WHAT IS MAMA BEASTS?
My name is Antoinette and I am the founder of Mama Beasts. I have three kids - all lovely, rambunctious boys - so I like to joke that I live in a frat house. We often (like every day) can't find matching socks in the frat house, so to say that I founded a group, especially one as special as Mama Beasts, feels great. And also kind of insane. But a dash of craziness has always worked well for me and the Mama Beasts along this journey.
In 2011, I became certified to teach group fitness classes through the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFFA). In the spring of 2013, I began Quiet Beasts - outdoor bootcamp style fitness for women, who enjoyed challenging work-outs in a low-key environment. While I love these classes (and still teach them today), it felt like something was missing. I missed working out with other moms and kids as I had done when my oldest sons were small, as it had been such a pivotal experience for me. So, I pursued additional prenatal and postnatal fitness training, and in September of 2013, I held the first Mama Beasts class in West Roxbury, the town I grew up in. With encouragement from family and my own mom tribe, I held our first session to see if the class and community would stick. That was five years ago and our community continues to grow. A hybrid exercise class, mom's social outlet and playgroup, this program allows moms to be the best versions of themselves by supporting them in fitness, parenting, and social endeavors.
I have put my whole heart into developing a community similar the one that changed my life, but in my own community. I added a focus of incorporating work-outs that could progress with moms as they became stronger and wanted more of a challenge. Just because a mom works out with her kids doesn’t mean she did not want or could not handle intensity. In fact, many moms I work with are struggling to squeeze in workouts that matched their fitness routines pre-baby. I want these women, as well as those who were brand new to exercise to have a place at Mama Beasts.
The women in this group have always inspired me to want to be better in so many ways. It was a natural step to include an element of community service into Mama Beasts. We have held food and clothing drives; ran local races for charities; brought bootcamp classes to a lower-income housing development; and volunteered at some incredible organizations focused on making life better for children. Mama Beast family classes have also become part of our tradition, as we always work to teach our Baby Beasts that fitness can be fun and part of everyday routine. I have also developed and incorporated a series of "fitness challenges" that work to benefit moms physically, nutritionally, socially and emotionally. They provide an outlet for friendships, a place to be encouraged as you work for a tough goal, a place to share food inspiration and mom frustrations.
Along with the Mama Beast classes, these challenges round out a supportive, realistic, and fun overall fitness program. I am proud of them because they are not about gimmicks, quick fixes or selling anything. They're about goal setting, prioritizing, accountability, support, and realizing a little something is better than nothing. The challenges, our play-dates, group races, social outings, and charity work within Mama Beasts have truly created something special. Lightning in a bottle. I want as many moms as possible to feel the inspirational electricity of this group.
That's the neat version. If you're a mom, you know things are never quite that simple.
MY STORY - WHO IS A MAMA BEAST?
What's A Mama Beast?
It's a question I am often asked.
As many things in my life, it all started with Dunkin Donuts. Or more specifically, munchkins. It was a gorgeous day and I was eating my kid's munchkins as they ran around a local park. I noticed a group of moms running around with their strollers. At first, I thought it was a coincidence. After a little spying and many more Munchkins, I realized it was an exercise class. Outside! With other moms to chat with! And it appeared they were exercising AND having fun. These things had never really coincided for myself.
I was a little intimidated. But as a stay-at-home mom to two boys, I was also feeling a little lost. I tried a class and my legs were Jello for a week. Did I mention I hadn't worked out since before baby #1 and baby #2 was 6 months. But even with the Jello legs, I felt better. So, I kept showing up. No matter what. Three times a week with the boys in tow. There was something comforting about the routine, despite the physical toughness of it all. I huffed and puffed, walking the laps. The kids kept asking why we were losing. I jogged a little. I breastfed behind a tree instead of chatting after class. I was quiet and mostly winded, but I kept showing up. My oldest started tortrousus tantrums. My youngest had countless ear infections. He never slept. My husband lived out of state to work during the week.
But I kept showing up.
I struggled to keep up with partner work. Different muscles were always sore. But yet, I felt emotionally better and stronger. I wanted to work harder on the physical stuff. So, I kept showing up.
Strange things began to happen.
My legs were only jello for a few days instead of week. I ran a half a lap. I started to look forward to it.
I hung out after class. I felt less lost. Less alone. The stroller felt lighter. I ran a full lap.
I started to crave it.
I was surrounded by inspirational women (many who are now lifelong friends) who were nurturing, caring moms one minute and sprinting, strong bad-asses the next. These women made me see myself differently. The commaredery made exercise enjoyable.
I kept showing up.
