Success! We achieved our 5km goal

10 weeks ago we set ourselves the goal of running a 5km. Well we did it! And we feel awesome.

Here we are just after our 5km - I'm on the left, "sweating like a pig but feeling like a fox" (thanks for the inspiration This Girl Can)

Here we are just after our 5km – I’m on the left, “sweating like a pig but feeling like a fox” (thanks for the inspiration This Girl Can)

How did we manage it? We are a fairly normal group of mums living in a village and juggling babies, kids, work and the rest of life.

Well, you know the expression “don’t make perfect the enemy of good”? That’s how we approached it. We set up our Ready Steady Mums group in our village, planned a weekly evening training session, and most of us managed to go to most of our walking/jogging/running sessions. Missing one didn’t mean we’d failed and should stop and give up, it didn’t mean anything, we’d be back next time. It was fun, we added a bit more running each time, and enjoyed the journey. We chatted about all sorts – even pelvic floor challenges (oh yes, we’re all in that boat as new mums trying to run!) and how to keep our milky boobs contained in a big enough sports bra!

My cheerleading team

My cheerleading team

On the day, we got our cheerleaders lined up. Some of the lovely mums in our Ready Steady Mums group who weren’t running came along to support us, and join us in the cafe afterwards. Now we’re excited about the next one!

We have really enjoyed the time we’ve spent together getting fitter and healthier as we have worked together towards our 5km goal. And we are carrying on to the next one now. This is the essence of Ready Steady Mums, and we really hope lots of other mums will get the bug and set up their own groups. We’d be happy to chat about it with anyone who’s thinking of it (pls use comments box below).

First Exercise After Having a Baby

How do I get physically active again after having a baby?

I’m often asked for the big secret to postnatal exercise and fitness:
How do I get the body I want after pregnancy and childbirth?
How do I get strong and agile so I can play with my kids?
How can I improve my physical and mental health with exercise?

Over the years I’ve worked with thousands of mums, and I’ve noticed there is one single most important thing they must do if they want to start and stick with actively embracing motherhood – they themselves must choose to do it.

Yes, that’s it: make a powerful choice about exercise, it’s only you who can choose to do it.

I’ve talked about setting fitness goals, sharing your goals with supporters, getting outside, committing to meet up with friends, getting the right advice on what exercise is safe and balanced…. and we’ve got an array of free sessions for you to follow on this site including guidance for your first session back post baby.

This all matters, but one thing I have found is that, not I, not anyone, can make a mum fit and healthy unless she chooses to do it.

Out for a walk with my 3-week old baby in his buggy

Out for a walk with my 3-week old baby in his buggy

I hear about a lot of sympathetic, even apologetic, encouragement for mums to “try to exercise”. The focus is often on showing a well-meaning understanding of how difficult early motherhood can be. But ultimately, the mums who get out there and reap the huge benefits of being physically active, relate to themselves as capable women, the see themselves as being in control and will themselves choose to exercise.

I’m not disregarding the challenges, goodness me right now my third son is 8 weeks old, I’m exhausted, disorganised, my pelvic floor is trashed and I’m on an emotional roller coaster!!!… But I just don’t choose to focus on this stuff. For me, exercise is irresistible. Oh the power of the right mindset!

So I invite you to look at yourself in the mirror, see the capable powerful women in you, and make a choice. Declare it to yourself as often as you need to and get out there!

The bottom line: you can do anything if you really want to.

How to Communicate Brilliantly as a Group Leader

As a GL you want a simple way to connect with group members. You might need to remind them what to bring and where to meet, welcome a new member, cancel a session one week, or just all celebrate progress as a group.

We are often asked for advice on how to manage communications, and how to make it easy, so you can build a thriving and fun group without too much admin.

What we find is that successful GLs often choose to:

  • Remind the group the day before each session
  • Ask for confirmation of who is coming or not that week
  • Keep the group membership up to date (who is actually attending sessions?)

Here are some of the platforms the groups commonly use:

  • Facebook
  • Whatsapp
  • Email mailing list
  • Twitter

To choose which one works best for you and your group, think about your personal priorities e.g.

  • Do I want the members to be responsible for joining the group or me sign them up?
  • Do I want to allow/expect quick messaging by all members each week to say “I’m in” so i know i won’t be the only one turning up?
  • Is there a technology I am already used to using?
Being a Ready Steady Mums Group Leader - "It's all about great communication"

Being a Ready Steady Mums Group Leader – “It’s all about great communication”

Whichever platform you choose, follow some top tips from GLs and their happy members:

  • Only communicate about relevant, useful things (no spamming!)
  • Be positive
  • Be concise
  • Invite members to be part of the conversation and share their own ideas

You can put a note on your group on the map telling new group members how you communicate and how to join your group.

