In our busy day-to-day lives, some of the biggest barriers to physical activity are a lack of time, a lack of confidence, and often a combination of the two. Becoming a parent can increase the apparent size of those barriers as well as a sense of isolation – but a scheme in the north of England is helping people overcome those barriers and take part in regular physical activity.
Fitmums and Friends
The multiple award-winning Fitmums and Friends started in 2009 when Sam Barlow, a busy working Mum, felt she was missing out on meeting fellow parents, and distributed flyers inviting mums to go running. Four Mums turned up to her first run, and, remarkably, within two years 200 people were showing up – and not just Mums. Parents were bringing along their kids, and the idea soon grew from merely ‘Fitmums’ to ‘Fitmums and Friends’.
After the running group was established, it widened into including ‘buggy sessions’ – a walking workout for parents with a child in a buggy. It was fun, it was sociable, and it was good, solid physical activity.
Charitable status and endless growth
The next step was to affiliate to England Athletics, and soon a junior run section emerged, allowing kids from age 5 and upwards to get active. A coaching structure was established, as well as supporting people to become qualified coaches. The progress and growth was relentless.
Demand continued to grow, and by 2011 that increased demand meant the next step was to create the means of helping other groups to set up and develop. Fitmums and Friends Ltd was born – a not for profit, social enterprise with the aim of supporting the development of groups in other communities. By 2013 there were an additional three groups across Hull and East Yorkshire.
Almost unwittingly, Sam had created a blueprint for a successful Fitmums and Friends model and it simply never stopped growing. By 2015 Fitmums and Friends had developed an intergenerational choir, a cycle squad, a new athletics session for children aged 10+ and the first group in South Yorkshire. And last year, the icing on the cake came when Fitmums and Friends gained charitable status and reached new territories such as North Yorkshire and NE Lincolnshire. Its new charitable status enables Fitmums and Friends to support more even people to become more active through its range of friendly and supportive activity sessions.
Fitmums and Friends, like so many sports clubs and groups, is dependent on a vast network of volunteers, as members of the community support one another and spread the special spirit. Schemes like this, that bring so much positivity to so many lives, simply could not happen without those volunteers.
Today, there are eight Fitmums and Friends clubs across Hull and Yorkshire catering for more than 850 members. The clubs now offer a wide range of activities, including running (group runs and coached sessions), fitness walking, buggy walks and a buggy boot camp, a cycle squad, and junior athletics.
You don’t have to be a mum, or even fit – men, dads, grandparents are all welcome. Their website is an absolute goldmine of information and opportunities, with events galore and terrific support on hand for those who wish to set up their own groups.
Sometimes, as you get older, you need a little push in the right direction to get active, and Fitmums and Friends is a wonderful example of a sociable and supportive sporting network. Check it out and get involved!
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