Beware. The Phantom Jim Rat is snooping around Southern California looking at the best and worst in health clubs, from parking to juice bars to group exercise classes. And Jim isn't just any rat. He's been teaching for four years at various clubs in the area and is certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America.
"OK, everybody, here we go," Kitty Callahan implores her aerobics students as she starts her warm-up routine for the twice-weekly 5:30 p.m. class. But nobody is listening to her just yet. The students are too busy talking about due dates and various aches and pains and where to buy clothing.
You see, they are in a special class, a class for students Callahan lovingly calls "abdominally challenged."
They are in pregnancy aerobics.
And this isn't your mother's preggers aerobics class. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology now says women can exercise at a higher level if they come into their pregnancy fit. Now, perceived exertion rates apply to pregnant and nonpregnant woman.
Callahan puts students through the paces of a combination step / low-impact aerobic class. They can also expect to work out with traditional weights (or, if they prefer, with soup cans, which Callahan brings), do push-ups against the wall, work their quadriceps with squats against the wall--and lots and lots of Kegels.
Callahan started teaching pregnancy aerobics 10 years ago, before the birth of her son Patrick, because she realized she couldn't do regular aerobics. She had taken other pregnancy aerobics classes, but came to the realization that they were only stretch classes.
So she went to the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America and took a three-day seminar on how to teach to the pregnant population. She then met with her ob / gyn, discussed safety limitations and put the class together. She taught the class at two aerobics clubs in the South Bay before pitching the idea to the hospital in her neighborhood, Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance. Officials loved it and gave her the OK.
Callahan has also worked with and is certified by Ann Cowlin, an assistant clinical professor in nursing at Yale University and the founder and director of Dancing Thru Pregnancy Inc.
Callahan has been teaching the class at the hospital for six years. Offered in four-week blocks, it costs $36. Prerequisites are a medical screening and a doctor's OK.
In class, Callahan, event marketing manager for Reebok, shares her experiences of past labors (she has three sons). And there's plenty of humor too.
"Keep breathing, ladies," she says. "It comes in handy during labor.
"Push, push. You'll be hearing a lot of that."
She tells her students, "I really stress that this is not a stretch class. This is a workout class, and I'm preparing you for labor and birth. You have to be cardiovascularly fit."
Callahan keeps the classes small at Little Company--no more than 12 students--so she can monitor all participants. Recently, Callahan says, she has been seeing more older women (35 and older) and special cases (in vitro fertilization) in which the women have worked very hard to get pregnant. She says they are more serious about their health and their baby's health and want to do things correctly.
Callahan is passionate about the class. She even holds reunions so that participants can meet everyone else's babies.
"This is so fulfilling," she says. "I keep telling my women this is the most positive thing they can do for their body. This is just so special to me. Even if I'm having a bad day, these women just pump me up. To see these women rubbing their bellies--that whole connection to life is just awesome."
If you have a gym or health club you think the Phantom Jim Rat should scope out, fax to (213) 237-4712 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rat Trap
On a rating of one to four rats, four being best, here is how the Jim Rat rates pregnancy aerobics at Little Company of Mary Hospital:
* Attitude: Time flies when you're having fun, so be prepared to have fun and share anecdotes and information. ****
* Teacher: Kitty Callahan knows her stuff. She should. She's on her fourth pregnancy. ****
* Juice bar: BYOW (bring your own water). (No rating.)
Little Company of Mary Hospital, 4101 Torrance Blvd., Torrance; (310) 540-7676. The cost for the four-week session is $36.