with the process.”

When it comes to new moms regaining fitness, it seems these two enterprising mothers do know best.

More info:Find out more about these classes on the web:Stroller Strides of Lake Norman: www.strollerstrides.net/lakenormanMoms Evolution (website is scheduled to be up in January): www.momsevolution.com

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