Leisure Management - Crying out
For every new parent who loves hunkering down at coffee mornings, there is one who’s itching to get back to exercise. Kath Hudson reports on some sanity saving post-natal exercise concepts…
Like Christmas, having a new baby is hailed as an idyllic time. Some people are lucky and sail through conception, pregnancy and childbirth and end up with a well behaved baby who sleeps through the night straight away (oh, and don’t they let you know it).
For others, it’s a time of massive adjustment and isolation: learning a new skillset; away from the validation of work and the company of colleagues; sleep deprived; with limited personal time; probably dealing with some physical pain or birth injuries; possibly dealing with trauma, mental health, financial, or relationship issues. It can be tough. (Although relatively short-lived, thankfully!)
What all new parents – especially mums – could benefit from, is hanging out regularly with a group of like-minded people and exercising in a way that includes their baby, so they don’t have to find childcare, or deal with the guilt of leaving them.
Not only can exercise help women shift any baby weight they’re carrying – which often gets worse with all the cake that post-baby hangouts tend to include – but it would be hugely beneficial for the mental health and bonding with babies for all parents. I’m convinced that if Buggyfit, Sweaty Mamas or Busy Lizzy had existed in Cornwall 13 years ago, I could have avoided post-natal depression.
As well as helping thousands of people physically and mentally, reaching out to this cohort would benefit health clubs. The ideal time to run a parent and baby class is at 10am, when clubs are quiet. Also you’d be introducing your club to future potential members and setting up the habit of getting parents to exercise with their children, which could be instrumental in preventing childhood obesity.
One way of welcoming this demographic is to simply offer sessions where babies and toddlers are allowed to come and run riot, but a better option is to create classes in which the little ones are part of the action. Xtend Barre has a class that is a fusion of ballet and pilates, where babies are strapped to their parents for barre work and distracted with toys for core work on the floor. Triyoga invites parents to bring babies from 40 days old to a restorative session, which promotes balance and strength and, for women, works on healing the core and pelvic floor.
Another option is to outsource to an expert by collaborating with existing businesses who’ve dealt with teething issues and offer programmes either for license or franchise. Let’s take a look at some of the options…
The idea for Busylizzy occurred to me when I was on maternity leave in 2011, with two children under two.
I’d moved to Surrey from London and suddenly felt very isolated. Coming from a background of being a fitness manager, I wanted to go to the gym and get back in shape, but it required a military operation to get myself booked in to a class, as well as my children into the crèche, which was costly and meant leaving them with strangers.
On top of this, I was also taking the children to their own classes, like baby massage, and I kept thinking there must be a way of bringing these together. Unable to find it, I decided to set it up myself.
"During the fitness classes, the babies play on top of a central nest of duvets, with the mums around them, and it creates a lovely vibe in the room"
Busylizzy offers a selection of specially curated classes run by qualified instructors, including post-natal bootcamp, buggy fitness, pilates, yoga and aerobics, as well as a separate range for pregnant women. The children are catered for with baby and toddler classes based around movement, music and art. During the fitness classes, the babies play on top of a central nest of duvets, with the mums around them, and it creates a lovely vibe in the room. The majority of the class is focused on fitness, but there is some baby-orientated activity at the beginning and end, such as baby massage.
Membership costs £45 a month for any four classes a month, or £108 for unlimited access. Depending on location, there are between nine and 25 classes on offer each week and booking for all the classes is done via an app.
In response to demand, the franchise business was launched in 2014. It costs £18,500 to buy a territory and 9.5 per cent of the turnover on an ongoing basis. For this, franchisees get a website and booking app, the training and operations manual, marketing and social media assets, access to the 25 bespoke classes, the uniform and equipment.
It’s designed to be a lifestyle business, which can be completed in 20 to 25 hours a week, and many of our franchisees are members who decide not to go back to their former careers.
I would love to speak with more health and fitness operators about how we could collaborate to grow the market.
Busylizzy offers specially curated classes, run by qualified instructors
Sweaty Mamas: co-founder
After having our second child in 2014, my wife, Hannah, was spending a lot of time in the gym and realised there was little provision for pre- and post-natal women, so she trained as a PT specialising in this area.
However, it was a narrow market, as there were two big barriers: sorting out childcare and not being able to afford PT on maternity pay. Wanting to continue working with pre- and post-natal women, Hannah came up with the idea of a group exercise concept where the babies become part of the class.
We choreographed the Sweaty Mama programme, which has nine tracks, with moves designed around the baby. There are three sections to the classes: the baby on the floor next to mum, then carrying them (which is optional) and finally, using the baby as a counter weight.
"There are three sections to the classes: the baby on the floor next to mum, carrying them (which is optional) and using the baby as a counter weight"
Added to this there’s a mums/girls bootcamp, which is game orientated, with concepts based around a number of games, including Wheel of Fortune, Monopoly and Hungry Hippos. It’s like a girls night out without the alcohol. The classes are offered as a six or eight week course, and range from £35 to £45, depending on the location.
