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Ah, Valentine’s Day. The one day a year that all of society is forced to express their undying love for others in the form of gifts.

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Nothing screams “me time” like snuggling up on the couch with some hot chocolate and a comfortable blanket and watching some classic holiday movies. Not sure which one to start watching? Would you love to get a good laugh? No problem. You want to hug the tissue box and wallow in self-pity? I’m here for you!

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I've been a stay at home mom for five years now. While I'm certainly no expert on kids, except maybe my own, my number one mom lesson has been that my kids behave best when they are both rested and fed.

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To say that I love the fall and everything associated with it, is an understatement. It is a time of year when the weather finally cools down and my inner child pops out at full force! There were plenty of fall firsts for me during my second year in Michigan, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

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Living in the Midwest, we get to enjoy all four seasons nature has to offer. Each season comes with benefits and obstacles, and when you throw parenting into the mix, some seasons are just more of a struggle than others.

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The leaves are changing, and the first day of fall has officially passed. If you’re trying to think of some fun activities to do with the kiddos, we’re here to give you some options.

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The ladies on the FIT4MOM Ann Arbor team were all born in the 80s, which means a majority of our childhood nostalgia surrounds 1990s culture. We thought it would be fun to put together a list of things we experienced that our kids will never understand.

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This weekend FIT4MOM Ann Arbor is holding a special charity class on September 8th to benefit the National CMV Foundation. What is CMV? It’s short for cytomegalovirus (sigh-toh-mega-loh-virus) which is a common cold virus that usually causes minor symptoms – sore throat and fatigue sort of thing – but in pregnant women it severely hurts the unborn baby. Congenital CMV is among the leading cause of hearing loss in infants, and also frequently causes cerebral palsy, epilepsy and vision loss. It’s all too common – approximately 1/150 babies are born with it, and of those about 20% will have serious symptoms.

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Hello mamas! Summer is coming to a close and it’s time to head back to school. I by no means consider myself an expert but I do have an incoming third grader. As I always tell my kids, practice is how you get good at things so here I am.

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I taught high school English for eight years. Over the course of those eight years, I encountered approximately 1,500 students. On a daily basis, I conversed with at least 150 students. Some were my actual students and others were just friends of my students who would eat lunch in my classroom. There were days I would see students from 7am until 4pm. During the fall, I coached volleyball, which commanded a lot of my time as well. I was busy, but I was happy. I knew most of the other teachers and had lunch with adults every day. Essentially, I talked for nine hours a day.

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I'm not an outdoorsy person. As a kid I dreaded our annual family camping trips. Hiking near our northern Michigan cabin wasn't a part of the summer I looked forward to. I preferred pools to lakes. Outside has bugs, sunburns, no a/c and did I mention bugs? And snow? Nope nope nope.

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Eight years ago I had a baby. I’m a very social person and having a newborn was super isolating for me, even though I have a huge support system and many friends and family members having babies. Being home all day with someone who can’t talk to you is so hard. When my daughter was three months old, I attended my first Stroller Strides class. I had found my village.

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We’ve all done it. Admit it. We are experts at things we’ve never experienced.

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I found FIT4MOM when my son David was about six months old and immediately regretted that I hadn’t found the group sooner. I loved the workouts, but the biggest win for me was the incredible network of mom friends I feel like I made almost instantly. Fast forward about two years and I can’t even begin to put into words how much FIT4MOM has shaped me as a mom - and continues to do so! The biggest downside as a working mom is that I can only make it to class on Saturdays - until now! Weeknight Stroller Strides classes are now being offered every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30pm at County Farm Park, and I’m here to tell you that you should join us - especially if you’re a working mom.

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I’m by no means a world traveler. I think the first time I was on an airplane was my junior year of high school. I remember sleeping for most of the flight. After that experience, I started traveling more. I would try to get to the airport at least two hours before my flight, but sometimes I lived dangerously and cut it close. I would get to my seat, grab some gum, and put my music in for the remainder of my flight.

