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This article was published 16/8/2009 (2781 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Standing in a neat line on a grassy area at The Forks, three mothers face their babies -- nestled away in their strollers -- and sing Itsy Bitsy Spider.
This isn't a play group.
The moms here are dressed in workout garb. The backs of their shirts are soaked with sweat -- partially from the sunny 30 C heat, but mostly from the exercises they've been pushing through.
While singing the classic nursery song, the moms squat towards the ground, working mainly their gluteus maximus muscles (their buttocks) and their quadriceps (the muscles on the front of the thighs).
Their babies are amused, cooing. Each mom smiles at her baby, while struggling to get through the gruelling moves.
"Let's do another eight," urges Aileen Hunt, the petite redhead who leads the group. "Good job!"
The moms -- whose flushed faces looked relieved that the segment is over -- grab their strollers and walk quickly towards a nearby bridge.
There, Hunt hands each mom a resistance band and instructs the women to hook them up to the bridge railing, where they proceed to tackle inner- and outer-thigh exercises.
This time, they hold on to their stroller handles for balance.
"You guys know that these are the muscles that get weak during pregnancy -- the inner and outer gluteus. So we have to get our strength back," says Hunt.
"Five more. Four, three, two, one."
While they trek to different stations around The Forks, the moms chat with each other, cracking jokes, comparing their babies' eating habits.
Near the end of the day's hour-long session, the moms take their tots out of their strollers and complete ab stretches with their giggling babies resting on top of their tummies.
Welcome to Fit 4 Two, the newest so-called stroller fitness class to hit Winnipeg.
It's a Vancouver-based franchise that Hunt, 31, started up in this city in July.
According to the company's website, Winnipeg is one of 15 Fit 4 Two locations in Canada. Most of them are in B.C., though there is one in Brandon and another in Regina.
Hunt, mother to 15-month old twin boys, says she decided to bring Fit 4 Two to Winnipeg after realizing there was a need for exercise classes that specifically target the "mommy muscles" -- the muscles new mothers need to keep strong so they can handle a growing baby with ease.
There are currently a few stroller-type fitness classes in Winnipeg.
Hunt, who has taught aquatic fitness for years, says her business will give Winnipeggers another fitness option.
The Crescentwood resident, who has a bachelor's degree in modern dance, says her classes are part of a trend fuelled by women's growing awareness of pre- and postpartum health and fitness.
But it's also fuelled by tabloid pictures of Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez who became miraculously trim, buff and small-waisted after their pregnancies.
"It's such a powerful message," says Hunt, noting that women who take her classes need to have more realistic expectations. "Every body is different. The celebrities have personal trainers and staff. My classes are for the everyday mothers who don't have the nannies and trainers and who just want to get fit."
Nicole Benes, 29, is taking the day's stroller fitness class with her daughter, Faith, eight months.
The Oakbank resident was confined to her bed for much of her high-risk pregnancy.
Now, the once-active nurse wants to get back to her old self.
She came across Fit 4 Two during an Internet search and has participated in the outdoor class at The Forks a few times.
"I just got back into the fitness scene and it's been great," says Benes, who has lost six pounds since signing on for the class. "I'm doing this to improve both my strength and endurance and to have more energy and feel better about myself.
"I think that's key, too, as a new mom. A lot of moms are depressed after having a baby. Body changes are happening pretty fast."
Today is class No. 2 for Jen Walker, 31 and Zach, eight months.
The Winnipegger, who recently moved back to the city from New Jersey, is looking for fun more than weight loss.
"I still have a few pounds to lose. But it was more just getting out, getting exercise and meeting other moms," says Walker, 31. "Having fun, enjoying people's company -- other adults. Letting him play with other babies.
"It's everything. It's awesome. It's multitasking at its finest."
Lyn, who brought her six-month-old son to the class, misses her old body.
"I used to work out a lot and when I got pregnant I just figured this is my time to get fat," says Lyn," who relishes bonding with her new son during class time.
"With my older son we didn't have a lot of these activities. He's nine. It's nice that they're coming out with all this stuff."
Hunt also offers prenatal exercise classes. Her Fit 4 Two stroller classes take place at various locations around Winnipeg including The Forks, Assiniboine Park and Earl Grey Community club.
She is offering free trial stroller fitness classes on Aug. 21 and Sept. 11.
Health experts stress the importance of checking with your doctor before participating in a pre- or postnatal exercise program.
For more information: www.fit4two.ca.
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