Five years ago, Devon Barker was a first time mom who'd left her job to be with her infant daughter and wasn't sure how she was exactly going to spend her days at home. She didn't have close local friends or a neighborhood with a lot of young families.
"I was kind of lost," Barker said. "What am I going to do until she goes to kindergarten?" she wondered.
That all changed when Barker attended the grand opening celebration for Stroller Strides in Apex when her daughter was six months old. (I was actually there at that grand opening too with my own six-month-old at the time). Local mom Jen Kedrowski had opened a franchise of the national fitness program for moms and their kids and hosted an event to celebrate it.
Stroller Strides quickly became a big part of Barker's life. The workouts offered a way to get into shape while being with her daughter. The program incorporates songs and other activities during the workout so kids in strollers are part of the fun.
But the program also includes free playgroups, moms' nights out and other activities. Through Stroller Strides, Barker was able to build a close group of friends for herself and her kids. She now has three children.
"For me, at first, it was social," she said. "The exercise was secondary."
Now, it's her business. Barker purchased the franchise from Kedrowski a few months ago. By then, he local program had grown beyond the Stroller Strides workout. Now called Fit4Mom Cary/Durham, it includes Stroller Strides, a training program for those interested in running a race and Body Back, which is a kind of boot camp. Barker's classes run six days a week at locations across southwestern Wake County and Durham. Barker teaches some classes and has 10 instructors to help out.
She also is working to add some new locations, including Apex Nature Park and a running program in Durham next month. She'd like to continue to grow and expand in Durham.
She's excited to continue to provide a program for moms like her. Here, moms can get in a workout and enjoy social time with new friends, who can gripe about missed nap times, early mornings and diaper disasters and celebrate all of the other joys of motherhood.
"When I came to Stroller Strides, it offered some structure to the day," she said.
What's more, she gets to show her kids that exercise can be fun.
"They get to see that exercise is a positive, wonderful thing and not some kind of chore," she said.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.