Ready Steady Mums – why we think it works and what we’ve learnt

What we do is remarkably simple.

Most of us WANT to get active, feel healthy, empowered and motivated, and set an example to our kids.

Mums WANT to be active

Mums WANT to be active

But mothers can be busy, stressed, and struggling with identity and self-esteem…. and the last thing we need is a complicated and demanding fitness programme.

Ready Steady Mums has grown and evolved in communities. Mums everywhere have led, owned and shaped it into what it is today. Now, as the Prime Minister recognises our founder Katy Tuncer as a Point of Light in communities for her work in setting up RSM, I asked her for her top reasons for why it works?

Here is Katy’s list for why Ready Steady Mums works

  1. It’s all about having fun (mums don’t need any more pressure to lose weight, be a perfect mother, or look good!)
  2. The groups are informal and give space for mums to chat, share feelings, and give each other valuable peer support.
  3. Since the community itself owns the group, they choose a meeting time that fits around their own schedules. Meeting at the same time and place every week helps establish routines and habits.
  4. Joining the group is making a commitment to friends, which helps mums stay motivated to exercise.
  5. It’s free, one more excuse out the window!
  6. Starting with a walk is not scary, no one feels judged, mums from all backgrounds can do it.
  7. Mums can exercise with confidence by looking at video demos with clear instructions for safe exercises in pregnancy/postnatal (on the website)
  8. Because the programme is volunteer-led and has a big impact on important health issues like obesity and depression, and many organisations want to support – for example with getting us the word out to more mothers
  9. Health Visitors are available to empower mums to overcome self-doubt and start or join a group
  10. It’s very easy and rewarding to become a Group Leader – it’s easy to register on the website and other mums give you lots of appreciation

Easing into exercise

photoThe following blog post has been written by one of our wonderful group leaders Catriona:

The idea of exercise always seems quite appealing but actually putting my trainers on and heading for the door is more of a struggle. With two small boys at home, one of whom is not a big fan of sleep, the lure of the sofa, a cup of tea and my pyjamas is usually too great to resist. However, getting involved with a new group who head out to ‘socialcise’ just down the road from my house is starting to change all that.

Started by a few of the more motivated amongst us, a small group of ladies began to meet at a regular spot on a Wednesday evening for an hour to go for a walk and do some easy exercise around our village. Gradually friends invited friends, and with the help of the trusty ‘What’s App’ the group has become a regular Wednesday night fixture in our diaries.

The relaxed, informal nature of the group means you can pop along if you’re free, everyone’s welcome and we just plan the work out as we go. With a combination of keen runners, new mums and those who just want to do something to keep fit, the hour varies each week, from a walk and a few stretches to a 5k run (I’ll be honest, I’ve not made that one yet although I do hear they head to the pub afterwards for a bit of ‘recovery time’)

The group works for us because it’s so easy. With everyone’s busy lives it means there’s a different mix of people every week which is great for catching up with friends and making new ones. There’s no obligation to turn up but there’s always a guarantee that at least a couple of you will be keen to get out for an hour. You can do as much or as little as you like and there’s the added bonus of being able to have a good old natter whilst doing something virtuous.

On busy days, or after a spectacularly sleepless night with smallest son I’ve found it really refreshing to get out there and do something totally different for an hour and get a much needed boost of energy. And afterwards it’s an easy walk back to the sofa and that cup of tea!

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!

Way of the Roses

Last year I decided to tackle the Way of the Roses, a 170 mile cycle from the west coast of England to the east coast. With lots of very big hills in between. On Sunday 20th September, I completed the challenge I had set myself, only I can’t say I. We completed the challenge, all 18 of us. You see, what fun would there have been to do it alone? Indeed, I am not so sure if I had done it alone, I, would have had the motivation to see it through or even get to the start point, never mind achieve my goal.

12038835_10204497384946734_8314733898016435511_oOur journey started in December 2014 when I asked if there were any health visitor colleagues who would undertake this challenge with me as a way of raising funds to support the iHV. What has been really inspiring, is that only a handful of those that said yes, were cyclists. Indeed the majority of us did not even own a bike! So, what motivated 18 non experienced cycling health visitors, with varying degrees of fitness to succeed?

