Educate, encourage and inspire. Those are the goals of a fitness group for mothers that is gaining popularity in Queen Creek and nearby communities.
Mamas Who Move holds no-cost boot camps for mothers at local venues. The workouts are intended to help participants — most of whom are between the ages of 23-28 but also include teens and women in their 40s — push through barriers that are holding them back from accomplishing their goals, founder Brittany Donnelly said.
“As moms, we put ourselves last and our mental and physical health suffers,” she said. “Mamas Who Move’s sole mission is to encourage moms while they regain their physical journey after having a baby.”
Ms. Donnelly, 27, is the mom of Camden, who just turned 1. Camden attends the sessions with his mom, but before she created Mamas Who Move, Ms. Donnelly found it difficult to find a place where she could work out, meet other mothers and not have to leave her child in a daycare facility, much less find the money and time to do all that, she said.
At the time, her husband, Mathew, who is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves, was deployed and she was by herself. She advertised the group on social media and through word of mouth and attendance grew quickly.
When Mamas Who Move first met in August at Founders’ Park in Queen Creek, three women attended, Ms. Donnelly said. Now 20-30 women — many of whom bring their children — attend the Saturday morning boot camps rotating between Queen Creek’s Desert Mountain Park, 22201 S. Hawes Road, and Queen Creek Olive Mill, 25062 S. Meridian Road.
It also conducts classes in Gilbert, Ms. Donnelly, who resides in San Tan Valley, said.
Mamas who attend
Many of the women learned about Mamas Who Move through social media or an acquaintance.
“My friend Liz told me about a group where moms get together,” Queen Creek mother of two Emmylou Morris said during a phone interview. “I added myself to the list on its website and Brittany invited me to attend.”
Ms. Morris said she enjoys being a stay-at-home mom to daughter Kennedi, 2-1/2, and son Kaiden, 11 months, but she was eager to reach out to other mothers. She said she worked out after Kennedi was born but being a mom to two children left her with little time to focus on herself.
Mamas Who Move, she said, opened the door about a month ago to a new lifestyle that has allowed her to get fit while spending time with her children and other women.
“It’s been totally beneficial,” the 26-year-old mom said. “These last couple weeks have opened the door for something completely different. Now the kids work out with me, so things have changed for them too.”
Ms. Morris said she noticed the improvement in her level of fitness the second week of the boot camp. She said she wakes up more energized and feels like a “whole new mom who can achieve anything.”
She said in addition to Mamas Who Move, she works out every day, often at indoor bicycling gyms.
“Mamas Who Move was a real kickstart to get up and move,” she said. “It has good trainers who show us how to do exercises properly at the level we can do them.”
Daughter Kennedi loves working out with mom.
“She gets so excited, she wants to be a part of it. She’ll work out with me and then we’ll work out at home. She loves it,” Ms. Morris said.
Liz Hilton’s story is similar to Ms. Morris’. The 26-year-old Queen Creek woman reached out on social media for moms groups and came across the Mamas Who Move Facebook page. After having her daughter, Stella, now 2-1/2, she was having trouble finding the time to work out and socialize.
Participating in Mamas Who Move has motivated her to expand her workout regime to six days a week, she said during a phone interview. Her workouts include classes, indoor bicycling, and walking and running with her daughter in a stroller alongside her.
Some workouts are harder than others, but that’s OK, Ms. Hilton said.
“Even the exercises you dread are good,” she said. “It’s all about having a safe place with people you can relate to and removing an easy excuse you might give yourself to avoid working out.”
Rachelle Mallory drives to Queen Creek from Tempe to attend Mamas Who Move. Her doctor prescribed bed rest during her pregnancy with her son, Myles, who was born July 21, and she was anxious to return to her pre-pregnancy active lifestyle, she said during an interview.
She said she felt weak and exhausted after giving birth, and started walking about six weeks after her delivery with the approval of her physician.
She likes the baby-friendly atmosphere Mamas Who Move promotes.
“I didn’t want to leave my baby in daycare and this is a positive environment,” she said Oct. 1, her third time at the boot camp. “It’s getting easier mentally and physically and I’m doing some of the exercises at home.”
