If you want to be successful at anything, join a group of like-minded people to pull you up to their level. It’s no coincidence that members of groups for weight-loss, addiction, business or creativity all do better together than they would do individually.
Finding your fitness friends
If you already have a friendship in mind, you can put this away and send them a text. But if you feel trapped under a baby and wilting about wrestling your toddler outside the door: read on.
If you live close to a major city or town, you can search out your local post-natal fitness groups. Check out your council website, leisure centre or Surestart facility. Another good place to look is Facebook: just type in your local area’s name alongside “buggy fit” or “buggy workout” “mum fit” or “baby workout”. It’s also worth checking out the signboard at your local park as a lot of local groups advertise on there.
For people in the countryside, it’s a little more difficult. You are more likely to find walking groups or sessions run in the local village hall. Alternatively, you can set up an informal group of your own: ask on HelpfulPeeps, MummySocial or NextDoor.
Getting through the first meeting
So, once you have located a group, it’s time to head out and try it. At this point, your confidence may falter at the thought of the extra work involved or the fact you are turning up (on your own!) to an established group. It’s easy to sabotage yourself so you don’t go or stay at the back of the class without talking to anyone. I have been guilty of both. So, here are my top tips for getting it to work.
1. Prepare ahead of time.
If you are going to a morning session, get up and put your exercise gear on. The baby won’t mind and it’s one less excuse to face down. Also, prepare your baby’s day bag the night before, so you can just pick it up and go. If (like me) you are never that punctual, always allow 15 minutes extra for where you need to go. Your child(ren) are guaranteed to use that time, either by refusing their shoes, needing a nappy change or just sitting by the door and wailing because the cat can’t come.
2. Promise yourself you will speak to at least two people
Honestly, it will never be this easy again to break the ice. Everyone is there for the same reason as you and you can’t go wrong on complimenting a baby to its mother. Ask about their experiences, commiserate over the lack of sleep or the prospect of teething. From there, it’s easy enough to chat about hobbies, work, partners or the local wildlife.
3. Don’t focus on how you look
In your mind, everyone is serenely gliding off with their buggy and perfectly-behaved babies, whilst you are puffing along at the rear, red-faced with a screaming child. We ALL have days like that and no-one will give two hoots if you turn up in baggy grey yoga pants with your hair in a bun. Just focus on how you feel: enjoy being outside and talking to another adult human being. They are doing exactly the same as you.
I loved going to buggyfit and walking tots. Getting outside got the baby to sleep and getting exercise was the start of reclaiming tiny bits of my time for me. I made new friends and the classes helped structure my week around the never-ending fog of feeding, cleaning and soothing that babies require. And when your kids get too big for the buggy – that’s when Parkruns beckon…