We are here to help with your communication in a few other ways too: GLs are welcomed as guest bloggers on the RSM website; we will share, retweet and like your social media posts; we can help you get local media coverage; and we can include your news in RSM email mail outs. Just ask!

Finally, your GL community on Facebook is a supportive forum to ask for and share advice and ideas on everything related to running your group. Join in!

What can doctors do to help mothers with safe postnatal exercise?

In a recent interview published in Medical Women, I shared my advice with Dr Sara Khan on the important role doctors can play in helping mothers get started with safe pre and postnatal exercise.

Doctors (along with midwives and health visitors) are the professionals we really rely on and trust, to explain what exercise is safe and effective during and soon after pregnancy.  I am passionate about supporting them with this important responsibility.

You can read my full interview with Dr Khan here: Advice for doctors on postnatal exercise: Medical Women’s Federation

And here are some high-lights of what we discussed…

First, we talked about some of the very real challenges facing mothers

Mums often confuse “self-care” with “selfishness” falsely believing they must put every moment into their baby to do a good job.

Every man and his dog has an opinion on how a mother should give birth; feed her baby; and balance work with family commitments. The pressures are astonishing.

One of the most important things for mothers to hear is acknowledgment of the challenges they face.

I shared some of important messages doctors can give their patients to overcome common concerns about postnatal exercise

Research published this year in the Journal of Pediatrics by Dr Esther van Sluijs, found that the amount of activity that a mother and her child did each day was closely related… so we can now confidently tell patients “being active makes you a better mother”.

One valuable reassurance for mothers is that exercising and breast-feeding is safe. Dehydration can reduce milk supply, but exercise itself does not. In fact, the benefits of being out in the fresh-air, building self-confidence and reducing stress are all thought to improve breast-feeding.

And I suggested how best to advise patients on getting started with postnatal exercise (in the tiny amount of time doctors often have for this)

Two of the most important things to start with are improving posture (especially addressing lordosis) and pelvic floor muscle training. Most mothers can attend to these areas immediately after birth.

A good goal will motivate the patient over an extended time period, the best ones are specific and positive.

Read more in the full article published in Medical Women this month:

At Ready Steady Mums we are committed to supporting medical professionals with the vital role they can play for mothers getting active. Visit our page for midwives, health visitors and GPs, for advice on helping new mums set up walking groups.

 

Posture Correction and Pelvic Floor Activation

Today we’re going step-by-step through posture correction and pelvic floor activation. You can do this in pregnancy and postnatal.

We’ll begin by checking your posture.

Stand up, put your hands on your hips, and consider your pelvis position. During pregnancy many of us end up tiling the pelvis forward under the weight of the bump and compressing the lower back. This is called lordosis. Combined with pregnancy hormones including relaxin – which loosens the joints – it can be a major cause of lower back pain and last well into the postnatal period.

pre-and-postnatal-posture-correction

We are going to imagine our pelvis is a bucket of water, Try tiling your pelvis the other way and tipping water out the back. Now tilt forward. Tilt each way a few times and end in a comfortable, neutral position.

Pelvic-tilt-300x224
Now think about your shoulders. The hunched over position we get from breast feeding or working at a desk is called kyphosis – another posture problem that can cause back, shoulder and neck pain. Pull your shoulder blades back and down your back, lift your chest, chin in.

Good-posture-for-pelvic-floor-muscle-training-300x201

Now we are ready to find the right muscles and activate the pelvic floor.

One way to learn how to activate your pelvic floor is to stop midstream in urination, but this is no longer recommended, certainly not something to do regularly due to the risk of bladder infections. It can however help to imagine you are doing this.

Another great visualisation is to imagine sucking spaghetti into your vagina. Squeeze and lift. Engage the muscles, breathe, relax your shoulders. Now relax.

Next try to same thing with the back passage. Squeeze and lift. Maintain good posture. Relax.

Now let’s do both together. Imagine you are closing a zip, starting with the back passage and working round to the front. Squeeze, lift, hold.

That is the pelvic floor active! Now you are ready to do a full pelvic floor muscle training session, and kick-start your exercise programme.

Leading Community-based Exercise for New Mums

Feeling a bit fed-up is really common when we have a new baby. Do you ever feel these things apply to you?

“I never seem to have a moment to be a normal human being any more”

“I would eat a whole pack of biscuits and a large bar of choc to try and feel better”

“Sometimes I only get 5 mins of adult conversation a day”

“I feel guilty all the time for finding this difficult”

If so, have you considered setting up a walking group with Ready Steady Mums?

