Feature Article - October 2005
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That Feminine Mystique

Solving the mystery of successfully marketing to women

By Stacy St. Clair

Go for a stroll

After giving birth, new moms have special needs. In addition to physical considerations, there are also practical ones. It simply becomes harder for women to carve out time to exercise.

Some women have trouble finding babysitters or can't afford the nursery fees at local health clubs. Others still don't feel comfortable being separated from their infants.

A new fitness program strives to resolve those problems. StrollerFit gives moms a fun, healthy way to get in shape while pushing their children's strollers. The workouts—which can be held indoors and out—lengthen, strengthen and sculpts bodies with exercises that compliment the stroller's movement, resistance and stability.

The classes, which are taught by certified instructors, concentrate on rebuilding "Mommy Muscles," the areas women use most during pregnancy and labor. The 50-minute workout also gives mothers a chance to connect with other moms.

Mike Grimsley, director of wellness programs at Provena St. Mary's Hospital in Bourbonnais, Ill., learned about StrollerFit while surfing the Internet several months ago. He embraced the program not only for its physical benefits but also because it reaches out to women at a time in their lives when they may stray away from exercise.

Grimsley then worked with two local park districts to help bring classes to their area. The partnership enabled the hospital and districts to reach out to a broader audience and offer the class at a variety of locations.

In Bourbonnais, StrollerFit is held at the town's waterpark. They hold the classes there before the park opens. When it finishes, the mothers have the rest of the day to spend relaxing and swimming with their children at the aquatic center.

The system benefits both the waterpark and the exercise program. The class increases the number of pool patrons during the summer, while waterpark visitors are exposed to a new workout option.

The hospital also has rented space at the local shopping mall to hold StrollerFit classes. The location offers an invaluable marketing opportunity for the program and the hospital. St. Mary's takes advantage of the increased visibility to offer wellness screenings and other health-related activities in conjunction with the class.

The hospital has partnered with "Spirit of Women," a national organization that champions female health issues, to increase awareness about the classes. It even has tied StrollerFit in with its birthing program. Information about the classes is included in the "new mom" packet mothers receive upon being discharged from the hospital.

The aggressive marketing plan has benefited the various groups connected with the program, Grimsley says.

"This has been a win-win situation for everyone involved—the hospital, the local park districts, the community, and most importantly, mom and baby," he says.

In fact, babies may be the ones who benefit most. Infants and toddlers respond to the audio, video and physical stimulation the class provides. Instructors—all of whom are moms trained to keep fussy babies entertained—build in lots of interaction with the children including bubble blowing and games.

The class also introduces babies to exercise at an early age—an invaluable gift they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

"It's fitness and bonding between parents and kids," Grimsley says. "Everyone sings songs together, nursery rhymes and other childhood songs. Everyone is part of the program and having fun."

StrollerFit is not a moms-only club. Dads, nannies and anyone else with a stroller also are welcome. Their participation, in fact, is encouraged.

Grimsley fondly recalls one of the hospital's first StrollerFit classes in which a mother with twins came with her own mom. The new mother pushed one stroller while grandma worked out with the other.

"The neatest thing I've seen," he says. "This truly was a family experience."