It’s not always easy managing to exercise when you’re a mum. A lack of time, a lack of childcare, and generally feeling more exhausted than you ever thought possible can often mean it’s the last thing on our minds – despite the fact we know doing so can make us feel happier and more confident, not to mention all the physical benefits too.
In fact, a survey by Sports Wales found that as a nation, women are less likely than men to take part in physical activity. They found that 576,000 women in Wales report not participating in any form of activity, while just over half (54%) of women say they have done at least one sporting activity in the last four weeks compared to 63% of men.
Sports Wales’ research shows a lack of confidence, fear of judgement, a perceived inability, no one to go along to something new with and childcare are all common factors preventing women and girls from getting more active.
And so they’re doing something about it, with a campaign launched encouraging more women and girls to get involved in physical activity, reminding us not just of the physical and mental benefits of sport, but also the social ones too.
Our Squad is aimed at all women and girls in Wales, no matter what their fitness level, ability or activity of choice. The virtual squad is looking for Welsh women and girls willing to share their positive experiences of sport. You might have seen the coverage in the news yesterday or the #oursquad on social media.
Cardiff Mummy Says is excited to be supporting Our Squad, focusing specifically on how mums can make time for some more physical activity in their lives.
With three young children and two jobs, I know first-hand how hard it can be… but I also know I need to make the time for exercise, in my case yoga, because I feel so much better when I do.
I’ve shared my story below on how I fit it in around my family and work responsibilities, plus I’ve also asked other local mums about how they manage to fit sport into their lives.
It’s seriously inspiring stuff, from the mum who has only just started running with the aid of an app, to the mum who competes in triathlons and everything in between. Speaking to them made me want to grab my trainers and run a marathon.
I would love it if you could help me to keep the momentum of this campaign going to help inspire other women get more physically active. Please do share your experiences of how you fit sport and fitness into your life. Or if this has inspired you, I’d love to know.
You can follow the campaign on social media using #oursquad
“Feeling physically stronger makes me mentally stronger too”
Cathryn, mum of three age 7, 5 and 3, author of Cardiff Mummy Says
“Before I had children I would do an hour of yoga pretty much every day, either attending classes or at home. It wasn’t so bad when I had one baby. I practiced and taught right through my pregnancy. I even did my yoga teacher training course while pregnant and used to take her along with me to the course study days as a breastfeeding newborn. I qualified when my daughter had just turned one and I’d just discovered I was pregnant with baby number two.
Now I have three children and two jobs, it’s not easy to find time for yoga. I teach a regular class but for a while my own yoga practice really slipped. I soon realised this was having a negative impact on me; I was less patient, more stressed and I felt worse physically, putting on weight and feeling more tired. I knew that I needed to make time for yoga, even if it’s just 15-20 minutes a day, because I’m a much calmer, less stressed, more patient person when I do. Like a lot of women, I felt guilty about taking time away from my family for me. I would worry about missing my children’s bed time or leaving my husband in the middle of all the chaos, or missing out on family time. It took me a while to realise it’s okay to put myself first sometimes. In fact, it’s more than okay; it’s necessary for my own well-being.
I practice a dynamic, flowing style of yoga. It can be quite physical, although the relaxation elements are important too. There’s something about feeling physically stronger that makes me feel mentally and emotionally stronger too. Yoga helps to clear my mind, which better prepares me for the challenges of parenting and family life. Some days I get up early to practice, before everyone else is awake. I love the calm at that time of day and that ‘me time’ really sets me up for the day. Other days I don’t get the chance to get onto my mat until 9pm at night. Then there are the times when my children are at home and all three of them are jumping on my mat, trying to join in. It’s not ideal, but I love it when they want to do yoga with me. It’s good for them to see me exercising and to know that there is more to me than just being their mummy. They are even quite impressed at some of the poses I can do.
All three of my children do physical activities, such as gymnastics, taekwondo, rugby and swimming. Their daddy goes to the gym on his lunch hour from work, and out running or on his bike. In fact, he recently did the Welsh three peaks challenge, climbing the three mountains and cycling between them. I want them to know that fitness is important to mummy too.
The next step for me is getting back to attending yoga classes myself, rather than just doing it at home. I’ve made some incredible friends through yoga and I miss the social element at the moment. It’s not been easy getting to a class the last couple of years as I work most evenings and have my children with me in the day, but when my youngest starts nursery school in September, I’ll have some time for me and yoga classes are at the top of my list.”
