About Fitmums & Friends
When my eldest child started school in 2009, I realised I was missing the opportunity to meet and socialise with other parents. As a working mum I wasn’t in the playground very much and sensed I was missing out on the playground social scene! So, I decided to use my love of running to try and meet other parents in order to make new friends and develop a support network for future school life.
I wasn’t sure if anyone else would be interested in going running; after all, it isn’t everyone’s favourite form of exercise! The teachers kindly agreed to put a home-made flyer in each child’s bag, inviting any interested parents to join me for a fun and sociable run. To my amazement five mums turned up on that first night in Cottingham, East Yorkshire and unknown to me it was the beginning of an amazing adventure one which would become known as “Fitmums & Friends”.
Having sparked some interest I was keen to ensure all abilities could be supported to exercise together so I developed a robust shepherding system which enabled groups of different ability runners to enjoy a run together with everyone appropriately challenged but equally supported. It worked well and people just kept on coming – not just mum’s either. The term” Fitmums” devised by my 5 year old son, soon came to include “& Friends” in its title in order to reflect the wide range of people who turned up and enjoyed the Fitmums way of doing things. The message soon spread, you didn’t need to be fit, have children or be female – Fitmums & Friends was for all.
I had no idea on that first run what was to come, but within two years the five mums on my doorstep turned into more than 200 runners (no longer on my doorstep!). From this a walking group started followed by a “buggy burn” session (a walking walkout for parents with a child in a buggy). Another development was the set-up of run & walk sessions with childcare enabling mums & dads to access a run or walk and for their children to enjoy some playtime with other children. Club affiliation to England Athletics was an exciting step and the Fitmums journey went on and on – with the development of a scheme to support women with post natal depression and a junior section for children aged 6+.
By 2011 the demand for more Fitmums groups meant the next natural step was to create the means of helping other Fitmums groups set up and develop and thus Fitmums & Friends Ltd was created – a not for profit, social enterprise with the aim of supporting the development of Fitmums groups in other communities. By 2013 there were an additional three Fitmums groups across Hull & East Yorkshire. Without realizing it the original Fitmums club in Cottingham, East Yorkshire had created a blueprint for a successful Fitmums model and from this others grew. By 2015 Fitmums & Friends had developed an inter-generational choir, a cycle squad, 10 to teens athletics sessions and the first Fitmums group in South Yorkshire.
Fitmums & Friends, like many voluntary groups is dependent on a huge network of volunteers who keep each group running smoothly and who reinforce the Fitmums systems of support. This ensures everyone, whichever Fitmums group they attend, can be sure of a friendly welcome and support no matter what their level of fitness. The volunteer network is what makes Fitmums so very special – members of the community supporting one another and spreading the special Fitmums spirit.
And so there it is the Fitmums journey….not one I ever intended to make. I just wanted to make a few more friends and now…well, I have more than friendship I have the most amazing network of like-minded people who support and inspire me in equal amounts.
Sam Barlow BEM
Founder – Fitmums & Friends
East Riding Chairmans Award 2017 - Runner up (Top team/club)
Awarded the British Empire Medal in New Years Honours 2015
Public Health Hero Award - in recognition of contribution to public health and wellbeing. Presented at the Houses of Parliament, March 2015
Pride of East Yorkshire Awards 2014 – Winner (Community Sports Award)
Women of Achievement Awards 2014 - Runner up (Voluntary & Community Award)
England Athletics Regional Awards 2013 – Project of the Year