An avid CrossFitter until she had kids, Ashley Heiselt realized her fitness community was void of other mothers with the same physical and emotional needs. Now as the owner of FIT4MOM South Bay L.A., Ashley fosters an inclusive community of more than 100 local moms who come together to exercise and connect socially.
FIT4MOM group fitness classes are known nationally for their signature Stroller Strides “Mommy & Me” workouts. Moms show up to class with their kids in tow, removing the barrier and logistics of having to secure child care in order to work out.
“We get a lot of moms who are on maternity leave, and their first babies are between 6 and 10 weeks old,” Ashley says. “They start coming to our classes, and that’s literally the first time they’re leaving the house. It lets them practice getting out the door, packing up the diaper bag, getting a stroller in the car and understanding how much time it takes to get all of that stuff—and a baby—loaded into the car … and getting somewhere on time-ish.”
“Moms come as they are to class. We don’t care if your shirt’s on inside out or you have spit-up down your back.”
Kids stay strapped into their strollers during this hour-long outdoor class while moms exercise using resistance bands, mini bands, body weight and the environment. During the workout, moms sing children’s songs and engage with the kids, pause to feed or soothe their child when needed and have an opportunity to make new mom friends who are in a similar stage of life. “Moms come as they are to class,” Ashley says. “We don’t care if your shirt’s on inside out or you have spit-up down your back.”
Classes have an average of seven to 10 members to help maintain intimacy and nurture mom-to-mom connections. “The #1 thing that FIT4MOM brings that most other exercise classes don’t is the community,” Ashley says. “When your baby has been up all night, we get it; we’ve been there and done that. We probably have a suggestion or idea that worked for us.”
Ashley is a mother of two and currently pregnant with her third baby. Having a tight-knit community at CrossFit is what initially drew her to the sisterhood of FIT4MOM. Although she grew up in Manhattan Beach, Ashley realized most of her friends with kids had since moved away from the South Bay.
While on maternity leave with her first child, she stumbled across FIT4MOM South Bay L.A. while researching workouts for moms. She decided not to return to her corporate finance job and began teaching Stroller Strides classes in November 2018.
Ashley became a franchisee partner in February 2020 and took over as franchise owner in August 2021. Her instructor certification process involved training in both pre- and postnatal exercises to be able to tailor workouts for moms at every stage of motherhood.
“Our classes are for every fitness level, from pregnant to freshly postpartum to 10 years postpartum,” Ashley says. “You could be a college or professional athlete, or you could be someone who hasn’t worked out in years. We offer tons of modifications and help you exercise at the level you’re at right now. For moms, that can change on a daily basis because sometimes we sleep through the night, but most of the time we don’t.”
In addition to Stroller Strides, FIT4MOM South Bay L.A. offers a moms-only high-intensity interval training class in Manhattan Beach called Body Boost that combines cardio, strength training, core work and meditation.
Longtime FIT4MOM member Carmini Yogeswaran says she appreciates that all class instructors are relatable moms. “I love the fact that it’s a no-judgment workout group, which is important for moms who are trying to exercise with their kids and keep up physically,” she says. “My son has grown up coming to these classes and loves the interaction with other kids.”
In addition to workout classes, FIT4MOM South Bay L.A. hosts monthly playdates that include a craft for kids; monthly moms’ night out events that usually entail dinner or a fun group activity; and educational Q&A sessions with local experts such as pelvic floor physical therapist Katie Peters, DPT, of BeachMama Wellness.
Stroller Strides classes are held Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Valley Park in Hermosa Beach; Thursday at Live Oak Park in Manhattan Beach; and Saturday on the grass behind the Manhattan Beach Library. During class, the group travels to between three and five different locations to keep the kids moving. At Valley Park this involves using the stairs, walls and picnic tables to get a workout, and in Manhattan Beach this often means trips to The Strand, the pier or Bruce’s Beach.
A Body Boost regular, Emily Allen began attending this class during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when being outdoors was especially important. “Even though I was only attending one class per week, it really worked and I got noticeably stronger and more in shape,” Emily said. “FIT4MOM truly has been life-changing for me, and what’s crazy is that it’s happening as I’m getting older. I just turned 40, but I think I may be in the best shape of my life.”
Death becomes him.
Her own kind of music.