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May 2015 • Online Edition

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New Baby? On The Way? Join The Stroller-Striding Mamas | Print |  E-mail

by Jamie Siebrase

Between a newborn and a terrible twos tot, self-care had become passé.

MOMS AND STROLLERS HIT THE TRAILS OF WASHINGTON PARK, with able assistance from fitness proponents Stroller Strides of Wash Park & DU, and Hot Mamas. With friendships forged and endorphins encouraged, both kids and moms can benefit. Photo by Ben Siebrase.

I diligently completed the Edinburgh questionnaire at my postpartum check-up. Have you been ... Anxious? Perhaps. Sleeping? Of course not. Crying excessively? What parent doesn’t cry nine times a day? I wasn’t diagnosed with depression (although, I did leave with a DVD suspiciously titled “Postpartum Depression”), but the doc insisted on two things: a therapist and exercise. Then she handed me a Stroller Strides brochure.

Allison Wheeler, Stroller Strides of Wash Park & DU franchise owner, and Teddi Bryant, Hot Mamas founder/owner, acclaim the power of endorphins. “Exercise is a natural anti-depressant,” Bryant explains. Adds Wheeler: “Research indicates new moms who walk with their strollers and other moms experience a dramatic decrease in the incidence of depression.”

But who said anything about walking? Both stroller classes offer hour-long, high intensity workouts for pre and postnatal moms. Bryant and Wheeler focus on the areas women tend to care most about: legs, glutes, triceps, and core. Wheeler lauds the benefits of this safe fitness environment. Your calorie-burning comrades know what it’s like to return to the gym postpartum. “Plus, nobody cares if a child cries during class.” Mutual understanding fosters community. Gearing up for her eighth season, Bryant nostalgically recalls the many friendships forged: “When you have a baby, you feel isolated; that’s why you need good girlfriends.”

Wheeler’s classes incorporate power walking, jogging, and body toning intervals using resistance tubing and the stroller. “There’s also an educational element for the children,” says Wheeler. Moms sing and count aloud during repetitions; after class, kiddos help with stretching. According to Wheeler, “exercising in front of your child models healthy habits and sets a great example.” In order to accommodate all fitness levels, modifications to exercises are provided. The gang meets weekdays at 9:30a.m. at the southeast corner of Wash Park (Louisiana/Franklin intersection). Classes move indoors December 1. Individual classes: $15; 10 class pack: $95; unlimited membership: $55 per month with one-time registration fee. First class free. For more information and a current schedule, visit classes.strollerstrides.net/cherrycreekdu, or dial 303-523-5889. 

“Hot Mamas classes are all about looking hot but strong,” says Bryant, who designed her classes for lifelong athletes looking for nonstop movement. Bryant’s workouts don’t incorporate the children. “My philosophy,” Bryant explains, “is that you’re about your kids all day long; this is your time to pay attention to yourself.” Classes, held year-round on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9a.m., meet on the paved path at the corner of Franklin and Exposition. 10 class pack: $100; unlimited monthly membership for stroller classes: $79. First week free. For information and a current class schedule, dial 303-296-2609 or visit hotmamasexercise.com.

Can’t make it to class? Bryant and Wheeler share this DIY workout. Warm-up with a jog or brisk walk that incorporates walking lunges; stop for squats periodically. Bryant likes plié squats. To engage arms, add sets of push-ups. If you are newly postpartum, Wheeler suggests modifying push-ups by using a tree for incline; then work triceps with dips on a bench. Activate abs with knee tuck planks (start in plank, pull one knee up, tuck abs in, and repeat alternating sides). Walk and stretch to cool down.  

Some neighbors worry about for-profit ventures making moolah via park use if financially unaccountable for subsequent wear and tear. City ordinances and local rules, which require groups to purchase permits to help offset costs associated with regular or large-scale use address these concerns. Permit-holders are charged on a sliding scale that takes into account type of event, age and number of participants, and length of use. For complete information, visit denvergov.org/permits.  

Angela Casias, Denver Parks and Recreation public information officer, opines that a current lack of awareness surrounding permits creates confusion. That’s why, right now, strict enforcement and punishment for violations is rare. The first step is education. “At this point, there isn’t formalized enforcement,” Casias explains. “Rather, a ranger might educate a group on permits.”

Do stroller groups need permits? Casias says no. Not yet. Three conditions trigger the need for a permit. The first comes from the municipal code, which states permits are required for all “commercial activity.” Commercial activity is any exchange of money delivering goods or services to the public. Hence, if you host an activity where money is exchanged for a good or service, you need a permit (regardless of size or regularity). Second, if you host an event with more than 25 attendees, you need a permit (regardless of whether money is exchanged). Finally, if you host a regularly scheduled event, you need a permit. This means that, technically, if you and two girlfriends meet every Tuesday morning to do Carriage Crunchers on one of the Wash Park athletic fields, you should purchase a permit.

Why are Bryant and Wheeler exempt? “Currently, we have no permit that allows people to permit roads,” says Casias. As long as stroller groups aren’t interfering with others’ use and enjoyment of the park, they aren’t violating rules. Casias mentions, however, that Denver Parks and Recreation will evaluate whether a permit should be created to accommodate stroller groups given the growing popularity of these workouts.

Permits aren’t cheap. Placing the financial burden on groups like Stroller Strides and Hot Mamas may make them unsustainable. At $55 per month and $79 per month, it’s hard to find a more affordable gym (plus childcare). If you’re a regular participant, why not consider making a modest tax-deductible donation to Denver Parks and Rec annually? And, if you aren’t a regular hot stroller striding mama, come redeem your free classes this month. 

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