Oakland’s Baby Boot Camp expands to Alameda.

New Kid on the Block


Mary McQueen

Chris Duffey

The skies may be cloudy on a late-summer morning at Oakland’s Lake Temescal, but that doesn’t faze Baby Boot Camp owner/instructor Mary McQueen. Cheerfully she greets the day’s group of women and their babies before sending them off, the kids tucked securely in strollers, to warm up with a jog around the perimeter of the parking lot. As the women come back around, McQueen gathers them in a circle near the grass and directs them to begin a couple of sets of jumping jacks. “You got it, Ariana! Nice job, Laura,” she calls. “Grab some water, Megan!” Pretty soon they’re running along a trail into the park to the next station, where they’ll sweat through a round of (aptly-named) burpees—aka squat thrusts—while their babies enjoy the scenery.

The Baby Boot Camp franchise was born in San Francisco in 2001, when new mother Kristen Horler was looking for a challenging workout that didn’t require hiring a personal trainer or a sitter. She came up with 60-minute circuit classes to offer women a way to lose their pregnancy weight, meet other moms, and combine strength training exercises and cardiovascular drills. The associated exercises sometimes incorporate props such as resistance bands, but many of the circuits include training that uses a woman’s own body weight to develop strength, like push-ups or Heismans (lateral leaps that engage the glutes and quadriceps).

McQueen has been cultivating the Oakland enterprise for four years, and now she’s ready to expand. On Oct. 1, she launched a new site in Alameda at Crab Cove. Classes are held from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They are taught by instructor and Alameda resident Penny Cottrell.

“I’m excited to bring Baby Boot Camp to Alameda,” McQueen says. “It’s the first of this kind of exercise class on the island.”

McQueen walks her talk. She has three kids of her own—two of whom are in class today, 14-month old Jameson and 3-year-old Sinead. In fact, she came to the classes herself after the birth of her first child, Liam, in 2007. She loved them so much that she got certified as a personal trainer and eventually bought the business.

“I’d put on a lot of weight when I got pregnant with my first child—about 50 pounds,” she says. “I started Baby Boot Camp, got really into it, lost all 50 pounds, and decided to become an instructor. When the Oakland franchise came up for sale in 2009, I grabbed the opportunity.”

There’s no real cutoff age for the kids, McQueen says. When they grow out of the stroller, she says, they can ride a bike or a scooter alongside. But women have to be at least six weeks postpartum to start the class (eight weeks post-cesarean). Regular four-wheel strollers work just fine, although many women eventually spring for a jog stroller. And all fitness levels are welcome.

“We try to provide a physically challenging class, no matter our students’ fitness level,” she says. “We get women who’ve never really worked out before, as well as women who have run marathons. The most important thing is to exercise safely.”

How do the babies do? Just fine, McQueen says, although some moms are more bothered than others if their little ones start to fuss.

“I recommend new moms get to class a bit early, change their baby’s diaper, get them settled,” she says. “The babies usually do fine for an hour.”

McQueen tries to forge community among her students beyond the classes as well, hosting fitness challenges, moms’ nights out, and nutrition consultations throughout the year.

“When I first had my son, I didn’t know any other women with babies, and my friends really became the other women at Baby Boot Camp,” she says. “I want this to be more than an exercise class—a community of moms who can support each other.”

To learn more: Baby Boot Camp, www.babybootcamp.com, or Mary McQueen, mary.mcqueen@babybootcamp.com.