I led the laps. I lost 15 pounds. But more importantly, I was happy and had energy, despite the chaos of motherhood. I wasn't lost. I began to exercise on my own and push myself outside of class. I watched myself no longer need to modify push ups. My plank times continued to creep up. A once twenty second struggle was now a strong three minutes. One day, I decided to run without a stroller. Let's see if I can make it to Dunkin Donuts (1 mile) and I will reward myself with a coffee (it always leads back to Dunkins!) Well, I made it and kept on going with ease. I will never forget the first time I ran three miles. I was shocked that I was capable. And I was also proud of myself. Sometimes, as women and mothers, that is a difficult thing to be. To give yourself credit without a "but" or without guilt.
I knew I wanted to help other women surprise themselves and be proud of their own strength, mentally and physically. I also knew I wanted to help moms feel a little less lost. Founding Mama Beasts granted me this opportunity. I used my own fitness experiences when creating classes and challenges. I knew what it was like to not exercise at all and to start from scratch. I knew what it was like to struggle, to want to be invisible in a group fitness class, but I also knew what it was like to overcome that feeling. Classes and Mama Beasts resonated with local moms. Mama Beasts was thriving in West Roxbury.
Happy ending alert? Nope, time for a twist.
In 2015, I had my third son and was overjoyed that I had a new baby to be part of the Mama Beasts community with me. My two older boys were in school, so it felt special to come to class as a "new mom" again. I was so love with my third little guy and I had an amazing mama tribe behind me. I remember a family trip when my youngest son was two months, sitting in the sun with my husband and watching out kids play. The adjustment to a family of five felt so right. I couldn't remember being happier in my life. It was only a few weeks later that things took a very dark turn. Troubling physical symptoms began plaguing me and I was at the doctor's office on a regular basis. I started to forget things and couldn't concentrate. Eventually, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. This was something I had immense trouble accepting to the point where I demanded more tests, consulted with specialists and pleaded with my family to understand that something was very wrong, but not because I had a baby. I could not eat. I could not sleep. Each day was a struggle under a heavy, dark fog that I couldn't understand. I was supposed to help moms escape these feelings and be empowered. But here I was -- too weak to get out of bed, never mind exercise and motivate others.
Like with all mothers, there was a fighter under the fog. There were many things to fight for -- my husband and three beautiful boys who were somehow a sad source of guilt, but also inspiration to get well. After many cancellations and excuses, I kept an appointment with a therapist. I decided to put one foot in front of the other. "Just come out and feel the sun on your face," a friend told me. I lugged Joey out and met her. We actually went to the park where Mama Beasts is held. But everything felt different and wrong. It was hard to breathe, let alone feel the sun in my face. I cried on the way home, thinking I would never be myself again. But like those early days getting back into exercise, I just showed up. And continued to.
I got dressed. I took care of three kids. I went to birthday parties and chaperoned play-dates. I felt numb, but I was there. I wrote class plans with shaky hands. I smiled at my tribe, even though I felt broken. I kept showing up.
It wasn't this straight shot to becoming myself again. It was not pretty. It was a zig-zagged, ugly journey of ups and downs and fighting. And through it, Mama Beasts was a safe and stable place.
I had a routine and a purpose and women counting on me. There were many mornings I thought, if I can just get to Mama Beasts and teach, it will be ok. In my darkest time, the community I created to help others, was saving me.
I started to take walks. I planned new challenges. I talked with new moms who tried class. I tried to ignore the aches and pains that no one could explain. I kept showing up. My walks turned into jogs and I started to think exercise might be able to save me again. I continued therapy. I was more open-minded during my sessions. I began anti-depressants and I said no to things that seemed like too much. I made my own exercise a priority. I tried to make every Mama Beasts class the best it could be. This purpose helped. I kept showing up.
It was an incredibly difficult year. And while I was private about my struggle as it was very immediate and raw, I took comfort in knowing that keeping Mama Beasts going as business as usual just might be helping another mom in a similar place.
My struggle continued, but I started to feel the sun on my face, more often than not. The physical symptoms and anxiety lingered, but they were no longer dibilitating. I set new goals for myself. I decided to take on something that had always eluded me since starting Mama Beasts. After feeling like I almost lost everything, why not go for everything?
In January of 2017, I ran my first half marathon -- a year after I had been diagnosed with PPD/PPA. And four years after I learned a could run a full mile. This was something that didn't seem possible to me for so many reasons. But it allowed me to once again surprise myself. It gave me something to fight for during a time when I felt betrayed my my own mind and body.
So, who is a Mama Beast?
We are so much more than burpees and tank top slogans. A Mama Beast is a woman who keeps showing up. For her children. For her family. For her tribe. And for herself.