When I asked my colleagues (well friends, because that is what we became), this question, they all said- it was having support, a common bond and a clear goal. One health visitor, Julie, looked back on her journey and said “I remember when I nearly gave up- the first ride out, which was 10 miles on the flat. I was out of breath, I felt wobbly on my bike, and my muscles ached. In fact I had to go lay down when I got home, but the warmth, encouragement and support of the whole group- the YOU CAN DO IT message really inspired and motivated me to keep with it” – Julie, was the one who flew past us all on all the major hills.

12027615_845628532210677_9104935456830407424_nMeeting regularly, either physically when we were training, or online, became something we all looked forward to. What started out as an ambition to lose weight, get fit, be more toned, feel healthy (yes there was personal goals, alongside the collective goal of raising money for a fabulous charity) became something so much more. It became self-belief, confidence, trust, friendship, support and fun. I think these things, alongside having a clear goal, were key to our success.

Without exception, all those that took part have said how regular exercise, outside has improved their mental wellbeing, improved sleep, reduced stress and helped them cope better with life on a day to day basis. Being outside with friends appreciating the beautiful world, we all too often forget to see, absolutely lifts the soul (as well as bums, thighs and tums)!

wotr9Ready Steady Mums offers women the opportunity to support each other and enjoy the benefits of coming together with a common bond alongside the achievement of personal goals. Whether you walk 1 mile, 5 miles or 10, you will feel part of something bigger. You will also feel better in all sorts of ways.

It is in this same spirit of helping women to transform their mental and physical wellbeing that we formally welcome Ready Steady Mums into the iHV family. This programme provides a challenge each week for mums to gather and walk their way to friendship and fitness.

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wotr8

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What’s in the bag? – having fun with the launch of RSM

Monday 28 September 2015 – what an exciting day! It sees the launch of Ready Steady Mums (RSM) as a programme run by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV).

Melita outdoors

Melita finding the great outdoors in her bag

Keep an eye out on social media this week for #Whatsinthebag as the iHV launches its new RSM programme with its #TriHV challenge team. This gritty group of health visitors completed the 170 mile very hilly coast-to-coast Way of the Roses charity cycle ride last weekend from Morecambe in Lancashire to Bridlington in Yorkshire. As a group of non-cyclists, they set themselves the goal of completing this gruelling challenge and, as a team, they completed it together. At the end of the ride, everyone was presented with a special goodie bag, not to be opened until Monday 28 September! So look out for #Whatsinthebag posts on Twitter or FaceBook to find out what they got in their goodie bags!

It’s so important when wanting to achieve a particular fitness benefit, to set yourself a goal, so why not set yourself your fitness goal and share it on the RSM blog at http://readysteadymums.org/set-fitness-goal


Ready Steady Mums, as many already know, is a national network of community activity groups to promote mums’ physical and emotional health. Now being led by the iHV, the new programme offers health visitors a proven tool to help mothers in their own local area overcome feelings of isolation and depression, whilst also improving their physical, social and emotional wellbeing.

In a new iHV survey of health visitors, 99% of them say it is important for health visitors to encourage mothers to take part in physical activity and 99% also agree that exercise can help maternal wellbeing and reduce mild/moderate postnatal depression. However, health visitors often report that they wish to do more about issues such as postnatal depression, and in the iHV survey 66% of them said, that they do not currently have the capacity to provide that support.

iHV’s leadership of RSM will provide health visitors with easy access to this great community-led programme. Its proven success in bringing mums together for gentle exercise and socialising can make a huge difference during pregnancy, the early days and weeks after birth. Many groups start off, and many stay, as a walking group around the local park with other mums and their buggies or prams. Some groups agree to develop their exercise and move on to other types of physical activity. So it’s not all about hard workouts with a physical trainer! Walking with other mums and their buggies is an easy way for all mums to get involved.

RSM, with iHV’s leadership and support, provides the social and community support that many health visitors find missing. So it’s a great way for health visitors to encourage mums to get together socially, while building exercise into the everyday routine. This is great, not only for health visiting, but also for local communities and for local authorities who are responsible for improving community heath.

