Moms gain peer support and physical fitness from the class.
By KANTELE FRANKO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Sarah Klimenko is a member of an unusual brigade. Instead of fatigues, Klimenko shows up for boot camp in a tank top, shorts and sneakers. And her weapon of choice? A stroller.
Klimenko, a Girard resident and new mother, is a participant in Baby Boot Camp, a program that offers exercise classes run by certified instructors to help new moms stay fit while accessing support from other moms. Baby Boot Camp takes place locally at Mill Creek Park.
But this is not your average walk in the park. Mothers must be at least six weeks postpartum to participate in each 75-minute session, which consists of an hour-long routine of strength training and cardiovascular drills, followed by 15 minutes of stretch band exercises to work core muscles.
The workout incorporates strollers for balance and leverage to offer an opportunity for bonding between moms and their infants.
'We gave birth!'
Instructors show women how to adjust different exercises to match their ability levels while maintaining the challenge of the exercise. Exercises also can be adjusted for women who are pregnant but want to keep their bodies as toned as possible.
The instructors encourage participants as they work out, but self-motivation is also necessary. Klimenko knows that. "We gave birth! We gave birth!" Klimenko reminds herself as she struggles to complete a set of push-ups on a park bench.
Moms with multiple children can bring their toddlers along for the walk as long as the little ones remain in the stroller at certain points in the workout.
Cost of participation per class varies between $9 and $15 depending on the number of classes for which a mom signs up.
Classes are taught by nationally certified instructors who also pass the Baby Boot Camp training program.
Baby Boot Camp founder Kristen Horler, a personal trainer who launched the program in 2001 when she became a first-time mom, said the program benefits new mothers in both body and mind.
In addition to helping women tone muscle and lose weight gained during pregnancy, Baby Boot Camp gives moms access to the support and advice of their peers, she said.
Boosting energy and getting outside is also important to the 80 percent of new moms who experience a mild depression known as the baby blues, Baby Boot Camp spokeswoman Dena Smolek said.
Fitness programs like Baby Boot Camp help to reduce symptoms of the baby blues by putting moms in contact with other supportive women and helping them to remain active, Smolek said.
Medical explanations vary, but a definitive reason why such activity works to reduce symptoms of depression remains a mystery, said Dr. Anthony DeSalvo, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Warren.
"There are theories, but we don't know. We just know that it does [work]. It's not something that you test biochemically," he said.
Because depression affects people of all races, ethnicities and social classes, a social support network is the key to combating the baby blues, Dr. DeSalvo said.
Stacey Edwards, owner of the Boardman Baby Boot Camp, said she was impressed by the way the other women supported her during her first pregnancy.
"When you become a new mom, it's as if you really don't know what you're doing. Everything is a little scary and overwhelming," she said, adding that the advice and encouragement she received helped her overcome some uncertainties.
Klimenko said she joined the program as an excuse to get herself and her infant son out of the house and to get into shape at the same time.
To maintain a level of personal support, instructors limit class enrollment to 12 women.
Moms interested in participating in the Boardman sessions of Baby Boot Camp should call (330) 717-9683.