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).

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!”

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?

Embracing postnatal fitness and loving my body – Alice Salt

The-Blast-Workouts-Mummy-Tummy-with-Alice-out-take-with-Poppy-on-set-300x168Alice Salt is featured on our DVD “The Blast Workouts” and here is her story…

Alice: When I had my first child, Jack I had a pretty horrific time resulting in too many stitches to mention and not being able to sit down for about a month.  This meant that getting back into shape took me a long time.  However when I had my second child, Poppy in December I was blessed to have met Katy (founder of Ready Steady Mums) and be introduced to her totally innovative approach to postnatal exercise, which literally changed my life.  I started going to the session in the park that Katy was taking and when she went back to work I volunteered to carry on taking this session which I still do every Thursday in Garratt Park at 9am.  There is such a great bunch of Mums who come to the session who are all inspirational to one another through what they have achieved with their new bodies since joining Ready Steady Mums. They are motivation enough to keep me striving towards a fitness level I have set myself.

Now I’ve completed all the Ready Steady Mums programmes and I’m back to full fitness I run approximately 10 miles a week (with the buggy, sometimes 2 children on board).  I incorporate my running into the school run which saves me precious time.  I religiously do the Ready Steady Mums 5-minute mummy tummy workout (from the Blast Workouts DVD) after every run or session in the park.  The most important thing that I learnt from Ready Steady Mums was how to get the best results for my body. I could run and run, but by following specific exercises from Ready Steady Mums, I saw the real results in my body shape.

I am now looking forward to the summer where I will be proud to show my bikini body with 2 children in tow – Also in the knowledge that I will have bounds of energy to keep up with them all day!

Getting back to outdoor activities after pregnancy – Caroline Curtis

Scot-Hol-Apr-2011-040-300x224Caroline Curtis is mum to Bennett, aged 8 months. She is a Scout Leader and outdoor enthusiast.

Here is her story.

Caroline: Bennett was born preterm by natural delivery. Bennett’s birth was quite straightforward in that it happened naturally and was over very quickly, but mentally it was traumatic. I went into labour prematurely at 33 weeks, which was a huge shock and we were completely unprepared. Whilst Bennett was in intensive care I limped into the hospital every day and felt like an invalid in limbo. I felt like my body had let us both down. I hardly recognised it anymore, with various bits torn, saggy or bloated and hardly being able to walk. I didn’t think I would ever be in any fit state to look after my tiny little boy.

Ready Steady Mums helped me realise that feeling negative about your body after birth isn’t unusual. The programmes have allowed me to think positively about my body by focusing on fitness in stages and attaining levels suitable for my post-partum body, rather than trying to compare myself with before motherhood. It has also helped me meet other mums that have gone through similar experiences with premature birth.

The best thing about being an active mums is being able to fully take part in the things that I loved doing before giving birth and more! Through meeting other like-minded mums I have been persuaded to play social sports which is great fun. And I’m back doing activities I thought I’d have to step back from after motherhood – outdoor challenges with the Scouts, camping and hill walking.

I think Ready Steady Mums is brilliant!

Fitness for me (and a positive impact on my daughter) – Cathy Holder

Cathy Holder is a first time mum, living in South London with her husband and daughter Jess (11 months). She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, eating and cooking lovely food, and holidays in the sunshine.

Cathy: At 9 months pregnant I remember thinking ‘How on earth am I ever going to get back to my old shape, and feel like me again?!?’ But as soon as I was feeling ready to try…. that’s where Ready Steady Mums came in.

I had a planned c-section, the procedure/recovery was a lot more full-on than I had expected. And the recovery time was 6 weeks, as the doctors had suggested. I felt a bit low straight afterwards, I was in a lot of pain, and I wanted to enjoy being a mum and join in with everyone else’s excitement.

My body’s core had been sliced in half so I had pretty much no strength at all. Even sitting up in bed wasn’t easy for the first 2 weeks. I was amazed at how big my tummy still was, I had thought (stupidly) that it would go down pretty quickly. I was one of the lucky mums who kept the rest of my body about the same as before (except now I had much bigger boobs!).  But even though my bum, legs and arms felt normal I had a big challenge with my core.  My core strength has taken a long time to return, it now feels just about normal again.

