Parents of young children attend Cross Training class for workout

For parents of small children, the idea of taking a gym class presents a challenge.

Sure, you can go the child-friendly room at the gym and use the treadmill by yourself, said Michele Johnson, a toddler mom and civilian spouse, but it’s not as fun to work out alone. Besides, as a parent of a small child, “you can go for days without talking to an adult,” she said.

That’s why Johnson and 50 other adults in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, many of them parents of infants and toddlers, joined the Cross Training fitness class at the Panzer gym on Panzer Kaserne from 9-10 a.m.; it’s a chance to socialize and get in shape, without having to drop children off at a daycare.

The class, taught by group fitness instructor Courtney Rife, includes a corner of the gym where children can play.

“Being able to bring my child, that’s the number one factor in my coming here,” said Aaron Schofield, civilian spouse and a stay-at-home dad. Schofield usually brings his 19-month-old daughter to the class. “When I work out, she’s mesmerized by the gymnastic routine,” he said.

Some children, like Schofield’s daughter, get to participate in the class by serving as extra weights.

“I put her on my chest for sit-ups,” he added. “She’s 22 pounds — perfect!”

Besides the fact that Rife allows parents to bring their children, the Cross Training class, which started in February, has also attracted such a large following because it produces results.

“I’ve seen a huge increase in their strength,” Rife said. “[Some] couldn’t do one push up. Now, they’re knocking out 20 in a row.”

The cross training class, similar to boot camp class, focuses on high-intensity cardiovascular and weight training. It also keeps the movements varied, Rife said, and class members rotate to different exercises at a fast pace.

Exercises can be indoor or outdoor, and include step aerobics, jumping rope and lifting weights.

“I try to incorporate full-body movements,” said Rife, who has been a fitness instructor for 14 years. “We do a lot of push-ups, a lot of squats.”

Missy Clark, an Army spouse, has seen definite improvements in her fitness level since she started taking the class in June.

“There are things we did in this class today that I could never have done six months ago,” she said.  That doesn’t mean some exercises aren’t still hard for her, however. Clark even made a t-shirt with another classmate protesting one exercise: the “burpee.”

To do a burpee, a participant moves from standing to lying flat on the floor, jumps into a squat and up to standing and claps his or her hands overhead, then starts all over. During one class, 40 people wore the “No Burpees” shirt.

“It’s like a little cult,” said Susan Putnam, a civilian spouse. “It’s so much fun.”

The class started out with around 15 people, Rife said, and soon grew to 50-plus participants.

The size helps Putnam to keep improving. “It’s motivating to see so many people working so hard,” she said.

Rife hopes the garrison will fund a ‘CrossFit’ gym specifically designed for classes like this one. “A lot of participants in the class are ready and wanting to do CrossFit,” she said.

For now, Rife just wants her students to keep pushing themselves. And, if more students attend, their children can join the growing playgroup in the gym.

“I really feel for [parents] who have small children,” she said. “It makes me really happy to see how hard these moms [and dads] work out.”