Support from businesses
Many area businesses like the group’s focus on healthy lifestyle and have donated merchandise and venue space.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing we like to do and we wanted to be part of it,” Andrew Archer, owner of Pita Pit Queen Creek, said during a phone interview. “We’re all about healthy eating, so anything we can do to help out, get people up and exercise and enjoy the outdoors, we’ll do.”
After brainstorming a few ideas about ways Pita Pit could help the Mamas Who Move participants, Mr. Archer and Ms. Donnelly developed a rewards card. It entitles the card holder to a free drink, smoothie or pita sandwich based on the number of classes the mom attends, Mr. Archer said.
“The idea was that anything you do six to eight times becomes more of a habit,” Mr. Archer said.
Mr. Archer donates water to the group to help the moms and kids stay hydrated. So does the Olive Mill.
Ms. Donnelly reached out to the Olive Mill in September to ask for water donations. She and Sydney Rea, the Mill’s marketing director, started talking fitness and Ms. Rea decided to also donate the use of the venue to the group for its workouts.
“Our brand promotes a healthy lifestyle and that really parallels with moms’ groups who want to be healthy and work out,” she said during a phone interview. “We have so much great space in our grove for them to work out in and there is room for them to bring their kids.”
Donating the space is a way the Olive Mill can give back to the community, she said.
“We like to keep in touch with our locals and give them somewhere to gather. They can come in the morning when we’re not super busy, and we encourage them to grab breakfast or a cup of coffee inside. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Ms. Rea said.
Benefits for moms
Exercise both during pregnancy and after pregnancy has many benefits, Dr. Jonathan R. Willms, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology for Sun Life Center for Women, said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Sun Life Center for Women is operated by Sun Life Family Health Center, a not-for-profit federally qualified health center in Arizona and includes offices in the far east Valley. The center for women is at 1864 E. Florence Blvd. Suite 2 in Casa Grande.
“During pregnancy, exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight gain of 25-35 pounds for the average woman. It also helps to decrease the risk of development of gestational diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight,” Dr. Willms said.
Pre-delivery, he recommended walking or light jogging as good forms of cardiovascular exercise and to avoid activities such as use of roller blades or a bicycle that place an expectant mother at risk for a fall.
“After the delivery, exercise continues to have many benefits,” he continued. “Exercising after delivery can help a woman return to her pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. In addition, participating in group exercise with other moms and their children provides good networking and socialization opportunities that are needed in the postpartum period.”
Dr. Willms said with a normal vaginal delivery, most forms of exercising can be initiated within a week or so after delivery. However, after a cesarean section, he recommended light duty activity such as walking for the first six weeks.
“Then they may start a more strenuous program once they are cleared by their physician,” Dr. Willms said.
Kevin Platt is one of several certified trainers who donates his time to conduct Mamas Who Move workouts. He owns the Gilbert location of Burn Boot Camp, a women’s fitness program that began on the East Coast, according to its website, www.burnbootcamp.com.
Mr. Platt’s goal is to help participants feel a complete difference in their physical fitness in six months. He said he tries to change a mother’s outlook on working out.
“I find if I can do that, I can change the entire household’s outlook and everyone is healthier for it,” he said.
He helps participants modify their workout to match their fitness level, he said. This is especially important for pregnant women who have physical limitations, such as not being able to exercise on their back or perform movements in which their head is positioned below their stomach, he said.
Prior to a class, mothers should make sure they are hydrated, Mr. Platt said. They also avoid eating an hour before their workout, he said.
When asked why she named the group Mamas Who Move, rather than Mothers or Moms Who Move, Ms. Donnelly said it was all about attitude.
“When I think of ‘moms,’ I think of them maybe being tired and drained and not always happy. But when I think of ‘mamas,’ I think of a vibrant group of moms, powerful and serious and dedicated,” she said. “And that’s what we are together — powerful.”
For more information and a schedule of classes, visit the group’s website at www.mamaswhomove.com or Facebook page.