At Large in Ballard: We are exercising
Neighborhood “Boot Camp” started in April when Aeron Hansen noticed other parents walking their kids to Adams Elementary School; then going their separate ways, often in work-out clothes. A group fitness instructor at Ballard Health Club who was looking to add more personal training clients Aeron saw an opportunity at school drop-off. Why go their separate ways, she wondered. Why not exercise right on the playfield behind the Ballard Community Center?
Although the term boot camp originated in military training, its recent civilian usage usually refers to fitness programs done in groups, often in public spaces like parks. Although fathers would probably be welcome Aeron’s first participants were all women, and continue to be.
What started in April and spread by word-of-mouth has endured, surviving the dismal spring and into the school summer break. The Neighborhood Boot Camp (NBC) has adapted, and perhaps because it’s taught by the mother of an eight year-old, the summer months are an all-ages affair. On Tuesday and Friday mornings there often equal numbers of mothers and children, with an occasional family dog thrown in. While Aeron guides the women through 45 minutes of fitness training various their children play together. In this case instead of playing “house” or “doctor,” it’s fitness camp.
“We are exercising. You need to run the dog or clean the house,” Allie announced to her younger brother, in the manner of many a big sister. Obligingly Hunter kept the dog Rainy, short for Rainier on a thoughtful leash even as his sister and Aeron’s daughter Dylan set up their fitness stations. “Now we’ve got to do the weights,” Allie said.
The mothers keep chatting through almost every station, despite other demands on their lung capacity, from Aeron’s combination of cardiac and calisthenics. Starting in a circle for stretches they covered the kind of conversational territory that women have mastered. They have gone from mammograms to family reunions by way of colonoscopies and fitting into jeans when the weather cools.
While off leash dogs fetch balls at the far end of the park, the women start promptly at 9:30 a.m. During the school year the boot camp is an hour instead of 45 minutes. The shorter time is a concession to shorter attention spans of the kids. Although there are 12 class members the number on any given day varies according to vacation schedules, but not daycare conflicts. Sometimes the kids bring their bikes or scooters, Rowan allowing that it’s, “Sort of interesting,” watching his mom work out.
“They’ve been amazingly supportive,” Angie said of her boys, one nine and the other almost seven. “Sometimes they run with us.”
“The only pushback I’ve gotten from my kids,” Alison, who has girls, added, “Was when I’d do a work-out class before volunteering at Adams. They said, ‘Mom, could you please not wear shorts to our classroom.’”
“I think it’s good for them to see us doing this,” Robin said, with her children watching every drill.
“I ask my kids, ‘Do you want to keep me alive?’” Alison said.
“I know body change is inevitable, but I want to be able to keep eating well all my life,” one of the women said.
“We store fat differently as we get older,” another woman said, all the while lifting a leg on each side to meet the arm holding a weight.
“Look who survived the Donner Party,” someone else added.
Hunter, who will start kindergarten in September, sat on the extremely agreeable dog. The girls piled on. The mothers did abdominal crunches. The sun shone bright on the final weeks of summer vacation.
After Labor Day the kids will be back at school and the mothers will start attending more regularly, gathering in the park outside the classroom windows. The audience of children will be missing. But what the summer mothers may lose in the peanut gallery, they may gain in new mothers. Those first time kindergarten parents can have a place to sweat together rather than cry alone, part of a encouraging circle of women.
“We learn from one another,” one of the boot camp moms said, and she was not just talking about the exercise routines.
Information about Aeron’s boot camp is available at www.aeronhansen.com.