So please do keep an eye out on social media this week for #Whatsinthebag as iHV launches its new programme Ready Steady Mums – and why not set yourself your fitness goal and share it on the RSM blog at http://readysteadymums.org/set-fitness-goal

Setting up a new group? Handy hints and tips

Claire KBClaire is a Ready Steady Mums Group Leader who runs a free Ready Steady Mums exercise group in her community that has now been going for almost a year. They do exercise as well as walking, they have ramped up the intensity together as they’ve got fitter and more confident. Here is Claire’s advice for new Group Leaders…

“When I first thought about starting my group a lot of questions went through my mind – the first being ‘will anyone turn up?’ and the second being ‘am I up to this?’

After the first session I realised that the answer to both was YES!, but there was a lot to learn and I set my mind to making it a successful and inclusive group.

Here are my top tips for making a new group work.

Advertise your group – word of mouth, fliers in cafes / libraries / nurseries / health centres are all really good ways of alerting people to your group. Make sure they know it is free – so many of my group (now friends) wouldn’t have come if there was a cost, and they got so much out of it! For some of you it will be hard to engage in this way, but speak to people in parks and cafes ‘I am setting up a social exercise group – is this something you would be interested in?’ Put your email on fliers – and when they email you – get them to commit!

Choose a good time – be aware of other groups and baby sleep and feed times. My babies were always early birds and loved sleeping outside in the buggy, so I held my sessions at 9.30 in the morning (nap time mostly coincided!), but after lunch or mid afternoon sessions work too.

Think about venue – Playgrounds are great for older children and provide benches, frames, and walls that are all great ‘equipment’ for your exercise group – they also tend to be pretty empty at 9.30 in the morning (but will be really busy at school pick up). Close to a cafe to grab a coffee afterwards, feed baby etc. works really well for socialising too!

Rope your friends in – Get some friends to commit to joining you for the first session, and get as much feedback as you can. It will really boost your confidence to have people you know supporting you.

And then there is the session itself – I work in Sales strategy and I was confident that I could pull off getting people there, but needed to really nail the first few sessions so that people would come back – that was the ultimate test for me, and this is what I did.

Time the session – For the first few weeks my children and I did the session the day before the group to time the exercises and walk the route. It really helped me get the sessions the right length and gave me loads of confidence as I had practised – although I did look daft pushing a double buggy round the park talking to myself!

Exercises – 4 tips
Don’t be afraid to walk – Keep it fast and tall with great posture and stop for exercises on route. You might also just start off as a walking-only group
Think about the level – you can always tune it up – in early sessions use exercises that will help you gauge the level of your group
Keep everyone challenged – Keep it inclusive, but suggest more advanced versions of exercises for those who want more – squats become one-legged or jumps, push ups against a wall become full push ups (or somewhere in between) etc.
Run (or skip or hop) – Get moving in a different way, funnily I found that people love to run – especially short sprints!

And the most important thing of all is a cliché, but do ENJOY this time – you are really making a difference to yourself, your children and others!”

What Ready Steady Mums means for Health Visiting and their famillies

The Institute of Health Visiting is very excited to launch the Ready Steady Mumsprogramme, for health visitors to promote physical, social and emotional health for mums. We all know that exercise is good for us, but it can be hard to get out with a new baby or toddler – and even harder if you don’t have a social circle. The Ready Steady Mums programme offers mums a free, volunteer led opportunity to get out and make new friends, while enjoying the health benefits which come from doing so.

Farnham Hospital and Woking Community Centre.

Farnham Hospital and Woking Community Centre.

Community development is a core part of health visiting practice and this programme offers an easy, off-the-shelf opportunity to make a real difference to your mum’s health. Better still, it will take very little health visitor time, so even if the service is stretched where you are, it’s still possible to set up. The programme can be very simple: mums coming together once a week to go for a walk or more sophisticated by doing some of the carefully-designed exercises suggested on the Ready Steady Mums website. Not only that, but the fantastic mums who created RSM are available to offer information and advice by email and will register local groups, so that other mums can find them on the website.

The programme works by health visitors identifying local mums who might like to start a group, directing them to the website, and then helping to promote the group to other mums when it is launched. Your role is to empower mums to become group leaders: then, they take over the responsibility. A local group could be started or joined by a pregnant mum, one with a baby or a toddler. From the testimonials received so far (and even better, the smiles on mums’ faces!) it is clear that Ready Steady Mums is a fantastic, easy way to build community assets, have fun and stay fit and healthy. Toddlers make friends too!

Find out more at: www.readysteadymums.org

Dr Cheryll Adams
Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting

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.