Stroller Strides provides new moms with strength, exercise

Jessie Paulson, left, helps mothers exercise through a fitness program called Stroller Strides on the green adjacent to the temporary Ridgefield Library. The 60-minute, total body workout incorporates power walking, toning, songs and activities that a mother can do with her baby. —Steve Coulter

Jessie Paulson, left, helps mothers exercise through a fitness program called Stroller Strides on the green adjacent to the temporary Ridgefield Library. The 60-minute, total body workout incorporates power walking, toning, songs and activities that a mother can do with her baby. —Steve Coulter photo

Fitness for mom, fun for baby.

That’s what Stroller Strides, a new fitness program designed for moms to do with their babies, hopes to achieve as it provides an avenue for working out, spending time with the kids and building a support group.

“It’s inspiring people to do something slightly different,” said Jessie Paulson, who’s certified as both a pre-natal and post-natal fitness instructor for Stroller Strides, as well as being a new mom herself. “Instead of sitting around inside, we’re running up hills and encouraging one another.

“It’s also mommy-and-me-type class as well, because you’re engaging with your kid and singing to them.”

Moms bring their infants — ages 6 weeks to three years — in their stroller and push them around as they participate in a workout that Ms. Paulson calls a “great for any level of exerciser.”

However, she warns prospective clients not to underestimate the rigor of the workout.

“A lot of moms think it’s going to be a walk in the park, but it really is a complete fitness regiment — a total body workout,” Ms. Paulson explains. “We do power walking and incorporate that with fitness bands for toning, stretching and strengthening.

“With all three of those combined, it really creates an awesome workout for moms,” she continued. “You can get a really amazing workout or you can take it slower and just walk because you haven’t slept in three days — nobody is there to judge you on how much you’re doing.”

She added that some moms run, as opposed to power walk, but says any women who have given birth in the last six weeks are not allowed to run until they are medically cleared.

“Stroller Strides program is really amazing that their fitness instructors are well-educated to know what’s going on and what women are capable of doing in the various stages of pregnancy and postpartum,” she said.

Ms. Paulson, who grew up in North Salem and moved to town in April, first started instructing for Stroller Strides in Bethel on Sept. 11 and opened up Ridgefield classes less than a week later on Sept. 17.

She hosts five one-hour classes a week. Three in Bethel — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — and two in Ridgefield, on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 to 10:30, where she averages about five to six moms a class and hopes to add a Saturday class.

Winter classes in Ridgefield will take place in the Boys and Girls Club, but when the weather improves in the spring the group will go back outside.

“Moms are welcome to go any location, which they do and that’s nice to see moms from different communities coming together,” she said.

Each class typically begins with a warmup question and ends with a final stretch and smile session.

One of her favorite parts of Stroller Strides is singing to the kids, while the moms do their exercises.

“I’m always keeping the kids entertained with singing or some sort of activity,” Ms. Paulson said. “And the babies love it.”

While she entertains and engages the babies, she’s also instructing their mothers through a series of exercises.

If this seems like a juggling act, that’s because it is.

“Telling moms what to do and keeping them motivated, while keeping five to 10 babies entertained and happy, and at the same trying to get a workout in yourself and look after your baby — it’s harder than it looks,” she said.

“The singing and entertaining aspect isn’t just me though,” she admits. “All the moms love to do it and it becomes a real group effort.”

Babies can be taken out of their stroller during the exercising and they can learn from watching their moms go through the fitness routine.

“My son learned how to clap and I’ve seen other babies learn how to sing nursery rhymes and learn the alphabet — that’s happening before they go into preschool, which is pretty fascinating,” she said. “This ends up being a precursor to teaching your kids basic stuff like how to count to 10 and also sets a great example for them at such a young age — they can see that their moms are healthy and fit.”

Dads are welcome, too, she said, although so far she hasn’t taught any.

Ms. Paulson, who worked as an artist and a painter before becoming a mom and fitness instructor, said she welcomes older kids, ages four through six, but understands a majority of children in that age range are in preschool, so the program is designed for moms and infants.

She first found Stroller Strides in Greenwich last year after relocating there from Philadelphia.

“I loved it and I didn’t want to leave my son so it really just worked perfectly,” she remembers, talking about her 13-month old boy, Emmitt. “A lot of moms don’t like to leave their child in day care just so they can go for a run, so this gives them an opportunity to exercise while staying with their kid.”

She added that most day-care facilities won’t take children until they’re at least six months old, which limits the options for new moms to get exercise and stay in shape.

While the fitness routine and the bonding experience for mother and child is crucial to the business model, Ms. Paulson believes its the friendship building process that sets her program apart.

“It’s a supportive community that’s more than just a mommy-and-me class,” she said. “My biggest goal for the program is for it to be a safe place for moms to go and build relationships with other moms.

“A lot of moms have trouble getting outside of the house, so one of my goals is that moms feel welcome, no matter what it is we’re doing,” she concluded. “This is a space for moms to come and talk with other moms and help guide one another through motherhood.”

To register for two free classes go to www.noffco.fit4mom.com

For more information,   email jessiepaulson@ fit4mom.com

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