“I’m the fittest I’ve ever been”
Sarah, mum of two children age 7 and 5, from Cardiff
“Since having the kids I’ve got into my fitness more than ever and I’m definitely the fittest I’ve ever been. I started with Buggyfit when both were babies then moved onto a bootcamp class run by a friend. This really made me change the way I trained and made a huge difference to my body shape, which pushed me even more. I moved from that to events such as OCR (obstacle course running) and then I got hooked.
Since my eldest was born I have been lucky enough to work evenings which meant I had the days at home. When they started going to Cylch Meithrin (Welsh nursery) and then to school I made sure I used the 2.5 hour window to run, train in the house, and swim. They are both now in full-time school and I still work the same shifts to ensure I can do drop off and pick-ups. The last year I’ve started moving on from OCR and have become hooked on triathlon. I have done a few within the last year and my husband shares the passion so we ensure we allow each other time to train. As I manage to do most of mine in the daytime when the kids are in school, he either gets up for early morning swims or runs or cycles to work to ensure he gets his training in also.
Sometimes I feel bad that it takes up a lot of our time – although our kids never miss out on doing anything and I feel we are a good example to them with regards to keeping fit and being outdoors. They see us at events regularly and will join in with some of our routines. We have started doing charity family runs and the kids love getting their own medals to go with our collections. My son especially is very sporty, playing football, rugby, tennis, cricket, swimming and taekwondo and he’s only seven. He chooses to so these things without any pushing from us.
I’ve become really good friends with one of the mums I’ve met through bootcamp and doing events together. We have children of similar ages and we often bring the kids along with us to train but we also now meet up in the holidays with the kids as they have become really good friends. We talk each other into some of these events, like one where, as a team, we ran from London to Cardiff. We’ve talked each other into signing up again next year!”
“I had never played team sports before I had kids – but I helped set up
a roller derby team”
Laura, mum of two children age 7 and 3, from Cardiff
“I had never played team sports before I had kids. I generally enjoyed the gym, swimming and yoga. After having my first baby, I stopped all exercise due to being busy and tired. I did a bit of Buggyfit, then found out about roller derby when my daughter was about 2. I started skating and loved it from the first session. After having a break to have my second baby, I got back into roller derby training as soon as I could, and also got into running (and ran two half marathons).
Roller derby gives me a chance to de-stress, clear my head and have some me-time and grown-up time. Training is tough but fun, and helps you forget about anything that’s going on at home or work for a few hours. I’ve just come back to training after a few months break (to give my body a rest) and I realise how important the exercise is in helping keep me positive and giving me my own identity as a person, as well as a mum. The support of my team mates on and off the track is also amazing.
I train twice a week, 3.5 hours in total. We play friendly games (scrimmage) at least once a month and official games (that go towards our rankings) around every two months.
Training is in the evenings, so I slip out of the house just before bedtime. It’s tough if the kids want you to stay home, but it’s important for me to have my time too. Training is tough, and sometimes you think you’re just too tired, but I have never regretted going training after dragging myself off the sofa. When we have games on the weekend, the kids come along with my husband and cheer me on, or I get the luxury of a day off from the family. I’m lucky to have the support of my husband to do what I love, and the kids think it’s pretty cool that their mum can roller skate and take them to the skate park.”
You can find Laura’s team, Riot City Ravens, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @riotcityravens or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to try out roller derby. They have full kit available to borrow if you want to give it a go.
“I need ‘me-time’ where I’m not mum – even if it is at 6am”
Louise, mum of two, aged 7 and 2, from Cardiff
“I did a mummy and baby exercise class once a week during maternity leave, but couldn’t do it once that ended. I needed something else and I wanted more than once a week sessions – and then a friend introduced me to Fit Mums South Wales. I’m currently doing three 6am classes a week, one evening, the occasional Saturday morning when I take my daughter along too, and the occasional Sunday morning Junior Parkrun when my daughter wants me to join her.
I feel so much better for exercising. I have more energy and can keep up with the kids more now I’m fitter. I need ‘me time’ where I’m not mum – even if it is at 6am!
