Motherhood is a contact sport — which explains why, on a perfect fall morning, Katy Cameron stood in a park and did rep after rep of bicep curls. Providing the resistance that every athlete needs, Cameron’s 2-year-old daughter, Mila, sprawled horizontally across her mother’s forearms.
Every time Mila’s body made contact with her mother’s torso, the little girl erupted into giggles. Once each set of repetitions had been completed, mother and daughter faced each other across a yoga mat and performed a series of rapid push-ups.
Cameron briefly nestled her face in Mila’s dark curls. “You’re making my arms, burn, girl,” she said.
It was a typical moment from a typical workout in the Aberdeen branch of Stroller Strong Moms, a national fitness organization with the motto, “Sweat Like a Mother.”
More than half a dozen local moms get together up to five times a week in Millard Tydings Memorial Park in Havre de Grace to run laps, crab walk and perform push-ups and planks. Their toddlers and preschool-age children hang out nearby in their strollers, blowing bubbles and shouting out suggestions that their moms perform exercises with names that amused them, such as “burpee.”
Strong Stroller Moms, which uses the acronym SLAM, was founded in 2011 in Columbus, Georgia, by an Army wife and mother of three who wanted to create a forum that combined community support with a child-friendly workout regimen.
According to the group’s website: “We believe in showing our children that your body is the greatest instrument that you will ever own, and that through movement you can build strength." The website lists about three dozen SLAM chapters throughout the U.S., including one each in Annapolis and Washington and two in England.
“This is very inspiring for mothers like me,” said Soyoung Forry as she stopped to check on her two children: Adam, 4 and Sarah, 2. “I can take my kids with me when I exercise and know that they are safe.”
Many groups generally have two leaders. The Aberdeen branch is led by Katy Cameron, a certified group fitness and yoga instructor, and Katie Walrabenstein (aka “K Dubs"), a registered nurse. While Walrabenstein leads the moms in increasingly intense challenges, Cameron cares for the kids.
“What’s up, Sawyer, man?” Cameron asked as Walrabenstein’s toddler began to fuss. She spied the source of his distress: one of Sawyer’s blue rubber Wellies had fallen onto the grass, exposing one tiny foot. Within seconds, the boot was back where it belonged and Sawyer was once again all smiles.
The leaders make the workouts fun; a recent session included a game of “This or that.” Depending on their answers to a series of questions (“If you had to give up something for a year, would you give up movies or music? Thanksgiving or Halloween?”) the mothers propelled themselves backward or forward across the grass on their hands and feet in a scuffle reminiscent of Maryland’s favorite crustacean – crabs.
Make no mistake: These moms work hard. When the workout began, the temperature outdoors barely cracked 60 degrees. But within minutes, the women’s faces were shining with sweat.
“Great job, mamas,” K Dubs yelled during an especially grueling relay. “You look so strong! You’ve got this!”
The community SLAM builds, the women say, is as important as the workouts. A one month all-access pass costing $60 provides not only unlimited workouts but monthly moms-night-out events, children’s tea parties and other special events.
“My 5-year-old can make friends like that,” said SLAM member Laura Jordan, snapping her fingers, "and it’s all because of SLAM. I have never felt as welcomed into a group as I did when I walked into my first SLAM class. You’re just immediately safe and accepted and supported.