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Emily Oster, author of Expecting Better, wrote that

"There are a lot of baby books that aim to tell you what will happen with your baby. And there are a lot of pregnancy books that detail what happens to you while you are pregnant. But the literature is oddly lacking in discussions of what happens, physically, to the mom after the baby arrives. Before the baby, you’re a vessel to be cherished and protected. After the baby, you’re a lactation-oriented baby accessory. This omission is problematic, since it fails to inform women about what to expect after they’re expecting. Physical recovery from childbirth is not always straightforward, and even in the best of circumstances, it’s messy."

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Disclaimer: Every couple’s journey with infertility is different in length, diagnosis, approach and emotional reaction. Infertility is a completely unique struggle that millions of women deal with. I can only speak to my own experience.

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I’ll be real here. I’m the mother of four kids and I’m a lazy parent. Not lazy in that I don’t have continual tasks all day, but lazy in that I mostly ignore my children.

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The Crunchy mom. The Pinterest Mom. The PTA mom. The Mom Expert. The Hot Mess... My mom friends in California all represented one of these hilariously and seemingly accurate stereotypes... The truth is no mom is one sided or perfect.

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As soon as I found out I was pregnant with both of my children, people asked me that daunting question: “will you go back to work after you have the baby?”

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That is the question we are hoping to answer. Here are a few things you can expect at a Stroller Barre class:

  1. A 60-minute cardio and strength interval class designed to improve posture, stability, and mobility.

  2. Your muscles to ache from all the repeated isolated moves.

  3. To have fun singing songs and chatting with moms while trying to channel your inner ballerina.

  4. To learn some new moves that will help to lengthen and elongate you.

  5. To have better posture as all our exercises encourage you to pull your shoulders back, lift your chest up and engage your core.

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Let me start with this: I’m not a runner. I never ran that mile in gym class. My soccer coaches had to chase me to get me around the field. I always viewed running as some sort of punishment. I was fully convinced there was a defect in my body that prohibited running. I couldn’t breathe while I ran. I loved the gym, elliptical, weights, stair stepper. I even played soccer for nearly a dozen years. Just.don’t.make.me.run.

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As parents, we are always looking for that little bit of advice from another parent or new gadget to help us in any way possible; just to make our days run a little smoother. Because let’s face it, Parenting is tough! Well, I have gathered a plethora of awesome Mom Hacks from a few mothers who have been there, smelled that, heard all about it, and found a way to make things a little easier. Are you ready???....

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"I don't know how you do it!"

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There are tons of articles out there about the health benefits of exercise for pregnant and post-partum moms and people in general. These articles often overlook, or mention as an afterthought, the mental health benefits of exercise, particularly for post-partum moms. Exercise doesn’t just help you physically; it can help you also feel better emotionally. I can say from my own experience that exercise, in combination with therapy, really helped me get out from under the fog of post-partum depression.

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The holidays are upon us, which means for most of us, it’s time to travel to see family.

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When I talk to other moms about attending FIT4MOM Stroller Strides with me, they will typically say that it's during nap time for their child or children. My typical response is, "That's not a problem at all; they can nap IN the stroller." To no avail, the moms choose to stay at home with their sleeping babes. It's pretty easy to find an excuse not to do something.

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It’s time to get ready to get back into your workout gear, with only one problem. You’ve got a hungry fussy baby who needs to nurse right this minute! Traditional sports bras really don’t do it when it comes to nursing.

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At FIT4MOM Ann Arbor, we believe that it's important to give back and support the local community where we live, work, and our kids go to school.

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“When I became a Fit4Mom instructor it sparked a passion within me I didn't even know I had. It made me realize I can be productive but also enjoy what I do.” – Elizabeth Wilkinson

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Education:

•Master of Social Work degree, Eastern Michigan University

•Graduate Certificate in Gerontology, Eastern Michigan University.

Becky is originally from Saline but has lived throughout southeastern Michigan all her life. She currently resides in the town of Pinckney with her husband Kurt, son Zachary, and dog Laney. Before becoming a mother, Becky spent several years working with the older adult population. Fitness has always played an important role by maintaining her overall health. Becky found out about Fit4Mom through a Google search. She decided to give a Stroller Barre class a try, and was hooked afterwards. FIT4MOM has been a big positive influence in her life. It has provided extra energy to get through her day, and to be a better, healthier mom to Zachary. Through FIT4MOM, she has met a warm and kind group of moms. It has also been a wonderful social outlet for her and her son.