I make it work basically by working out when the kids are asleep (my 6am class) or if I can’t do that I try and do it with my daughter (Junior Parkrun) and leave my husband and our son to have boys’ time. I feel supremely guilty leaving them to exercise when they are still awake. If I exercise in an evening my husband is usually in the middle of putting them to bed as I leave so I don’t feel too guilty as I get good night kisses!
When I get home from the morning classes, they are all usually in bed with my husband. My son always asks if I’ve been to the gym and my daughter always asks if she can come with me, hence her coming to the Saturday sessions and us starting junior parkrun together!
My daughter wanted to do something with me and I wanted to get better at running so the 2km Parkrun was the perfect fit…. although she does run off and leave me behind! She loves it and is competitive with herself (and her friends who do it)! I’m thinking about volunteering to help out now as they can’t do it if they don’t get enough volunteer. My daughter and I are also looking to do a run together in the autumn, perhaps the Cardiff 2km Family Run. I love that it’s sending a positive message to my son too as he already wants to join in!
I’m amazed at how many friends I’ve made through the exercise classes and we’ve had a couple of nights out which is lovely. It’s nice to have friends who are interested in the same things. I’m also proud that I’ve got a couple of my existing friends to join my 6am classes and Parkrun.”
“I wanted to not be gasping for breath at the school fun run”
Laura, mum of two children age 7 and 3, from Penarth
“I’ve felt very unfit and was fed up of spending hours on my feet, mostly due to my job, but still feeling gelatinous. I work nights and was playing around with my phone at 4am and discovered the Samsung Health app. It measures your step number, calorie intake, heartbeat, has options for measuring running, and various work out options. I did nothing before so I felt this would be a good guide. I chose baby steps to 5K. Ten weeks to get fitter.
My app encourages three runs a week, which I fit in when my son is in nursery and on Sunday mornings when my husband will be at home. It worked perfectly until the school holidays!
I wanted to get fitter for myself but it’s also a positive example to set. My daughter’s school does a fun run every year and she kept asking to run with me so this year I wanted to not be gasping.
Getting fit is addictive and now I’m aiming to do the Cardiff Mo run in November, with the Mini Mo run for my daughter. To date I’ve run 47.5K – that’s almost a marathon.
I intend to start Pilates in September when my son is in nursery every morning, as I think my muscles need conditioning, but I’ve lost half a stone so I’m chuffed.
This photo was taken in the torrential rain last Sunday. I guess the fact I went out and did 3.3K in the monsoon means I am a proper addicted jogger.”
“Exercising makes me feel less stressed”
Rebecca, mum of two children age 9 and 7, from Cardiff
“I was acutely aware that I had put weight on after two babies. When my youngest was six months old I felt as if I was ready mentally to give myself a bit of me time and started a Buggyfit class. It was much easier to exercise with my baby in his pushchair, usually asleep, but I knew if he did kick off it wasn’t a problem. We were all in the same position. I’d stop exercising to calm him down or more often than not, Clare (who runs the Buggyfit classes and now also runs Fit Mums South Wales) was there to jiggle him up and down or push him around a bit. It was a very non-pressured fitness environment and that is what you need.
From there, I started doing personal training sessions with Clare once a week, either early morning or after work. Then as the children got older I got interested in more classes.
I train three times a week if I’m good (two 6am classes and one evening). They are all high intensity interval training (HIIT) so you never get bored as it’s fast paced. I’ve started to go back to Clare as a personal trainer (PT) as lately I have been slipping a bit, which is what happens when I’m stressed with work and I’m not in control of life generally. I’d love to be able to do it myself but I know I need help. PT is costly but I work hard and it’s my gift to myself.
For me, the classes are my time out but mainly I want to keep fit and naturally lose weight and eat healthier. I also like to show the children that I am doing it. For my husband, he has a nicer wife when I’m in control of my food and fitness! It makes me less stressed even if work is pressured – I feel as if I can handle or take on more. My children are both aware of the importance and how fun it can be. My daughter even said that when she’s older she wants to join a gym just like Clare’s. She has started to run doing Parkrun and goes out for 3k runs now and again so I think it does rub off on them.
If I say, ‘Mami doesn’t want to go to class tonight’, she will say to me ‘you have to Mami!’.