A few months after launching we opened our first franchise and we then sold a further seven in the next three months. In 2.5 years, we’ve sold 119 franchises, mostly to clients who are looking for a life change.
It costs up to £3,000 to buy a five-year licence. This includes a 12-week training course which is being accredited by Active IQ, which qualifies them to Level 2 Exercise to Music and Level 3 Pre and Post Natal Exercise. Franchisees also get access to a live training portal, business support, the branded equipment and marketing material. We usually get them to source their locations when they’re part way through the training, so they’re all ready to hit the ground running once they qualify.
Hannah and Dan McVerry have sold 119 franchises in Sweaty Mama since 2014
Like many women, I was at my fittest and slimmest when I had my first baby, yet despite staying active through my pregnancy, I still managed to gain five stone in total by the end.
I went back to my gym eight weeks after having my son and found that I couldn’t do post-natally what I had been able to do at 38 weeks pregnant. This was a real shock to me. With no screening, or knowledge of pelvic floor rehab, I went back into doing jumping jacks, when I shouldn’t have done.
I couldn’t find what I needed, so I decided to create it myself. I left the coffee and cake mornings to go for walks, and then my friends joined me. When my son was 10 months old, and I had enough breathing space, I retrained as a PT, specialising in pre- and post-natal exercise, and created Buggyfit.
Although walking is involved, our tag line is that we’re ‘not just a walk in the park’. The classes are a mix of cardiovascular and strength training: a full body workout made up of squats, lunges, press ups, toning work with resistance bands, and mat work if the weather is right. We go out in all weather and adjust accordingly – I’ve led classes in everything from minus 8 to 36 degrees.
"The classes are a mix of cardiovascular and strength training: a full body workout made up of squats, lunges, press ups, toning work with resistance bands, and mat work if the weather is right"
The sessions are also very social, which is important – having a baby can be a trying and isolating time, but through Buggyfit women meet likeminded people who we’ve seen become friends for life.
Now, sixteen years after I launched it, there are 94 trainers across the country and 260 classes a week. We’ve expanded by selling a licensing agreement. Trainers need to be Level 2 qualified and attend our one-day training course. They then run their own business and pay an annual fee of £595 to use the branding, and receive access to our private platform and central marketing.
The price of classes varies across the country from £5 to £9, as we allow our instructors to price according to their location and local spending habits.
Licencees keep all their earnings and can also earn a 20 per cent affiliate payment for promoting our new online offer, ‘Buggyfit at Home’. This costs £149 for a 14-week session and allows mums to get results quicker, by supplementing their classes with home training. It also allows new parents to access workouts in areas that do not yet have trainers.
Buggyfit workouts tend to attract women – the company has also just launched a home workout option
[ This mum moves ]
A new project aims to provide information that supports new mums to get active
Phil Smith, director of sport, Sport England
Ukactive has kicked-off a project called This Mum Moves, aimed at supporting women to be active during and after pregnancy.
The project has been designed to provide midwives, health visitors and other healthcare professionals with better information, in order for them to be confident in recommending physical activity.
As part of the launch, ukactive’s project team undertook a baseline survey of healthcare professionals’ knowledge and confidence in providing advice.
Conducted in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), the project ran focus groups with midwives, health visitors, and pregnant and postpartum women.
Using a Patient and Public Involvement approach (PPI), seven focus groups were organised in the pilot areas of Sheffield and Bexley, with support from local councils.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) of the healthcare professionals responding to the survey indicated that they did not know whether pregnant women should continue to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, as recommended by the Chief Medical Officer in 2017.
"Our insight tells us that despite their time pressures and conflicting priorities, new and expectant mums want to be more active" - Phil Smith, director of sport, Sport England
Meanwhile, the pregnant women and new mothers in the groups called for greater consistency in the information provided, as well as specific, early advice from healthcare professionals, and links to local services.
The findings were consistent with existing literature in this area, which shows there is a lack of knowledge and confidence in providing physical activity advice and guidance during pregnancy and the postnatal period.
Insights will be used to develop a toolkit for healthcare professionals and a wider campaign aimed at supporting pregnant women and new mothers in maintaining regular activity during pregnancy and beyond.
Insights from the pilots and focus groups will be used by the project team to develop the resources and campaign for launch this autumn in Sheffield and Bexley, with plans for a national rollout in the future.
The project is funded by the National Lottery and Sport England in collaboration with ukactive, CCCU, iHV, the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, Best Beginnings, Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy, Aston University, the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, and the Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR).
“Remaining active after having a baby, or starting new activities, can be a daunting prospect,” said Sport England’s Phil Smith.
“Our insight tells us that despite time pressures and conflicting priorities, new and expectant mums want to be more active.
“We hope this funding equips healthcare professionals with tools to help them feel confident guiding women to activities.”
Research conducted reveals that pregnant women and new mothers want greater consistency in the information provided to them about physical activity shutterstock
|Originally published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 7