Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Jennifer Rock, moms of stroller-age children get a lot more than just a workout at Stroller Strides.
By: Sarah Tindall
Photos by: Dustin Ashcraft
Stroller Strides is a fitness program where moms of stroller-age children meet up several times a week to exercise in local parks around the Coastal Bend. However, Stroller Strides is also a fitness program that’s about way more than fitness. The camaraderie participants experience is meaningful to participants, many of who are first-time mothers looking for fellowship with their fitness regimen.
Owner Jennifer Rock credits the exercise program as a life-changing experience that helped her get her groove back after having her first child three years ago. “I joined Stroller Strides when my son was 12 months old,” she says. “I had heard of the program, but waited 12 months before joining. It was like a breath of fresh air for me; after losing myself for a year in motherhood, I began to remember who I was before I had a baby. Everything changed. Exercising and the daily interactions with other moms made me a better wife, mother and friend. I was taking care of myself again.”
That was 2012, and Rock spent the rest of that year enjoying the program with her son and finding herself through interaction with other moms. In March 2013, when Rock was five months pregnant with her daughter, the owner of Stroller Strides approached her to see if she was interested in buying the franchise. “After a lot of thought, I said yes because I was so passionate about the program,” she says. “It’s such a positive and supportive program for stay-at-home moms to be part of something with their baby.”
The beginning was rocky, with membership dwindling and a total revamp needed, and even though Rock was progressing in her pregnancy, she knew Stroller Strides was too important for the people who participated to let it fold. So she put all of her time and energy into the program, recruiting new moms through Facebook and other outreach efforts and making sure each workout was fun and beneficial.
Now the program is bursting at the seams. Stroller Strides meets Monday through Friday at different parks around town, including Cole Park, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, La Palmera Mall, Brighton Park and the Texas State Aquarium. Rock is not the only instructor, and she gives credit to the moms – and now good friends – who stuck by her in the beginning and helped her build up the program and make it better.
Once a month, the group meets for a family night out with their kids. “Typically we choose different festivals in town, meet up and hang out there,” Rock says. “The group also has craft day every Thursday after the workout, and moms and their kids will do things like fly kites together or play parachutes or even engage in an impromptu soccer match. Saturdays are family workout days, and members and anyone in the community interested in coming out is encouraged to come to the workouts to get some weekend fitness in.”
Rock and her group also pick a community outreach project every quarter to do something to help in the local community. She explains that, “it can be anything from March of Dimes to canned food drives.”
Stroller Strides has been in Corpus Christi for more than six years now, but under Rock’s leadership, it has blossomed into a meaningful organization that is helping build a sense of community in our rapidly growing city. “I only knew about Stroller Strides because when I was 25 years old, I saw moms on Ocean Drive with strollers, and I thought, ‘I’ll do that one day,’” she says.
Rock, along with the founding mothers, makes a special effort to reach out to the moms interested in joining the group to make them feel welcome and not to feel intimidated.
All of her hard work is paying off. The group now has more than 30 members signed up, and Rock says she hears her own story over and over again from the women who participate. Her favorite life-changing moment was when she met a mom at a restaurant.
“We got to talking, and she had spent dinner telling her husband she thought she needed to seek treatment for stress and anxiety,” Rock says. “She was far away from the support of her family. After a few weeks in Stroller Strides, she had found her support group and was on the road to happiness once again. Many of our moms don’t come from Corpus Christi, and they are looking for a community to be a part of. We become a sisterhood – a little village, as we call it.”
Rock focuses the group on positive behavior – leaning on each other for commiseration after a sleepless night and enjoying the adult interaction. “When mom comes to class, I want her to leave everything behind – leave their stress behind, have fun and exercise,” Rock says. “We partner up or get in groups to play tag for cardio and burn some calories. It’s our happy hour at 9:30 in the morning.”
The exercise lasts for an hour, and Rock says all fitness levels are welcome. She has moms who run marathons and come every day for serious training, as well as moms who just had a baby six weeks before and are ready to ease back into a workout routine. “Either way, we do our best to meet all of their fitness needs,” she says.
This spring, Rock had three teams participate in the Beach to Bay Relay Marathon. Some moms were very competitive and ran the whole race, and others walked and were just glad to be able to do it.
Rock celebrates her one-year anniversary with Stroller Strides in June. She offers specials to moms who sign up, including no registration fee for new members and even a teacher’s pass so teachers can participate in the summer while they are out of school. It’s been one amazing year, with the birth of her daughter and the development of her business, but Rock is grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to great things to come.
For more information or to sign up for Stroller Strides, visit www.facebook.com/strollerstridescc. Mention Inspire Coastal Bend magazine when you join for a 20 percent discount!