Come join Becky for some exciting crafts and other fun events at FIT4MOM Ann Arbor Mom's Club.

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In the fitness industry where the message is FASTER, STRONGER, HARDER, HEALTHIER, it's a risk to say "you are enough." I know that YOU ARE ENOUGH- each and everyday. Sharing words from a therapist, Erin Barbossa, that might help on those days / years when goals aren't being met. Thanks for reading ~Carol

If you believe that everything you strive to achieve is unobtainable then you will achieve everything in striving for it.

Any basic coaching says, "make reachable goals" and believe me, it sometimes works to lower your bar and get excited when you reach it. However, I've recently come to a new place in perfectionism recovery, you don't have to lower the bar you just have to be okay with never reaching it.

When we set an intention and resolve to work towards a goal, we can feel like we are failing when we don't meet our self imposed expectation. When we shift our mindset to knowing we won't "succeed" and surrender to the idea that there is no end point, suddenly the pressure is off meeting the arbitrary goal.

This works for a wide range of goals, regardless of if you are shooting for a number on a scale, attempting to eat less carbs, or something more abstract like being more present in mothering or trying to be kinder to yourself. When you realize you can't achieve these goals an amazing thing happens... there is ease in attempting them. Instead of force, you feel flow.

Wait, you might say, "if I can't reach my goals then 'F it,' why even try?" You might fear that if you stop tracking the numbers you'll give up completely and spiral down. But when your goals are aligned with core beliefs you'll keep at them even when they are unobtainable. Trusting yourself that you won't give up on them because they are ingrained in your spirit will allow you to naturally adapt to finding ways to keep yourself accountable to them. We get "accountability to progress" and "meeting goals" confused. What happens when you break down your work out goal to it's most pure form? Is your goal for your body to function at it's best potential? Feel strong and healthy? Have less pain and discomfort? Soak up endorphins? Live long enough to see your kiddo's kiddos? Maybe all of these.

So maybe counting how many times a week you work out is useful way to measure your accountability to yourself. Or eating less pasta will help that number on the scale shift. But will you ever meet your goal of "health?" When you can let go of the end point of "healthy"and surrender to the fact that you will always be working towards health and never "succeed," you may find yourself in more of a health flow than ever before.

Really all of what we strive for can be looked at through this lens. Balance, compassion, non-judgment, service to others, community peace & justice... Achieving any or all of these is not attainable, but the process and experience of striving for them is what fulfills us. Letting yourself off the hook for achieving the end result, but not giving up on the process of trying is how we achieve what we want.

If everything you strive for is un-achievable, you will achieve everything striving for it.

Erin is a licensed clinical social worker who has a private therapy practice in Ann Arbor. After 10 years of working in highly competitive, and high stakes environments ranging from live TV production, to addiction treatment, she brings a unique blend of creativity, leadership, and passion for social justice to her work.

Her practice focuses on helping individuals to activate their intuition and experience more alignment in their lives. She uses an integrative approach to increase functioning and decrease stress in family, career, and promote overall personal wellness.

To learn more about Erin and her practice, check out erinbarbossa.com. Erin works on sliding scale fee, and also takes Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans.

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The words by Emily Christie, owner operator of FIT4MOM Twin Cities was so poignant that I had to share with you. ~Carol

My challenge to you is to listen CAREFULLY to your story and decide if it’s serving you.

Let me illustrate my point with a couple of anecdotes.

My mother has always had arthritis for as far back as I can remember. It was one of those things we knew. She couldn’t do a certain thing because she had arthritis. She knitted not only because she was good at it, but because it was also good for the arthritis. But it became MY story too. A couple of years before I turned 40, I mentioned that when it was cool and rainy, I had a hard time feeling warm. I would wear many layers, socks, slippers, etc, drink hot tea, etc. “Maybe you’re starting to get arthritis.” She said. That’s all it took. I watched my fingers for any sign of ache. I would get cold when it rained, just WAITING to get one of those magic weather forecasting joints (you always hear from the guy who broke his leg 20 years ago, “my leg aches when it’s going to rain”).

