Sarah Long and Gavin Long, 6 months, left, Melika Champagne, and Jacob Casale, 9 months, work out during Baby Boot Camp at Fichner Mainwaring Park in Medford Friday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Baby Boot Camp gives new moms a chance to shape up

It's a familiar springtime scene: Mothers steering strollers over the sun-dappled paths at Medford's Fichtner-Mainwaring Park.

Familiar until Melika Champagne retrieves small, square punching bags from the basket under her son's carriage and pairs off her six companions. For the next 30 seconds, 30-year-old Sarah Long pummels the bag with rapid jabs.

"You're a beast, Sarah," Champagne says. "See, she's thinking about her husband this time."

Long's 6-month-old son, Gavin, just grins from his stroller seat, waiting for his next lap around the park.

Blending cardiovascular and resistance training in a baby-friendly setting, Baby Boot Camp is helping Long, of Central Point, and a dozen other mothers reclaim their bodies after pregnancy. The noncompetitive format follows guidelines set by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. But the program is as much support group as exercise regimen, campers say.

"I needed kind of a safe place to start," says 35-year-old Eagle Point resident Gale Robertson of returning to a workout routine after giving birth to 8-month-old Samantha.

"It was kind of just no judgment," she says.

Whether it's dropping from a run into a walk or dropping out of jumping jacks to pick up a pacifier, accommodating the demands of motherhood are part and parcel to Champagne's program. The 28-year-old personal trainer bought into the Baby Boot Camp franchise after noticing a dearth in exercise programs geared toward pregnant women and those who had recently delivered.

"I had to figure out what I was going to do," says Champagne, who worked at 24-Hour Fitness and Gold's Gym in Hawaii before moving to Talent about three years ago.

With its focus on including babies in the process, Baby Boot Camp fills the childcare void that often keeps mothers of children younger than six months from returning to the gym. Prices, which Champagne says are comparable to local gym memberships, reflect the inclusion of child care, plus the services of a personal trainer. Champagne kicked off Baby Boot Camp in February, adding another locale to about 380 nationwide.

"Exercise decreases post-partum depression so much," Champagne says. "You get to be with moms who are all in the same boat.

"We all talk about our baby weight we have to lose."

The babies, campers say, enjoy it as much as their moms.

Eight-month-old Abigail Hawkins kicks her pink ruffle-clad arms and legs in a parody of her mom's attempt at jumping jacks. When Angela Hawkins, 23, of Medford, puts her daughter on a blue mat for the group's abdominal exercises, Abigail pushes onto her hands and knees.

"I think she might try to crawl soon," Hawkins tells the group.

Close by on the lawn, Samantha Robertson pedals her legs as her mother performs a more poised "bicycle."

"Good job!" Gale Robertson exclaims. "Look at Samantha."

"With her head up and everything," Champagne says.

Although the babies see little but fun in the outing, the moms say they value the opportunity to set a positive example of an active lifestyle for their children.

"We're definitely starting out young," Robertson says.

Baby Boot Camp is open to all women with children who are young enough to ride in a stroller. Campers bring their own water, exercise mats, strollers and — of course — babies.

"If he can stay in a stroller until he's 3 or 4," Long says, "then I'll probably still be there."

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail

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