My Personal Story

Since I was pregnant with my eldest son (who is now three), we have moved house twice, I’ve changed jobs, and I’ve put blood sweat and tears into setting up Ready Steady Mums. And it struck me, during the recent conversations on our Facebook Community, just how common this life-turmoil is for new mums. I’m not the only one dealing with extraordinary amounts of change!!! We all need to put effort into having a life that works and that we want, for example by: making new friends; building a supportive community; adapting our intimate relationship to flourish within family life; looking after our bodies and minds.

When we moved out of Earlsfield I cried all the way to Oundle. I had just made my new set of like-minded mum friends, I was finding my feet as a new mother, I felt proud to be making a difference for other mums in our community through the exercise programmes and local groups offered by Ready Steady Mums (which was really starting to take off).

But the house was too small for two babies, and my husband had just got a new job near Cambridge, so we had to leave London behind. We ended up moving just two weeks before my due date for our second son….

It was a roller-coaster! I made some new friends in Oundle, I set up a Socialcise group and enjoyed getting back in shape after our second son was born. I hadn’t really settled in though, when we finally managed to buy the house we really wanted, a thatched cottage in a village near Cambridge. So we moved again! I found it quite hard to make friends here. I was a newcomer – already with two babies – and I had missed the friendships made by bonding over pregnancy. Again, thank goodness, I ended up making my best friends through Ready Steady Mums. We renovated our new house, I changed jobs, and I do finally feel settled.

That’s me. I don’t always get it right, but I’ve learnt a few lessons for “the new mother who’s life is changing beyond recognition”!

Community-based exercise can help us embrace and enjoy motherhood and, whilst it takes some effort, it’s worth it.

I can see that setting up local exercise groups with fellow mums as part of the Ready Steady mums Socialcise Programme has been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences of motherhood. My sons love running, tumbling and balancing and I’m proud to be a role-model for them being physically active. Sometimes Ready Steady Mums has been incredibly challenging and hard work, but other times I think it’s the most inspiring opportunity I have to impact on something I care about, and then it feels EFFORTLESS. I’m on a mission to support other mothers who want to set up Socialcise Groups so you can make a difference too.

At a recent talk I gave at the Medical Women’s Federation Conference I showed these two slides.

Far-reaching-benefits-of-exercise-300x224 Leadership-in-Motherhood-300x224

 

Think you’re not a leader? Think again. Become a Socialcise Group Leader.

Mothers as Leaders – Claire Gets it Right With Socialcise

Sometimes someone does something for you, that makes a real impact on your enjoyment of life. Making an impact for mums is what Socialcise Group Leaders are up to around the country, and that’s why we love them!

SGL Claire KB

Claire is up this week for a public display of affection by some of the mums in her Socialcise group. (sorry Claire)

Claire Kentish-Barnes has just led her 12th Socialcise session this week. Her group now includes all sorts of postnatal exercises from the Ready Steady Mums programmes to spice up their weekly walk. I went out with my camera and interviewed some of her group members to find out what it takes to make the difference Claire does for her community.

Top three things? Enthusiasm, patience, friendship. Here is a community leader with personality, humility and impact.

As for Claire herself, she is striking in her modesty. She’s just out there actively embracing motherhood. She’s motivated, having fun, and getting fit.

If you’d like to start up your own Socialcise Group the Ready Steady Mums team is here to support you all the way. You start with a walking group and you may or may not choose to incorporate other exercises later on. You can talk with a mum who’s done it before, and you’ll get leadership support and all the resources your need from us. Why not give it a go?

Your Date with Exercise: Fun For Busy Mums?

Remember the feeling? – Fitness is the thing. Our goal is inspiring and positive. Motivation is high. We are excited about our new exercise programme…

But now what if today, a week or so in, we haven’t stuck to our promises, we feel despondent and guilty, and we want to chuck in the towel?

We’ve all been there, and as mums we have an extra load of challenges to contend with like tiredness, busyness, and a postnatal body we might not be too happy with.

Well, I’ve got good news! You can get unstuck, and here’s how in two simple steps:

1. Firstly, focus on success. Celebrate the small victories, shout from the rooftops when you have a good session. Tell your friends and family and ask them to give you a cheer. On the flip-side, remember that missing a session – or even a whole week of sessions – doesn’t mean a thing. Get right back on the horse and remind yourself of your goal.

2. Secondly, armed with this unstoppable attitude to exercise, make a date with exercise. Book your sessions in your diary (and into the family diary, the babysitter’s diary, your supporters’ and cheerleaders’ diaries….) You need the structure there to make it a habit.

