By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsApril 23, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 24, 2019) -- Parents of toddlers are well aware that running can be a big part of the job when it comes to keeping up with them.
Members of the Camp Zama Stroller Warriors, however, list camaraderie and a sense of community as the main reasons they get together to run with their young children in strollers. The fitness that it brings doesn't hurt either.
"My favorite part is the community that it builds," said Melissa Aurich, a coordinator of the Camp Zama chapter and mother of Lincoln, 2. "It was really amazing to move to a foreign country and you're kind of scrambling to find your footing, and I got involved in Stroller Warriors pretty quickly after I got here, so I feel like it really gave me a group of people with kids close to my age."
The group meets Tuesdays and Thursdays for a run that lasts anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, with a break for strength training halfway through, said Morgan Hargus, also a coordinator of the group and mother of Roosevelt, 2, and Arlo, 6 months.
Although the group's intention is that everyone become a runner, the group accepts all fitness levels, Hargus said.
"We base our workout on the level of the members we have, so we don't ever leave anybody behind," Hargus said.
Hargus, a runner for 15 years, said she joined the group about a year and a half ago and has been a regular ever since.
"I just like the camaraderie, having a group of people that hold you accountable but also just boost you up and make you feel good," Hargus said.
Stroller Warriors is a national organization and there is no cost at any of the chapters, according to the organization's website. Stephanie Geraghty, a Marine Corps spouse, founded the organization at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2010, and chapters are only located on military installations and led by active-duty military spouses.
The organization has 47 chapters, including five in Japan, according to the organization's website.
Stroller Warriors at Camp Zama started in July 2015, according to the organization.
Ariana Gowins, mother of Bjorn, 7 months, said she has been attending meetings off and on for several months, and appreciates the workout and friendly environment.
Gowins said she hopes to become a runner, but for now, is walking with the group.
"I'm just going to try to learn from them how to keep up with the baby and work out, and because it's only twice a week -- it's not every day -- so my body can catch up and I can keep coming," Gowins said.
Crystal Hultquist, meanwhile, said her youngest child is 11, and there is no need to have a stroller-aged child to participate.
"I love the group," Hultquist said. "It's great to come down and hang out with all these really great people and then run a little bit, and we're honoring those who serve as well, but really just the camaraderie and combining that with getting out and being in the community is good."
Aurich, a runner for more than 10 years, said her daughter Lincoln calls Dewey Park the "stroller park" because that's what she associates it with, and she has learned how to do squats and lunges from the group's strength training.
Since the runs start and end at playgrounds, Lincoln has also made several good friends, Aurich said.
"It's just about coming out, having the kiddos play together and giving moms or whoever else chooses to come the chance to move around, even when they have their little ones with them, because it's kind of tricky when you have a kiddo to find the time to get active," Aurich said.
To learn more about the group, request to join the Stroller Warriors Zama Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.