The friends I have made through the classes are so amazing and supportive – I’ve known some of the girls for five years and I know some of them have been there even longer than that! Classes are never a competitive arena at all. We all go at our own pace and there’s no competitiveness and seriousness about it and definitely no strutting around in our active wear. We are all there to improve fitness yes, but we also have a natter and laugh whilst we get on with it. We also all know that we like to have a drink and a good laugh and we have a Christmas and summer night out….it’s all about balance! I’ve also recommended friends to the classes and they have stuck to it so it’s obviously a positive thing!”
“I was the least outdoorsy person ever before kids but now I hike most days”
Nicki, mum of one age 2.5, lives in Cardiff, and founder of Hike It Baby Cardiff
“Before having my son James I was the least outdoorsy person ever but we were challenged to walk or run 2015 miles in 2015 and, whilst I felt that was an unrealistic challenge for just myself, I thought it could be a fun challenge to try as a family with our then two-month old baby. And so the hiking began!
At the time we were living in Virginia, USA and discovered a local branch of Hike it Baby, an organisation aimed at getting families with children aged 0-5 outside hiking. I instantly loved the group – I enjoyed exploring new places confident in someone else’s ability to not get us lost; I made friends with other mums; I lost my baby weight and several pounds more; I got fitter; I felt calmer and happier and came off the anti-depressants that I’d been on for 14 years. When we moved back home to Cardiff this year there was no way I was losing all that and so I decided to start the first Welsh Hike it Baby branch.
I hike almost every day. Some of our hikes are adult-paced where all the children are in buggies or in slings or carriers, and some of our hikes are kid-paced or even toddler-paced. James and I both get our exercise out on the trails. As a stay-at-home mum, I have lots of time to get out and it’s great that I can always take James with me. He loves coming. Even as a young baby you could see him taking it all in and one of his first words was ‘tree’. He used to love watching the bigger children on kid-led hikes and now he is one of those big kids and looks forward to seeing his ‘hiking buddies’. My wife works full-time and is away during the week but she loves to hike with us at the weekends. We both believe that being active is important for ourselves – we are much nicer people after a good walk – but also to set a good example to James.
I think hiking is a great way for mums (and other family members) to stay active as it’s easy to get started – you don’t need any specialist equipment to walk round your local park – and best of all, it’s free!”
“After 15 years of putting little people first every time, I’m now doing the same for myself”
Laura, mum of four, aged 16, 13, 11 and 8, from Cardiff
“I wasn’t able to make exercising around the kids work for a long time. After my fourth baby was born eight years ago, I was determined to start exercising again (I was always active and played hockey until I was 28, when my eldest was born). I joined Buggyfit classes, which I loved. I did them two or three times a week for nearly two years, taking my little one with me until he was about 18 months old, and then doing a Saturday morning class when he started getting too old and stroppy to stay in the pushchair for a full session, and my husband could stay home with the kids. However, this also coincided with the older children taking up their own sporting activities and our evenings and weekends soon became full of taking them to various team practices and matches and once again it became almost impossible to fit regular exercise in around them, as well as running my own business.
Now that they are all a bit older, I have just become much more selfish about putting myself first, and two years ago I decided to give hockey another go and joined a local club. I have also re-joined a gym and try to go to yoga and also spin classes. My cardio vascular fitness is definitely improving and I feel less tired now.
We have always encouraged our children to do lots of sports and I got to the point where I was starting to feel a little resentful about the amount of time I was spending on getting them to and from their chosen activities, when I wasn’t able to do anything myself. So I have simply added myself to the weekly rota and we all try to fit in around each other. It’s not always easy, but after 15 years of putting little people first every time, I’m now doing the same for myself.
I have also rediscovered how better I feel mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, when I make time for myself and for exercise. I think everyone in the house sees that I am less stressed and understands that it’s important I can take time out for myself too.
I’ve now managed to get three of my four kids playing hockey for the youth teams in my club and have started helping out with coaching my daughter’s team, as their training is immediately before my own so I was there anyway. I think it’s important that they see me being fit and active (especially my daughter) and enjoying exercise.
It’s been really nice meeting people who don’t have kids! Most of the other hockey girls are quite a lot younger than me – it’s great fun being invited out with a completely different group of people and not talking about children occasionally.
Laura plays for Whitchurch Hockey Club. They run a ‘back-to-hockey’ scheme every September. See the website here.