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Duluth high-energy fitness class has a place for strollers, nursery songs

Kimberly Lunde of Esko smiles at her son Colton, 21 months, as she performs an exercise at the fountain. (Bob King / / 9
Kimberly Lunde of Esko performs a lunge as she and her 21-month-old son Colton get a round of smiles from (left to right) Irene Enrico, Pat Kleimola and Joanne Johnson, all of Duluth. (Bob King / / 9
Justine Urshan of Hermantown “mountain climbs” during class under the watchful eyes of her 2-year-old daughter, Emmaline. (Bob King / / 9
Moms work out with a stretching exercise as their children watch from strollers at the Miller Hill Mall. (Bob King / / 9
Andrea Pfeiffer of Duluth (left) and Kimberly Lunde of Esko power walk with their kids in strollers in the Miller Hill Mall commons area before store opening time. (Bob King / / 9
Lisa Filzen, owner and instructor of the Duluth-Hermantown Fit4Mom franchise, leads the exercise at a recent Stroller Strides fitness class. (Bob King / / 9
The kids watch as their mothers do push-ups as part of the Stroller Strides fitness class held in the commons areas at the Miller Hill Mall. (Bob King / / 9
Led by Sara Marciniak of Rice Lake and her 14-month-old daughter, Josephine, moms power walk with their babies through the Miller Hill Mall commons as part of a Stroller Strides fitness class on a recent Friday morning. Joanne Johnson of Duluth (right) smiles at the sight. (Bob King / / 9
Turning around to flash a quick smile at her children Benjamin (left) and Joshua, Rachel Moline of Duluth does a stretching exercise using the rails of the wheelchair ramps with her classmates at the Miller Hill Mall. (Bob King / / 9

It’s a cold late-fall morning, and senior citizens are walking steadily past gated stores at the Miller Hill Mall, getting in their exercise before business hours.

An entirely different group is gathered in a circle in front of J.C. Penney.

“Side cross! Move your hands across your body!” an enthusiastic Lisa Filzen shouts, as 10 women mimic her aerobic moves.

Each is standing behind a stroller with one or two occupants.

As they switch to squats, Filzen, 26, leads the moms in a song featuring the names of each of their little ones.

“Madison’s here today, shout hooray! Hooray!” they chorus.

It’s called Stroller Strides, a fitness class for moms and their little ones that began in June at Bayfront and Leif Erikson parks and moved indoors to the mall and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center as winter approached.

“This is an opportunity for moms to get some fitness,” said Filzen, who holds the Duluth and Hermantown franchise for a California-based company called Fit4Mom. “It fills a void for moms.”

Filzen, a CPA, worked full time as an accountant for her family’s firm, Moline Machinery, until her first child was born a little more than a year ago. She cut down to a part-time role at Moline, she said, and searched for ways to remain physically fit.

“I have a passion for working out,” Filzen said. “I played sports my whole life. Having a child, it was a little more difficult to find time to work out.”

After coming across Fit4Mom on the Internet last spring, Filzen traveled to the Twin Cities to try a class.

“I thought it was the coolest thing,” Filzen said. “It was such an awesome workout.”

She acquired a franchise, originally only for the Duluth lakefront, and offered three classes a week beginning June 12. Since then, she has added two more classes, hired a second instructor and is in the process of hiring a third. She also recently opened a Fit4Baby class — for pregnant women — and filled it with 10 women in the first week, she said.

Sara Marciniak, 28 — whose first child Josephine is a little older than Filzen’s Madison — heard about the classes before they even got under way, she said. She attended a “practice class” before the official opening and, in August, earned certification to be the second instructor.

It’s a positive thing socially as well as physically, Marciniak said.

“You do get a great workout in,” she said. “Plus, you build relationships with all these other moms, and then you have other people to talk to if you have any concerns with your child. And your kids meet new friends and they get to have play dates.”

It can help with mental health, too. “It’s very much proven that exercise can help with postpartum depression,” Filzen said.

The class is designed with different levels of fitness in mind. After the opening aerobics, class members could follow Marciniak in a run or Filzen in a power walk. Both groups took a right at American Eagle Outfitters and another right at Zales Jewelers before reassembling near the Younkers entrance for a different set of exercises that incorporated play with the stroller set.

Standing across the hallway from their children, the moms followed Filzen in jumping jacks as they sang:

“Five little monkeys sitting in a tree, teasing Mr. Crocodile …”

The moms then went down on all fours, “sneaking” toward their little ones:

“Along came Mr. Crocodile quiet as can be … SNAP

Four little monkeys ...

“Modified or regular,” Filzen instructed as the women began their jumping jacks. “Don’t feel like you have to do the regular.”

Andrea Pfeiffer participated in the high-energy workout with her 13-month-old second child, Felix. First child Axel was at preschool, but comes along when his mom attends a class in late afternoon or on Sunday.

“My 4-year-old just loves it,” Pfeiffer said, adding that he refers to himself as a Stroller Strides kid. Sometimes at home, Axel starts jumping around, and she asks him what he’s doing.

“He says, ‘I’m doing my workout, Mom,’ ” Pfeiffer related.

The mall and the DECC work perfectly well for the classes, Marciniak said, although the outdoor classes with a lake view were a lot of fun.

“It’s nice and enjoyable being outside, especially down by Bayfront where we get to see the boats come in,” she said. “The kids always love that. But you get just as good of a workout inside as you do outside.”

When they’re outside, people will stop and watch, Pfeiffer said. Inside, people will sometimes watch and cheer.

Interest in the classes was high from the start, Filzen said, with more than 40 moms signed up almost immediately. The numbers waned somewhat when the school year started, and she currently counts 40 members including 10 who have memberships on hold for the time being. Filzen anticipates an increase in January.

But three of the women at that late-fall class were new to it, including Jessica Omdalen, 24, who came with 13-month-old daughter Solveigh. Omdalen had seen the class advertised on social media, she said, but it took Filzen’s visit to her MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) class at a local church to solidify her interest.

When you have your first child, “you’re probably still trying to figure things out, what you can and can’t do,” Omdalen said. “I decided I just needed to make the time for it.”

Filzen scouted other workout venues in the Duluth area to determine competitive prices, arriving at $48 per month for an unlimited number of classes and $35 for one class per week. Classes at the mall are offered just before mall opening on Mondays and Fridays and in the late afternoon on Sundays. Classes at the DECC are in the late afternoon on Tuesdays and late morning on Wednesdays. When mall hours are extended before Christmas, those classes will move to the DECC.

Pfeiffer, who comes to about one class a week, started out in the summer. It’s an answer to the difficulties involved in staying fit as the mom of young children, she said.

“It’s just nice to get moms together and work out and not have to worry about trying to get someone to watch your kids,” Pfeiffer said, adding: “Trying to do workouts at home is challenging. It’s just too tough.”

Learn more

Learn more at www.duluth.fit4mom, the Fit4Mom Duluth page on Facebook or by contacting Lisa Filzen at or (218) 464-9961.