If there's anything harder than ditching those stubborn mommy bulges, it's coming up with an exercise routine that actually fits into your totally packed schedule. But simply pushing your baby in her stroller—something you do for fun already—can burn calories and tone you up just as quickly as sweating it out in a gym.
"Stroller walking is a great way to combine quality time with your child and a workout," says Lisa Druxman, founder of the stroller walking program Stroller Strides. She designed this 30-minute cardio-sculpting walk to target moms' common body complaints, such as stomach flab and an aching back.
And this routine is practically plateau-proof, since the stroller gradually becomes harder to push as the months go by and your child gets heavier. Hit the pavement with your little workout partner a minimum of three times a week to see results.
Start with an easy walk, gradually warming up your muscles. Circle your ankles and gently roll your shoulders and head to loosen up. The most common mistake moms make is hunching forward while pushing, so focus on keeping your shoulders down and your back and chin up throughout your walk.
Walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds; recover by slowing your pace a little (to the point where you can catch your breath) for 30 seconds. Repeat this pattern five times. At your max, you should be breathing hard and feeling your muscles working.
Stand at the bottom of an incline with the stroller in front of you, one hand on the handlebar and your arm bent. Use that arm to alternately push the stroller away from your chest and pull it back toward you. Do 12 reps; switch arms.
The lunge is one of the best ways you can tone and strengthen your lower body -- it works your quads, hamstrings, and butt at the same time. As you push the stroller, take long strides and lower your upper body until your front thigh is almost parallel to the ground. Make sure that your front knee never extends past your toes. (Your pace will naturally slow during this exercise.) Concentrate on squeezing your thighs and glutes as you return to a standing position. Be sure to keep your back straight and chest lifted as you lunge.
Resume your walk using full strides, gradually building intensity. For each minute that passes, kick it up a notch so that you're at a challenging pace by minute five.
Take three minutes to recover. Bring your heart rate down until you're not out of breath when you talk to your baby.
Bring the stroller to a soft surface and put the brake on. Lie on your back with your head at the front wheels; reach your hands over your head and lightly grasp one of the wheels or the footrest behind you. Bend your legs at a right angle with your feet slightly bent. Contract your abs to slightly tilt your pelvis in a reverse curl. Work up to completing three sets of 15 reps.
Change direction so that your feet are either on the stroller's footrest or the base of the stroller, and bend your knees at a 45-degree angle. Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows out to the sides. Do a crunch, being careful not to pull on your head (only your head, neck, and shoulders should come off the ground). Work up to completing three sets of 15 reps.
Hip and butt stretch: Stand behind the stroller and hold the handles with both hands. Cross your right calf over the top of your left thigh and sit back. Hold, then switch sides.
Hamstring stretch: Now hold the handle with just your right hand. Place your left heel on top of a wheel and rest your left hand on top of your left thigh. Lean your torso forward and press your hips back to feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold, then switch sides.
Calf stretch: Return your right hand to the handle. Place your left toe against the left wheel, heel on the ground. Lean your body forward into the stretch, loosening your calf muscle. Hold, then switch sides.