Every Tuesday at 9 a.m., eight moms pushing strollers jog their way through Stotzky Park in Riverhead. They're called the Stroller Strong Mamas, and the pandemic hasn't slowed them down.
"With the pandemic and being stuck at home with a newborn, and my other three kids 24-7, I knew I needed an outlet," says Megan Dalene, 35, a stay-at-home mom of children ages 8, 5, 3 and six months. "I had felt myself starting to shrink emotionally. I figured what better time than being quarantined to start working out instead of being a depressed blob on the couch."
Dalene now joins in on a socially distanced stroller run, organized by the Stroller Strong Mamas. The group was first launched by Rachel Goodale, 36, a mother of two, in 2017 after her own experiences with Mommy-and-Me classes left her wanting more flexibility. "As [my son] got older and started using a stroller, I began doing stroller classes," says Goodale, of Riverhead. "I was inspired by where that might take me."
According to Goodale, a former teacher and fitness trainer, her roster of clients is currently around the 80-person mark. The Stroller Strong Mamas are known for their stroller walks which take them around the park while pushing their children in strollers. The workouts also include using the strollers to stretch and using areas of the park, such as steps and curbs, to perform body-weight workouts.
"Everyone brings a mask,” adds Goodale. “And anti-bacterial wipes. We play it safe.” Classes are supposed to be 45 minutes in duration but “with the chitchat, we tend to go over.”
The quarantine aspect of the current health crisis also brought Goodale to add a Zoom component to her company.
“Some of the moms joined only six weeks after giving birth; some have kids that are older. It varies,” Goodale says. “For some of them, this is their only way to release anxiety, to not feel alone — it can feel like there’s no escape, especially during the isolation of the pandemic.”
She too was emotionally struck by the quarantining aspect of the pandemic, admitting that “even with my family at home, in some ways I felt like I was back to postpartum, and a lot of people tell me they also felt that way — back to anxiety and depression, they felt stuck … but getting together, even on Zoom, that can add purpose to your days.”
The fitness classes take place in the mornings: a live Zoom strength class Mondays at 5:30 a.m., a full-body outdoor workout Tuesdays at 9 a.m., a Wednesday cardio and body-weight session at 8:30 a.m., followed by another al fresco full-body workout Thursdays at 9 a.m. and two classes Friday mornings — one on Zoom at 5:30 a.m., another at 9 a.m. out of the house.
“One reason I started the classes was to get a workout in,” Goodale says. “Another was to connect with other moms, and also to socialize with the kids along, where they can watch mom take care of herself.”
Riverhead resident Allison Caserta, 35, a mom of two sons ages 7 and one, says she's seen "so much growth in my strength and endurance from the classes."
Dalene agrees: “It’s so much easier for me to lug around a car seat and run up and down the stairs with loads of laundry … It’s amazing. I have way more energy during the day also.”
Physical fitness was not the only draw for Caserta and Dalene, who both experienced postpartum depression and now take part in both in-person and virtual classes. “My postpartum experience physically was great, but mentally was a struggle,” explains Caserta. “There is a thing called the ‘baby blues’ and it’s real … I started the class when my baby was only seven weeks old. In that newborn stage, motherhood is extremely demanding and can often feel isolating.”
She credits the social aspect of Stroller Strong Mamas as well as the physical portion for helping her as she notes that getting out of the house with other moms was exactly the outlet she needed. "I was being active meanwhile having the support from women that understand.” She credits Goodale as “great at providing modifications in her exercises that will help any level get a good workout. You also get to incorporate your baby in a lot of the moves which is not only fun but great bonding time.”
Due to the pandemic, Goodale says the group has become about even more than a workout class. "It's really not just groups anymore; it is a community."
Outdoor classes are $10 per stroller; online classes are free and donations are accepted. To book classes online and for more information, visit the Stroller Strong Mamas at strollerstrongmamas.com.
Stroller Strides by Fit4Mom Long Island — Central Nassau, which takes off from Michael J. Tully Park at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays. Register at centralnassau.fit4mom.com. First class is free; pack of 10 classes to be used within six months is $150. Monthly and unlimited passes available.
Stroller Strides by Fit4Mom Long Island — Suffolk County West, with stroller classes taking place at parks including Sunken Meadow State Park and Robert J. Henke Nature Preserve, among others. Register at suffolkcountywest.fit4mom.com. First class is free; $25 for a single class, $100 for a pack of six. Monthly and unlimited passes available.