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For Erin Shirey, Baby Boot Camp can be a family affair

Her mission to empower women and give them the gift of fitness and self-confidence stems from her personal journey toward wellness
by: Kristen Forbes, Erin Shirey, who brought the Baby Boot Camp program to the Portland area, holds her second daughter, Emerson.

(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com.)

'After the holidays, there should be some kind of trip voucher for everyone in Portland to go to Mexico or Hawaii,' Erin Shirey dreamily suggests while commiserating about the area's winter rain.

Not that the weather (or anything else, for that matter) has stopped her any - between owning and operating the Beaverton and Portland branches of Baby Boot Camp and serving as the Northwest regional manager for the franchise, she also takes care of her own babies: Her daughter Makenzie will be 4 in April, and daughter Emerson was born Jan. 25.

When it comes to Baby Boot Camp, Shirey walks the walk and talks the talk. She takes Emerson with her to classes; when Makenzie is not in preschool, she comes, too. In fact, Baby Boot Camp is a family affair - her husband Jack often attends as well.

So what is Baby Boot Camp? Baby Boot Camp is a stroller fitness program geared toward pre- and post-natal moms and dads. It combines traditional fitness boot camp concepts with exercises targeting the unique needs of those who are pregnant or have recently given birth. Inner core muscles are retrained while cardiovascular drills and strength-training exercises are emphasized. Parents use their strollers - and interact with their children - during the workouts.

Baby Boot Camp is more than a fitness concept. It's also a social opportunity - moms meet up with other moms, kids play with other kids, dads bond and families unite. As Shirey points out, Baby Boot Camp teaches critical and early fitness lessons for youngsters while helping new moms reshape their bodies and find confidence in the company of other women with similar goals and challenges. Beyond the exercise classes, social events and get-togethers are planned weekly.

Shirey says she has pre-natal women in her classes who are five months pregnant and post-natal moms who bring their 4-year-old kids. She says that more and more dads are coming as well - especially on Saturdays, when partners can join the workouts for free.

Now that it's springtime, those vouchers for Hawaii or Mexico may not be quite so necessary. Whenever weather allows (no rain or snow and at least 40 degrees), the Tualatin Hills Park and Rec Athletic Center Baby Boot Camp classes go outside, taking advantage of nearby parks. As the weather grows increasingly nicer, early morning zoo classes will be planned, as well.

Shirey was born in the Bay Area and received her bachelor's degree in kinesiology (with an emphasis on girls' and women's self-esteem through sports) from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She moved to Portland from Southern California when Makenzie was 4 months old. She and her husband ended up in the area after making a list of possible relocation cities (Boston was in the running) and finally flipped a coin to decide between Portland and New Orleans.

Shirey, who had been working as an aqua aerobics instructor for seniors and a fitness trainer near Los Angeles, knew she wanted to do a boot camp-style exercise program for expectant and new moms. She also knew she wanted to start a business by the time Makenzie turned 1. After realizing the Baby Boot Camp name was already trademarked, she researched the franchise and discovered there were no facilities in the Northwest yet. She opened hers here on April 9, 2005 - three days before Makenzie's first birthday.

Her mission to empower women and give them the gift of fitness and self-confidence stems from her personal journey toward wellness.

When she was in the eighth grade, Shirey began dieting and losing weight 'the wrong way.'

She soon had an epiphany: 'I didn't want other girls to feel like they have to diet to feel good about themselves,' she says.

Instead, she wants girls and women to feel good about themselves and to want to exercise for the right reasons: to feel stronger, to get an endorphin rush, to believe in themselves, to get healthy and to have fun.

She especially wants women to understand that yes, bodies change during - and after - pregnancy. She knows this. Her other instructors know this (Shirey notes that it seems like at least one of the seven instructors - who are all nationally certified - is always pregnant).

'It's hard when your body's creating another body and it's not quite your own anymore,' she acknowledges.

Reclaiming that body while socializing with others and connecting with children is attainable, she says. Class packages are flexible to accommodate the realities of modern mom schedules (if a mom's been up all night with a sick kid, Shirey points out, what she'll really need the next day is sleep, not Boot Camp. Instead, she can come the next week and not lose any money). Schedules and pricing can be found at www.babybootcamp.com. The Tualatin Hills Park and Rec Athletic Center is located at 50 N.W. 158th in Beaverton.