Jennifer Slauenwhite wants to redefine what we think of when referring to moms and fitness.
Post-baby workouts tend to focus on shedding pounds to get your pre-baby body back, and Jennifer Slauenwhite believes we need to change that. “When I had my first child 13 years ago, every single mom-and-baby program that I participated in had nothing to do with the moms,” says the 41-year old personal trainer. “It was an exercise program but it certainly didn’t motivate or challenge me.” While she appreciated the social aspect of the groups, she felt herself needing more out of it all. “I wanted to be a part of something that made me feel like I was still my own woman and not only someone’s mom.”.
So Jennifer decided to do something about it. In 2008, she launched the Tuff Mother Program in Toronto. “My goal is to help lift the stigma surrounding motherhood and fitness. It seems that there is still the general misconception that being a mother is about being ‘soft’, both mentally and physically. I know from experience that this could not be further from the truth. In my eyes, being a mom is the most rewarding and the most challenging job in the world.” With classes offered six days a week (and classes moving outdoors three times a week from May through to October), moms can bring their babies to class (no need to find a sitter!), and she’s been helping mothers get strong for the past 10 years.
“MOMS NEED TO LOSE THE GUILT FACTOR WHEN IT COMES TO SPENDING TIME ON THEMSELVES TO WORK OUT.”
It’s about strength and being role models to our kids
Jennifer says that while moms definitely need to be strong for the challenge of motherhood, she just as equally stresses the importance of our children seeing their moms as strong. “In creating the Tuff Mother Program, I hoped to attract like-minded women who were not afraid, to put it bluntly, to lift more than their babies. Fitness shouldn’t only be about losing weight,” she says. Yes, she of course recognizes that women want to get back to their pre-pregnancy shape. “But if moms focused more about gaining strength, the weight loss would naturally follow and the pressure to be a certain size would be eliminated,” says the mom of two. “I want to empower new and veteran moms alike to unleash their inner athlete and to remember that no matter how their little ones were brought into this world, they did something truly amazing with their bodies.”
In her opinion, because moms did do something remarkable with their bodies to bring their babies into the world, why would they stop doing amazing things with their bodies afterward? “Every mom in some way went through the marathon pregnancy and childbirth. And women need to remember this when they start to underestimate themselves,” says Jennifer.
Modifications are not a sign of weakness
With the toll pregnancy and childbirth typically take on a woman’s body, modifications to fitness regimens are to be expected. “But this does not mean we are broken. It simply means that it might take some women longer than others to reach their goals. Fitness is not about being better than someone else. Fitness is about being better than you used to be.” Jennifer is proud of how she has been able to cultivate a community through this concept and her Tuff Mother Program, “with just the right amount of motivation and friendly competition with fellow moms.” She’s witnessed her members motivate and empower one another to set the bar a little higher, go a bit faster, lift a bit heavier.
Eliminating the guilt factor
“When it comes to spending time on themselves to work out, moms need to lose the guilt factor,” she says. “There is no reason why we as mothers cannot dedicate one hour to ourselves to do something that makes us feel strong and empowered,” she says, adding that if your baby wants to be picked up, don’t feel guilty if you don’t do it right that second. “You can finish that rep. Your baby will be fine! And you will feel accomplished and just plain happier, which will, in turn, make for a happier baby!” (She does admit, though, that in her classes, she is more likely to pick up your little one before you can even think about pausing your exercise to do it yourself, anyhow.)
PHOTOS BY CHRIS V. LINTON Follow @CHRISVLINTON