Emotionally, not being as fit and not feeling sexy was difficult. You have to re-asses your limits and slowly build up to your confidence. Sports have always been a big part of my life, and I am now back playing again which is great.

I feel that my Ready Steady Mums programme is something for ‘Me’ and it is a nice balance to the baby classes that we also do.

I also truly believe that me being happy and healthy has a positive impact on my daughter. She is great with people, is happy, sleeps well and loves the fresh air.

My Ready Steady Mums programme has given us both so much!

Pelvic-floor rehabilitation, French-style – Lucy Taylor

We may not all have access to an electrical probe but mums around the world can learn a lot from the emphasis and care placed on the pelvic floor by the French post-childbirth.

One of our France-based Ready Steady Mums followers Lucy Herman-Taylor has generously agreed to share her intimate experience of their proper, medically assisted pelvic-floor rehabilitation. Totally normal, prescribed and paid for by the state. Why not in the UK? Surely prevention is the way to go NHS? Saving ££s in the future from treating incontinence, prolapse, etc.?

Bonjour fellow active Mummies!

I am a UK expat living in France, near Versailles and I had my first baby, a little girl named Olivia last October. I want to share with you my experience in France of pelvic floor rehabilitation following birth.

Every woman who gives birth in France leaves hospital with what seems like a zillion standard prescriptions for herself and her new born baby. For the new mummy, the most important of these prescriptions is for the course of 10 pelvic floor rehabilitation sessions every woman is entitled to on the national health system (Sécurité Sociale). You are duly told throughout the duration of your pregnancy by your gynecologist, midwife and any other medical specialist you might see (it can be many in France) that under no circumstances are you to undertake any exercise until you have completed your course – gentle walking is allowed thank goodness, otherwise I would have gone insane!

Ready Steady Mums experts constantly stress the importance of pelvic floor exercises, and so I knew to appreciate this extra attention compared with UK based mums. And I embraced the system –

Generally, after a normal birth in France you leave hospital after 5 days with strict instructions to make an appointment with your gynecologist in 6 weeks’ time (no sooner, no later!) If your gynecologist is satisfied that you’ve fully healed he/she will give you the go ahead to make your first appointment for your course of pelvic floor rehabilitation. This is usually around 10 weeks after giving birth. Both specialised midwives and physiotherapists can offer pelvic floor rehabilitation and it’s down to you to find your specialist.

The pelvic floor rehabilitation itself is a very intimate process so it’s important you feel comfortable with the person who will provide the 10 sessions. I honestly had no idea what was involved and had just imagined it would be lying on the floor and doing lots of squeezing. This is obviously part of the process, but when my physio said I had to purchase a “probe” from the chemists, also curtsey of the Sécurité Sociale, I started to have my concerns. What am I in for now? I was thinking. I didn’t feel any more comfortable when during the first session; my physio casually explained that she would pass an electric current through the probe to “stimulate” my pelvic floor muscles. I really didn’t like the sound of this and was beginning to think that the French were completely crackers to put themselves through such torture! Although I felt like running away, I stayed and was glad I did as it is a lot less painful that what it sounds and I quickly had my pelvic floor muscles back into shape (they weren’t great following birth.)

Basically, the sessions all followed a similar format starting with some basic squeezes, which are also to be repeated at home as often as you can: 10 rapid, 10 holding for 3 seconds, 5 holding for 5 seconds and then 2 for 8 seconds. Using the “probe” the Physio measures the strength of your pelvic floor muscles during these initial exercises. Then it’s time for the dreaded electro stimulation part where the physio sends an electric current through the probe to stimulate the muscles. In later sessions when you are strong enough, you are asked to accompany the current with a different set of squeezes.  I was told I was allowed to shout stop at any time it became uncomfortable and the strength of the current would be reduced (phew!) After this, the initial exercises are repeated and the physio basically compares your “performance” pre and post electro stimulation. Over the 10 sessions your progress is charted and I found it really motivating and reassuring to see that I was making progress and that my pelvic floor muscles were strengthening. I also started to notice a big difference in everyday life very quickly.

I am pleased to say that I have now completed my 10 sessions and been given the go ahead to start physical activity again, so I’m making my way through my Ready Steady Mums exercises and enjoying some swimming!