Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Fit mums stroller boot camp

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

Mum Rachel Grunwell sweats it out at boot camp while son Finn supervises. Photo / Michael Craig
Mum Rachel Grunwell sweats it out at boot camp while son Finn supervises. Photo / Michael Craig

What is it? A six-week boot camp for mums and bubs.

What's needed? Bring your baby in a pram packed with snacks, toys, spare nappies, a hat, sunscreen, blanket and wet weather gear. But be warned: the heavier the stroller, the harder it is to push! As for the mums, comfortable clothing, trainers, water, Pilates mat and towel.

The experience: Those babies have the good life. There are 16 of the cute cherubs all parked up in prams in a row behind their mums, who are working out at Cornwall Park. They're gloriously laid back in the sunshine and soaking up a shot of vitamin D. A few are snoozing, a couple snoring, while others are happily scoffing morning tea and enjoying the "entertainment" of watching the group of mothers huffing and puffing about the place.

Those tiny tots don't give a toss about having deliciously roly-poly thunder-thighs and oh-so-kissable chubby cheeks. The lucky tykes. They're literally going up a triumphant dress size as we speak.

Meanwhile, several of the mums are trying to drop a dress size and get fitter. I bet I'm not the only mum wishing I could swap places with their little guy in the sun, especially by mid workout. That's because it's no walk in the park, but rather lots of running about the park, and doing push-ups, planks, leg raises, abdominal work, cardio drills and getting the heart rate racing to burn a swag of calories.

Trainer Karina Balle, a qualified physiotherapist and founder of "Fit", says some mums come along to her camps thinking they will just push a pram. But she wants to get them moving to get genuinely fit. She runs our session at a challenging pace and with each exercise, offers three levels of intensity. So you can tackle the challenge at your own pace.

Karina says she'll keep the camp interesting over the six weeks by throwing in some boxing, Pilates, interval training, Tabata training (repeat drills 20 seconds long, with 10 seconds rest in-between), and some resistance-band training, too. She'll also dish out tips on nutrition and how to keep fit at home.

By the end of the camp, Karina vows most mums will bounce back to their pre-pregnancy fitness level.

The special thing about her sessions is she looks after her special clientele. She knows how to help mums build back their pelvic floors, drink water to keep up their breast milk, and she doesn't mind the tots being about and joining in the fun.

She tells us not to worry if our baby cries - just give them a feed, a cuddle, or whatever they need. Or push them in the pram while you workout to get some extra resistance training in.

During the session there are just a few squawks, but overall the littlies are great. My 14-month-old baby Finn snoozes in the sunshine for the most part, and then later sits in the grass and scoffs a biscuit as he looks at me quizzically.

He's not the youngest chap here; there are two babies here just 7 weeks old, while the oldest is 2. And they've travelled here from Remuera, Mt Eden, Manurewa and even Tuakau. The mum of the tiniest bub tells me she's showing her child from the outset that it's important to be fit and healthy. The sessions also make her feel and look good. She's got two older children and she tells me she's done Karina's classes after every one of them. She loves the camps because she doesn't have to find a babysitter, too.

Karina says she keeps the classes capped at 15, so they're quite intimate. She's also proud her classes help some to kick the baby blues.

Karina obviously practices what she preaches: Her gorgeous baby Jones Elliott is only 3 months old and she's already fighting fit. She says her secret was keeping fit and active during her pregnancy and being "sensible" with food. She obviously didn't eat anywhere near the amount of chocolate cake I did while up the duff!

She's a bit of big name these days too after being in Jaquie Brown's book I'm Not Fat, I'm Pregnant, having given the star specialist pregnancy and postnatal exercise advice.

I leave the session feeling like I've had a great workout, and it was a treat to see that line-up of cute guys in the fresh air and sunshine.

How much? Fit mum boot camps cost $100 and run in six-week blocks. You can do make-up sessions if you miss one.

Worth it? Motivating trainer with top tips. It's ultra fabulous you can bring your bub.

Try it: Fit mums stroller bootcamps are run in seven locations throughout Auckland. Ph: (09) 360 0620.

Rating: 10/10

- Herald on Sunday

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