Then, last year, my mother mentioned in passing that she had had rheumatic fever when she was a kid, and that’s why she probably got arthritis so young. What the WHAT now? I had internalized a “story” about how my life was going to be, but it was based on the musings of someone who didn’t have or share all the facts.

So my question to YOU, is what is YOUR story? What is it you’re telling yourself? “I’m not a runner.” “I don’t like working out.” “I don’t like vegetables.” “I can’t do x because….” And I ask you. DOES THIS SERVE YOU? If you have a story, it may decide who you are, rather than who you WANT to be. Let’s hear your DREAMS, not your stories.

for the FULL entry visit EMILY's post at http://twincities.fit4mom.com/blog/whats-your-story

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In my 20’s, I did not even own tennis shoes. I never went to the gym, did not play a sport and never, ever ran. I made a point of not running. Hobbling around on ill-fitting vintage heels with a cigarette in my hand, I was suspicious of people who exercised. I thought a commitment to exercise was a sort of moral flaw, suggesting an unhealthy obsession with appearance, rather than focusing on the important things in life like drinking coffee and reading.

Ironically, I married someone who loves to workout. He is one of those people whose knees constantly twitch under the table, itching to be powering a bike or running up a hill. Still, I did not commit to exercise. I dabbled, but mostly exercise was the thing he did while I stayed home and took a nap.

Then, I had a son, a higher-energy version of his father. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by people whose dearest joy is to stand on their heads or do feats of strength. As 40 approached, I began to feel like it was a now or never situation. I had to get in shape or my 9 year-old son and husband would soon be spending weekends rock climbing and running races while I stayed home and did the dishes.

When I was 39, I signed up for an Olympic-length triathlon. I found a training schedule on-line that required working out 6 days a week! Instead of spending my mornings lounging in my pajamas, I was getting up to go on a 15 mile bike ride. At times, I questioned what I was doing. Was this some sort of mid-life crisis? What about my life-long commitment to sloth?

However, after the race, when I was freed from the training schedule, I found that I missed the daily workouts. I missed the sore muscles that reminded me of the miles I can run. I missed the energy boost and shot of endorphins that exercise brings--I love the world so much more after a long swim. I missed being able to sleep well at night, resting tired limbs that worked hard for me.

I soon added exercise back into my daily routine, incorporating strength training, signing up for more races, and even attempting ridiculously complex yoga moves that I found on Instagram. It took me a long time, but I realized that exercise is not about what my body looks like. It is about what my body can do. This body has birthed a baby, carried an infant, is raising a child, and it can still move itself over thirty miles for “fun”. Exercise helps me to work all day and still have the energy to play basketball with my son or do a family race at the track. And bonus, the coffee and book feel even better afterward.

Alaina is a wife, mom and full-time high school English teacher, triathlete and former bystander.

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I took my son, Neil, to the Color Run twice. He and our stroller came through the run just fine each time. At the Color Runs, there are stations every kilometer where the runners are doused with a single color of the color dust. At the end, everyone receives a color packet to throw in the air in a big colorful dance party if they wish.

At our first Color Run in 2013, my son was 18 months old. Since most of the color dust was in a cloud surrounding the stations, I just put his rain shield down whenever we approached and went through the color station. The people squirting the color dust out of bottles did not go out of their way to squirt color on the stroller runners, so you could easily avoid a lot of color dust if you wanted. There wasn’t much color dust between the color stations. Neil fell asleep midway through the 2013 run, so I kept his rain shield down most of the time anyway.

In 2014, my son was 2.5 years old, awake and really enjoyed the run. It seemed like the color stations were a bit more controlled that year. I had to actually ask the color sprayers to spray us with some color. There was confetti flying at the Finish, which Neil really enjoyed. There was a big cloud of color dust at the finish dance party, which we watched from afar, so as to avoid the dust and speakers.

