Claire 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!”