Health & Fitness

Elk Grove fitness mom, others in swimsuit calendar

Maria Kang, the Elk Grove mom and fitness buff who sparked an international debate with her “what’s your excuse?” Facebook photo last fall, is back in a midriff-baring outfit and this time she’s brought some friends.

The mother of three’s “2014 Fit Mom Swimsuit Calendar” features “25 real mom transformations” – moms from as far away as Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the United Kingdom who provide words of inspiration, workout, diet and time management tips that have worked for them.

Each month features two moms, nearly all with before and after photos, along with their personal maxims and tips for getting and staying in shape.

“People aren’t used to seeing women showing their stretch marks or excess skin,” said Kang, 32. “These are mothers who don’t look like swimsuit models. This is how an average healthy woman looks. This represents the people we should look up to.”

Kang said she’s already sold 2,000 of the $11.99 calendars in two weeks through her website,, which benefits more than 500 free No Excuse Mom workout groups in 20 different nations.

Her original Facebook photo of her working out in a sports bra and short shorts with her three kids under the caption, “what’s your excuse?” launched Kang into cyberspace stardom – and controversy – as it racked up 15 million views worldwide, she said.

Some posters and bloggers accused her of “fat shaming,” contending her photo unfairly suggests that all women can look as buff as Kang if they just work hard enough. Others, however, applauded her for getting in such good shape while working full-time running board and care homes, raising her kids without a nanny and working out without a personal trainer.

She’s been honored by the Elk Grove mayor and City Council for her volunteer work running free family fitness boot camps and workouts at local parks for moms and their kids.

Her calendar’s a response to her critics, she said, explaining that making no excuses just means there’s no excuse for not making your health a priority.

“It means doing the best you can, either working out at home or going to the gym, eating right and exercising,” she added.

She and another mom, Lori Ann Hare of Ohio, created the private online group No Excuse Moms, which now has 10,000 members worldwide, Kang said. “One of those moms, Shannon Link of Pennsylvania, called me and said she wanted to be able to get into a swimsuit. I said that’s a great idea, why don’t we create a calendar to motivate moms before the holidays.”

So each participant signed up for a 12-week “transformation” from September through November. Kang recommended they exercise 30-60 minutes a day at least four to five times a week, eat small meals throughout the day, don’t eat close to bedtime and drink only water, tea or coffee with no sugar or milk.

Then her online group voted on which moms to appear in the calendar, Kang said. January is represented by Hare, 32, whose quote is “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten,” and Esther Devries, a 43-year-old single mom from Atascadero who says, “If it is important to you, you will find a way ... if not, you’ll find an excuse.”

The calendar moms don’t list their weight because fitness “is about building your confidence, your endurance and your strength,” Kang said.

On the May pages, Ashley Avino of Sacramento poses with two of her three kids while eight months pregnant. “Kids make the best weights!” she declares.

“When life gets tough (and it will), take a break and breathe, read a book, listen to music, put your feet up, get a massage, take a bath ... .”

Elk Grove’s Mia Foster, whose photo illustrates June, advises, “I used to repeat this to myself over and over again while running on the treadmill: ‘strong mind, strong body.’ ” Her “clean meal” is “scrambled eggs and fresh avocados, topped with hubby’s salsa.”

Kang said some moms focused on doing pushups, running a 5K race or learning how to eat well. She conducted her interview with The Bee while huffing and puffing on a Stairmaster.

“I’ve become an expert at multitasking,” said Kang, who graces the calendar’s cover in a shot taken at Hawaii’s Lanikai Beach. “One of the moms in the calendar said, ‘Watch out Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar. No Excuse Moms will give you a run for your money!’ ”

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