Mercedes Riggs briskly walks along the paved pathway at Hockinson Meadows Park, her workout clothes dampened by a light mist.
After walking a lap and a half of the quarter-mile loop, Riggs and a handful of other women stop at a park bench. They each find a place along the edge of the bench and launch into sets of bicep dips. When they're done with their biceps, the group finishes the last lap on the path.
Under the covered area, the ladies stretch exercise bands beneath their feet and move from one end of the area to the other, doing squats between the picnic tables.
For More Information
For more information about Kim Puyleart’s Vancouver Mommy Fitness Playgroup:
• Visit the group’s Meetup page.
• Email Puyleart at ChampionsBelieve@gmail.com.
• Call 360-931-2888.
As they prepare to switch exercises, Riggs reaches into her bag and fishes out a handful of crackers for 19-month-old Sophie, who watches her mom work out from the seat in her jogger stroller.
About then, 2-year-old Makhai asks for crackers and his sister, 7-month-old Malia, starts crying, sending mom Brooke Velazquez to their stroller.
For Riggs, Velazquez and the others, the little interruptions are all part of the routine during the twice-a-week Vancouver Mommy Fitness Playgroup.
The class, led by certified personal trainer and nutrition adviser Kim Puyleart, is designed for mothers and their little ones.
Sometimes, that means the kids mirror their mothers during the routines. Sometimes Velazquez carries her son as she climbs up stairs, adding a little more weight to her workout. And sometimes, Sophie challenges Riggs by crawling on her back while she does exercises on the ground.
"I'm just really passionate about getting moms out of the house and exercising with their kiddos," Puyleart said.
For Riggs, the small class gives the Vancouver mom a reason to get out the front door.
"I had trouble getting incentive to work out," she said. "I needed some kind of incentive to get out and someone to hold me accountable."
The group meets twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, for hourlong classes at the Hockinson park. By the end of the class, they've walked about two miles
and have completed a range of exercises such as lunges, burpees, pushups, sprints and sit-ups.
All of the exercising is done while the babies watch from the strollers, making their mothers readily available to tend to their children. Most of the kids who attend the class are 4 months and older.
Puyleart charges an annual $5 fee and a weekly class fee of $5 for two classes and $3 for one class. During the rainy winter months, the group makes use of the indoor benches and stairs at Westfield Vancouver mall. In addition to the classes, Puyleart leads a power walk on Wednesday afternoons along Padden Parkway.
For about a year, Sabrina Kruse of Vancouver led another mommy fitness group, Stroller Strides. Her group met every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She put the class on hold in March, when expenses for running the classes exceeded her income.
'Half the battle'
Classes that are designed for mothers offer all of the benefits of exercise — such as weight management and improved energy levels — while targeting specific muscles that need toning after carrying and delivering a baby, Kruse said.
"It's also just a great way for moms to meet other moms," she said. "Doing something active together and having your kids witness that from such a young age is huge."
The moms in Puyleart's group said they appreciate the positive, supportive environment the class offers and the physical challenge of the workouts. While the class is flexible for all abilities, Puyleart isn't afraid to push the women out of their comfort zones.
"For a lot of moms, they get stuck in a rut and get complacent at home," Puyleart said. "That initial step of getting out of the house … is half the battle."