Many mums have told me that while they know exercise is important for wellbeing, they struggle to make it a part of their regular activities.
That’s why I’ve invited Claire Cole, Personal Trainer and Founder of Movement for Mums, to share her insights into how to make exercise easier, so you can feel better, both physically and mentally. Claire is particularly passionate about helping mums boost their mental health through fitness. Here’s what she had to say…
Claire, we know that exercise can play such an important role in mental wellbeing but what if you don’t feel very motivated?
It’s tough to exercise from home. The daily distractions mean that we often don’t prioritise ourselves but my advice would be to make exercise easier by thinking about it as activities of daily life.
Can we walk up and down the stairs 5 times every hour? Can we change a nappy upstairs rather than downstairs? Can we do that daily walk at the time we normally commute to and from the station so that we feel like we are getting a blast of fresh air to wake up our senses? Can we involve the children and make it a game? See who can be the first one to run to the nearest tree and suddenly, without knowing it, you are doing interval training!
Let’s label exercise as movement and think about moving our bodies more during the day. Set your phone alarm every hour and jump up and do 10 body weight squats, have a stretch and wake up your body and your mind. One of my favourite motivating tricks is to note down one word in my phone once I have exercised to capture how I’m feeling and then next time when I don’t feel very motivated I look at that word and remember how great I felt after exercise. It gives me a boost of motivation. Try it and see if it works for you.
One of the biggest barriers to exercise for mums, is not having enough time. How can they make exercise easier to fit into their lives?
I’m a big believer of little and often. There’s no way I could carve out 1 hour for a fitness class at home but I can find 15 – 20 mins first thing in the morning or when the kids are occupied. I set my alarm 30 mins early and get up before everyone else to have a bit of me time.
Get your leggings and trainers out the night before and leave them next to the bed. Schedule your workouts into the calendar for the week so everyone in you household knows what you’re doing and when, and it makes it more accountable. Finally, one of my top tips would be to listen to your body. If you wake up with a ton of energy, go smash that HITT (High Intensity Tactical Training) class but if you wake up feeling lethargic, why not try 20 minutes of stretching instead.
If all movement is equal and we simply think about moving our bodies to feel good in our mind, we won’t get stressed by that planned workout that we just don’t feel like doing. Get your kids, partner and friends involved. Even if it’s online, we can still make exercise social and by being part of a community, we’re just doing it a bit differently.
For many mums, the topic of exercise brings up a lot of guilt, because they feel like they should be doing more than they are. Do you have any advice on how to move past this, and start to enjoy exercise?
Don’t focus on the pressure to do it. If you enjoy it you will do it, so do what you love. There are so many free online classes available now that you can try lots of different workouts and find what you enjoy. Experiment, but also remember any movement is good for us. We won’t feel guilty if we stop worrying about doing a specific amount of exercise. I encourage everyone to start little and often. 15 – 20 mins several times a week is great if you can fit it in. It has to be achievable within your your lifestyle and family life, so start small and build up.
Through your business, Movement for Mums, you focus on the mood boosting benefits of exercise for mums. Why did you choose this over weight loss or fitness?
From being agoraphobic in my 20’s to the verge of post natal psychosis in my 30’s, exercise has always been a large part of my healing journey. When I returned to work when my second son was 6 months old, I felt there was no mental or physical health support for me and slowly my mental health started to take a battering. Understanding what it was like to be a working mum with no time, energy or headspace to find time for me and no support at work, led me to create Movement for Mums (albeit in my head 4 years ago)! I launched my business because I wanted to help mums like me find an easy and fun way to fit in some mood boosting movement to their busy lives, without needing much money, space or equipment. They can also exercise with me for motivation.
I feel that once you start moving your body and start to feel better in your mind, the weight loss effects of fitness happen as a by product, so I chose not to focus on this. I also feel that fitness industry often focuses on fear and failure, praying on people who have failed one diet, to try the next new fad, whereas my ethos is making sustainable little and often changes to our daily life that make us feel good.
You advocate intuitive exercise. Can you explain what this is and why you think it is so important?
I like to think about all exercise as equal and all exercise as movement, therefore, if I move my body that‘s great. I try not to focus on what movement I do, as I move to feel good. This makes exercise easier and takes away the guilt and stress of feeling like every workout has to be a HITT workout for it to be effective. I also get to enjoy exercise even if sometimes I don’t have time to do very much. I’m all for lessening the guilt as a working mum and focusing on the time I do have to feel good.
What do you find mums struggle the most with in terms of exercise and how do you help them with this?
There is a huge saturation of live home workouts at every social media corner you turn. I find that mums struggle to know what is effective and what works. I help unpick this and make things easier by running free daily workouts focused on different areas of the body. For example, I run Total Body workouts which cover all the main muscle groups and then I run laser focused workouts that centre on the bottom and thighs, and the abs/core. I don’t use any equipment and you need very little space with my workouts because they are designed for us to do at home, when we have little time available!
What is your favourite type of exercise and why?
I’m a big fan of strong, not skinny, and weightlifting makes me feel strong in body and also in mind. When the gym re-opens I’ll be hitting the weights area again! I like to think muscles and mascara! I love empowering women to hit the weights area too, to have the confidence to train their biceps and their brain. At home, my replacement is my body weight workouts. You can still carry out strength training with no equipment. It’s just as effective and makes you feel just as good.
About Claire Cole
As a working mum of two boys, Claire found it hard to squeeze fitness into her daily life. Through this experience and her journey with anxiety, agoraphobia and PND, Claire found a way to use movement and fitness to boost her mood and help her feel better. She created Movement for Mums to help other mums find a way of squeezing any form of movement into their daily lives to boost their mental health.
Movement for Mums offers free daily live streamed home workouts, of 25 minutes or less. They don’t require any equipment or much space. Claire believes in little and often to help us prioritise ourselves and help us feel good. You can find out more and join the free membership at www.movementformums.com