Suburban Family, August 2014

New Moms Find Fitness Options in the Chicago Suburbs

By Louisa Fitzgerald

The advice isn't new: Effectively caring for a family means that mom needs to take care of herself first. But with young children, finding time for fitness while juggling nap schedules with feedings and diaper changes — often on minimal sleep—can seem impossible.

"Being around other moms who are going through the same things can give you the push you need to stick to your workout and give it all you have," she said.

Franko, a mother of two who lives in La Grange Park, said she avidly participated in moms-only workouts when she lived in Chicago, but was disappointed she couldn't find similar offerings when she moved to the suburbs in 2012. She opened Fit4Mom Chicago Western Suburbs last year.

Fit4Mom’s most popular program, Stroller Strides, is an interval-style workout that includes bursts of cardio interspersed with strength training and allows moms of young toddlers and babies to bring their children along for the ride. Babies are entertained watching mom lunge, squat and lift while singing the alphabet song and "Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Moms get more out of the class than a good workout," Franko said. "They get the support and camaraderie that comes with spending time with other moms.”

This, in large part, is what keeps moms coming back for more.

“A lot of times these moms come to Stroller Strides, and it’s the first adult they've talked all day," Franko said. "It helps you stay motivated."

Stroller Strides is currently available in Elmhurst, La Grange, Palos Heights, Naperville and Downers Grove, and the program continues to expand to additional suburbs. Many of the classes offer a playgroup following the workout so moms and babies can stay and socialize.

Fit4Mom also offers a prenatal fitness program, Fit4Baby, as well as Body Back, an 8-week, high intensity (and child-free) workout and nutrition program designed for moms who want to take their fitness to the next level.

If interval training isn’t your speed, yoga might be the right fit for you and your little one. At Elmhurst Yoga Shala, moms with pre-crawlers can join instructor and fellow new mom Amanda Keilman for an hour-long yoga class dedicated to the needs of moms who recently gave birth. In addition to focusing on gentle exercises that help increase flexibility and core strength, the class also includes baby stretches and infant massage.

“In the mom and baby class, you get to be in an environment where everyone understands and respects what you’re going through," Keilman said. "If you need to stop and change a diaper, you change a diaper. If you need to feed your baby, you feed your baby."

While Elmhurst Yoga Shala has been offering the class for nearly a decade, owner Jackie DeGaetano has seen an increase in interest and participation over the last few years.

“OBGYNs and midwives are more knowledgeable about the benefits of yoga as an exercise option for moms and moms-to-be, even for moms who don’t have prior experience with it," DeGaetano said. "But, it’s also about finding a place where moms can connect, talk freely and feel safe to ask questions. They can do that here."

Mom and baby yoga is offered as a six-week session at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays. Elmhurst Yoga Shala also offers drop-in prenatal yoga classes.

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