Despite the cold weather the outdoor fitness craze continues, and the latest to come to a park near you is Buggy Boot Camp, which does pretty much what it says on the tin: circuit training for post-natal mothers.
The concept started in the US, but quickly crossed the pond to Waterbeach, which, through its America connections, became the first location in this country, and has since spread nationwide.
The Cambridge classes are held at the recently renovated Vinery Road Rec and, not only use the open spaces of this beautiful Victorian park, but also the basketball court and the newly-installed gym apparatus.
We arrived on a cold, but thankfully, sunny winter's day, with baby Joshua bouncing around in his buggy blissfully unaware of what his mother was about to put herself through. We met Amber, the class leader, who has been working as a fitness trainer for three years, specialising in post-natal exercise, and got straight down to business.
The warm-up served two purposes: to stretch and loosen up but also to introduce any new members to the group and hear what Amber had in store for us. The mothers all chatted whilst they repeated simple calf and thigh stretches, shoulder rolls and knee raises to name a few, as the kids looked on, buggies all facing into a circle, showing all kinds of amusement and interest (or lack of). Next it was either a jog or power-walk (with the buggies) around the 400m perimeter path coming back to the basketball courts which were obviously better to use in wintertime than the grass.
Bursts of cardiovascular and strength training intervals followed, focusing on regaining posture, muscle strength and fitness that have been affected by pregnancy and childbirth. We were told it is never too late to join, even if the baby has now become a toddler - although mothers are advised to wait six weeks before starting.
The mums did star-jumps, side-steps and leg raises; abdominal stretches and upright rowing with elasticated power bands and utilised the park benches doing step-ups, tricep dips and squats. It was nice to see that interaction was encouraged with the kids during the exercises with songs and nursery rhymes and, of course the opportunity for a quick kiss and cuddle between exercises. Amber explained, as the mothers huffed and puffed and the babies gurgled or giggled, that the exercises were designed to reignite the muscles that have been weakened by pregnancy or childbirth, especially legs, bums, abdominal and tummy muscles. She added that the classes can help avoid or alleviate symptoms of post-natal depression and that since the classes started (in early January 2011), feedback has been positive with numbers steadily growing.
Finally, prams in hand again, we made use of some of the gym exercise stations to finish off what was, by all accounts, a very energetic and enjoyable workout, even if by now most kids had either fell asleep in the heady mix of fresh air and sunshine or lost interest and were waiting for their turn to run around. It's definitely cheaper than gym membership, and, of course, there's no need for a babysitter!
Buggy Boot Camp is every Tuesday and Thursday at Vinery Road Rec, 10.30-11.30, £5 (first class FREE) http://www.domie.co.uk/buggy_bootcamp/index.html