A mere six months ago, Maria Kang — dubbed "hot Facebook mom"— was just another viral flash in the pan. But now, love her or hate her, there’s no denying one thing: The fitness fanatic is a force to be reckoned with. In just a few months, she’s formed the “No Excuse Moms Movement,” comprising more than 700 local groups of mothers, worldwide, who gather for regular, free workouts in parks and other public spaces.
Kang first kickboxed her way into everyone’s consciousness in late 2013 with the question heard ’round the Internet: “What’s Your Excuse?” She became an instant viral sensation, though much of the attention was negative, with women accusing her of fat shaming — particularly during a heated online kerfuffle between Kang and plus-size activists.
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“I feel like all the backlash was worth it,” Kang tells Yahoo Shine. “I feel like my original image and message sparked an international dialogue that woke people up and made them question their excuses. I've always stood my ground that my intention was to inspire — and I have —and it's exciting.”
Exercise groups in the network have sprouted up in U.S. cities from Elk Grove, California (where Kang is based) to Oklahoma City, Chicago, the Bronx, and beyond; globally, there are workout headquarters in 23 countries, including Aruba, Canada, China, Guam, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
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Many of the moms work out without equipment — running and relying on body-weight exercises like pushups, planks, lunges, and squats. Children are welcome and often join in. Some infants are worn in carriers while moms do modified moves. “I strongly believe that health starts at home,” Kang notes, “and that in order to raise a healthy child, you need to be a healthy parent.”
Kang has been called “obnoxious,” “judgy,” “not articulate,” a “self-righteous idiot,” and a “cyberbully” for implying that there is no excuse for not working out, and for pointing the finger at overweight and fat-positive activists with statements like “That's not how real women look like or should look like” and
“What you interpret is not MY fault. It's yours.”
Still, the media attention also brought her a slew of fans, particularly on Facebook, where her page has nearly 275,000 likes. One admirer is Lori Ann Hare, an Ohio mother of one who contacted Kang through Facebook to tell her she was so inspired that she wanted to start her own spinoff Facebook group, the No Excuse Mom Challenge. Kang and Hare then joined forces, rounding up fitness-focused moms to produce their first annual swimsuit calendar for 2014; now, Hare is the movement’s national director, also running a local workout group, with 21 members, and currently forming a “couch to 5K” running group.
“I and so many others are hungry for change. No Excuse Mom is the answer for this,” Hare tells Yahoo Shine. “We've recognized that living an unhealthy lifestyle and not taking time for health is not only detrimental for us, it's reflecting on our children's lives. My own family has many health-related problems, and I really want to be a good example for my daughter.”
Kids are also the inspiration for Inemesit Graham, a 28-year-old mother of two living in Yellowknife, Canada, who cohosts a local workout group for 15 moms and is Canada's No Excuse Moms regional director. “It’s important to me to be a No Excuse Mom because I want to be healthy and strong so I can keep up with my children,” she tells Yahoo Shine. “I want to be happy with my body, as it affects my self-image and self-confidence, and I want to be an example to my children of a strong person and a strong woman. I want my children to lead healthy lifestyles so I believe that I have to lead by example; children learn what they live.”
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