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At 10 A.M. sharp, the troops fall into formation: a dozen or so women with their little soldiers in strollers. The battalion marches through downtown Andover, Mass.
Blood starts pumping as the women attack “Heartbreak Hill.” Then they seize Main Street, where the barber greets the group with a wave. A police officer stops traffic to let them through to their final conquest: Central Park, where a regimen of stretching and weight-resistance training follows.
Welcome to Baby Boot Camp, a postpartum program created by Maureen Saba, director of Maternal Health and Fitness in Andover and a personal trainer, certified doula and Hypnobirth practitioner. “The workout is designed to help women lose their pregnancy weight, tone their muscles, improve their posture, connect with other women and feel better about themselves,” she says.
After working as a perinatal technician, Saba started teaching prenatal exercise classes at a local gym. When the women in her class began delivering their babies, they asked her, “What do we do now?” With that, Baby Boot Camp was born.
But don’t let the name fool you. “Boot camp makes it sound tough,” says Kara Savinelli-Keegan of Lawrence, Mass. “But it’s only as hard as you make it.” Saba never barks at her charges, demanding that they drop and give her 100 push-ups. But she does encourage them to do Kegels while they work out. “The pelvic floor supports everything,” Saba says. “Strengthening it can keep your organs in place, prevent incontinence and even improve your sex life.”
She also insists that building upper-body strength is basic training for the demands of motherhood. Saba’s Baby Boot Camp, which we’ve adapted here, consists of 15 minutes of walking, a 30-minute workout at the park, and 15 minutes of walking back.
No comrades in arms around? No problem — you can do the program by yourself. And if you don’t have a park nearby? Again, no problem — you can do it almost anywhere. “Plot your walking route to climb a hill,” says Saba, “add extra weight such as canned vegetables to your stroller, and do step-ups on a curb and push-ups against a tree.”
Basic Training: The Workout
The Baby Boot Camp workout shown here consists of 30 minutes of brisk walking with your baby in a stroller to and from a nearby park, some leg strengtheners, plus 30 minutes of resistance work using a park bench (or a curb) and a resistance tube.
Before you set out, tuck a resistance tube into your stroller (as well as anything you’ll need to keep your baby happy). Make sure your baby has been fed and is comfortably clothed — not too warm or too cold — and remember to use sunscreen on both of you. (Most experts recommend that you protect your baby from the sun using clothing and shade, rather than sunscreen, but if you must, use a sunscreen made specifically for babies.)
Start by walking for 15 minutes to a location where you feel comfortable exercising. For the first 5–7 minutes, walk at a steady pace to warm up. Stride comfortably, rolling from your heel through your arch and pushing off with the ball of your foot. Keep your torso erect, and don’t lean forward onto the stroller.
After you’ve warmed up, add 15 walking lunges, pushing the stroller as you lunge. Stop and stretch your legs in a runner’s lunge (place one foot in front of the other, feet flat; press hips forward for about 30 seconds). Start walking again, this time on your toes to strengthen your calves, for one street block. Then stretch your legs in a runner’s lunge one more time.
Walk briskly for 5 minutes, or until you reach your destination.