You know when you plan a holiday, a night out, a dinner party, or anything else fun? By focussing on success and making robust diary plans for exercise, you can to make your exercise as irresistible as those things!

Personally I like to train with friends, so I make an effort to get them excited too (aha now we see why Socialcise was born 🙂 ) I also enjoy wearing nice kit (aha that’s what all the prancing around in cool exercise kit in the videos is about 🙂 ) Whatever does it for you, get that in place so you can love your sessions and look forward to them.

Please come and share your success with your Facebook community when you turn your exercise routine into one of the most fun activities you have planned into your diary.

Happy training!

Katy x

 

This is supposed to be me "committing to my exercise plan". I'm not much of an actor, but you get the idea?!

This is supposed to be me “committing to my exercise plan”. I’m not much of an actor, but you get the idea?!

How to Set a Fitness Goal

If I have two minutes with a mum to support her with exercise, I always encourage her to set a goal. There is plenty of evidence from psychology research that having a clear goal makes a task more enjoyable and keeps us human-beings motivated. And my personal experience of working with mums and other fitness clients is that an inspiring goal can make the difference between success and giving up with an exercise regime.

The more specific the goal the better – for example, doing a 5km on a specific date is far more effective as a goal than wanting to be able to run better. Even more importantly your goal should be positive. Again, extensive research shows that we’re not motivated by avoiding something bad but by something we actively desire. So banish “be less fat” and think “wear a dress I love”. Have fun and love your fitness goal!

Lastly, once you have your goal, share it. Lots of mums find great support from loved ones when they share an inspiring goal and ask for some specific support with it. “Go for a walk with me once a week, buy me a new sports top, congratulate me when I make progress… ” The more people you tell about your goal the more people you have to be your cheerleaders when the going gets tough.

So, tell me, what’s your goal?

We are talking about goals in the Ready Steady Mums Facebook community group this week so come and join in! I’d love to support you.

Happy training!

Katy

Personal Trainer Advice For Mums – Ready Steady Mums

Expert Advice from Ready Steady Mums Personal Trainer Lucy Howlett

Screen-shot-2013-10-29-at-15.39.47Lucy Howlett is one of the experts behind the Ready Steady Mums exercise programmes. She is an advanced kettlebell instructor, dancer, has trained in postural correction and is an expert in post-natal exercise. I love working with her, she is incredibly creative and is constantly developing new ways to help Ready Steady Mums members to actively embrace motherhood.

Today Lucy offered to share some of her experience and expertise as a personal trainer just for mums

Q: What challenges do mums most commonly ask you to help them overcome?

Lucy: Most commonly, my post-natal ladies are looking to get their pre-baby body back as fast as healthily possible. They simply want to reinforce regular fitness training into their life again and with the knowledge that they are doing the right exercises as well as following a healthy diet with the guidance of a fitness professional.

Q: What are the most effective tips you give new mums to help them get started and stay motivated?
Lucy: I advise them to have a healthy diet and do little bits of exercise each day; even just stretches and gentle mobility work. A great initiative is to place post-it notes around the house with words on (pelvic floor, posture: shoulders back & chest up, squats x 10) to encourage adding exercise into your day when you have a minute or two. (Try it and let me know how you get on!)

Q: What parts of the body do mums like to focus on most?
Lucy: I like to train the body as a whole and to use functional training wherever possible as well core conditioning but generally clients ask to focus on …

  • Stomach — to lose weight, tone up and help get the abdominals back in shape.
  • Arms — to have shapely shoulders when wearing nice tops and dresses.
  • Pelvic floor — to condition the muscles again and regain control.

 

Q: Which mums are the most inspiring?
Lucy: I think each Mum who sets time aside to train while bringing up children is inspiring. Also those who are at peace with what is going on in their life with a new baby. Yes, the body is out of shape and that can be very hard to accept but your body has done this amazing thing of growing and giving birth to a wonderful baby. Relax and enjoy the journey towards your goals, however distant they may seem. Little steps still make progress and perseverance is key!

Q: What benefits do your clients most value about getting active?
Lucy: The benefits they enjoy are numerous; increased confidence, feeling invigorated, improved energy levels, relieving tight muscles and postural imbalances (due to lifting children, sitting lots, breast feeding, etc), getting fitter, stronger and healthier for greater vitality! Do contact me if you have any questions or if I can help with your training goals!

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Lucy provides virtual personal training by phone, Skype and email, providing extra motivation and support – in particular if you are following one of the free Ready Steady Mums programmes. Mums who work with Lucy report seeing their energy go up and their spirits soar! She is passionate about helping you to fulfil your potential and you can get in touch and find out about her services and pricing by emailing lucy@liftpersonal-training.co.uk.