At the end, there are people with leaf blowers to blow the color dust off people. It works well, but the downside is the noise from the blowers. I covered the fabric parts of my stroller with a plastic bag the first time, but I didn’t bother the second time. Both times, I had no trouble getting the color off of the stroller. However, if the fabric of your stroller is a finer weave or lighter color, you might want to tape plastic over those parts of your stroller, just in case.

I am taking Neil again this year at his request!

Karen is mom to Neil and an experience stroller running Color Run participant.

Sometimes I hear this, especially when a mom stops working and the household is a single income household.

“We can’t afford it”

Sometimes the wife/partner takes it upon herself to find areas to save money. She’ll look to save it by skipping that fitness membership. “Saying things like walking is free, I can do that.”

Sometimes as moms and no longer income earners in our household, we take it upon ourselves to eliminate what can help us be healthier, stronger, more connected moms. FIT4MOM isn’t just fitness that we provide, we provide community. For the cost of membership we provide an awesome workout (just try us, you might be sore the next day), your children will have playmates, after every class is a playdate (it’s not on the schedule but that’s what we do—grab a coffee after our workout and the kids play. If you have a baby, you’re just drinking coffee and chatting). There is a weekly craft. Yup, you don’t have to buy a bunch of stuff, our playgroup captain gets everything prepped and ready. (We know you’ve been meaning to make that footprint card for grandma.) Then there’s the monthly Moms Night Out! It’s where we get to recharge from motherhood, try new places, old haunts, and just have fun.

Make it a family discussion and see that you CAN afford it!

TRUE TRUE story, one of our moms cancelled her membership—to help with the household budget. She didn’t tell her husband. At some point it came up and her husband was “upset” that she did that. He said, “is that why you’ve been so grumpy these past months? Let me reactivate your membership. You need it. It’s good for you. It makes you happy.”

You’ll be surprised. Just like you want the best for your family, likely chance so does your husband/partner.

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We like to keep Stroller Strides and Stroller Barre a safe and happy place so we've got a couple of quick guidelines that we like to follow at all our locations to be consistent and keep everyone in good spirits.

1. Cleanliness is friendliness! Pick up after your babies or help a mama out and lend a hand by picking-up fallen snacks and wrappers. It's easier to pick up a goldfish cracker before it's rolled over by a stroller.

2. Be aware of others around you. When stopped at a station or at a cardio burst break, listen to the instructor on keeping a tight formation and stay close to any nearby walls. Instructors will cue you how she wants you and your stroller situated. This allows walkers, bikers, etc to move easily around us and allows all mamas to see what's going on. Stay in a single/double line when walking. Additionally, if passing walkers or other mamas, call out "passing left/right."

3. If high impact cardio is not an option, make sure you push yourselves with your walk - our cardio intervals are designed to torch calories by raising and lowering your heart rate - so take advantage!

4. Keep children in strollers at all times. A roaming child could potentially be injured by a snapping exercise tube, a kicking mama, or a moving stroller; especially if mom is distracted by the exercise she is performing. It only takes one child out of the stroller to set off a chorus of screams from the other children. All kids like to test boundaries and if you let them out once, they will forever be testing you to see if you will do it again. You want to be consistent in how you communicate and what are the rules. For your child's safety and your peace of mind, please adhere to our national policy and assure him/her that she can get out after our last and most important stretch – a smile! Bad days do happen and the care of your child is of the upmost importance, if you do have to let your child out and are unable to hold them, give yourself permission to excuse yourself from class for the day and try again the next. If you want to wear your baby in a carrier, that is an option. Instructors can give you modifications.

5. Unforeseen stops will happen! All diapers must be changed in restrooms. Mamas who need to feed wee little ones can find a comfy spot anywhere! If your able to give your instructor a heads up, she can give you instructions on where to meet back with the group if you get separated.

6. Please do not allow your baby or toddler to play with or chew on resistance bands, these are not toys and can cause injury if used improperly.

Oh, and the most important rule of all? Obviously, it's that the most important stretch is a smile! Hug those little ones tight and we'll see you in class!