Fitness Program Promotes Physical and Mental Health for Local Moms
Writer / Megan Arszman Photography Provided
The first stage of motherhood is often one of the hardest times in a woman’s life. A new mom can feel a variety of emotions including loneliness and depression. In these moments it’s important for new moms to find a community of other moms for support and guidance.
Debra Sexton knows all about that search for a village of her own. She and her husband Ryan moved all around the country until they settled in Carmel in 2019. She has been raising her three kids, Parker, Wesley and Blakely, without immediate family nearby. She was always looking for a community of mothers, and she decided to create her own when she purchased her own FIT4MOM franchise, the first in Central Indiana.
“When I was in Seattle, I was a stay-at-home mom of our two boys, and that was a very difficult stage for me,” Sexton says. “I felt like I had a loss of identity and the days felt so slow.”
A lifelong gymnast, Sexton understood the importance of fitness and she knew that exercising helped her feel more human. A friend had suggested she try teaching classes on the side, but Sexton didn’t really take that advice to heart until she and her husband were looking at moving to Carmel.
“We were looking for a more affordable, family-friendly location to raise our family,” Sexton says. “I literally Googled ‘Where to raise a family’ and ‘Low cost of living,’ and Carmel was popping up. We visited, loved it, and moved here.”
Just two months after moving to Carmel, Sexton purchased FIT4MOM, then hosted a grand opening in September of 2019.
“I always wanted to be a business owner,” Sexton says. “As a kid, my sisters and I would talk about what we wanted to do, and it always had something to do with owning some type of business. I feel like I’m living out my dream. I’m able to do all of this and be a stay-at-home mom – the perfect situation for my life right now.”
Sexton sees a lot of herself in the mothers who attend her classes weekly – bleary-eyed, tired, and longing for adult interaction and friendship.
“I have a passion for fitness and community, and I feel like we try to connect on a deeper level than just looking to get our sweat on,” Sexton says. “We’re looking for a sense of community. That’s why we say we’re a village.”
The main aspect that sets FIT4MOM apart from other fitness businesses is that kids are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Sexton says that as long as a child can fit in a stroller, or is old enough to understand they need to stay put in one place throughout the classes, they are welcome to attend.
“I am pretty strict with the stroller safety guidelines because I don’t want any kids to be running around and somehow be hurt,” Sexton says.
She points out that even the fussiest babies tend to enjoy the classes, especially Stroller Strides, where participants can use ribbons, do interactive workouts and sing along with their children.
During the pandemic-related business shutdowns last year, Sexton felt it was important to keep the classes and camaraderie going for her moms. She and her three instructors set about performing virtual classes and finding places outdoors to work out while social distancing.
“I had to think about how everyone has their own comfort level, not how I felt about it,” Sexton says. “I was very transparent with everyone to show them I was trying my best to work with them. We had one instructor who wanted to teach virtual, while I wanted to teach in person, so it worked. I don’t know how I got so lucky in this situation, but the moms in this village are so awesome.”
The variety of classes and locations will continue to build, as Sexton trains new instructors to offer more virtual and in-person options in 2021. A FIT4MOM Virtual Run Club begins in March and culminates with a Mother’s Day Fun Run, a nationwide event held in conjunction with other FIT4MOM chapters across the country. Other fun events include a monthly Mom’s Day/Night Out, where members can sign up for bonding events such as virtual do-it-yourself classes or pamper sessions at the Indianapolis Salt Cave. Also, moms can participate in a monthly Secret Sisters event, which works much like a Secret Santa concept.
“We’re a village that’s focused on our health and each other’s happiness,” Sexton says. “Moms have a mental and emotional support system with us.”
The FIT4MOM program features a variety of classes for mothers of all levels, including moms with newborns or three-year-olds, those who are new to physical activity, and veteran fitness buffs. Current class offerings include:
Monday: Strides 360, hosted at the Jungle in Westfield, with a fast-paced and fun focus on cardio and agility.
Tuesday: Body Ignite, a virtual class using a 12-pound bar, focused on core strength with slower movements.
Wednesday and Friday: Stroller Strides, hosted at Off the Wall Sports in Carmel, focused on a total-body conditioning workout designed for moms with kids in tow. Mothers will work up a sweat while playing with their child in a stroller.
Thursday: Stroller Barre, a virtual class focused on improving posture, stability and mobility via cardio and strength intervals.
Also available is Fit4Baby, a class designed specifically for moms-to-be, to prepare their bodies for changes during pregnancy and labor.