Family friendly working – what it means to me

Hi, I’m Nicola the Customer Happiness Champion at This Mum Runs. I live in Bristol with my husband and our son who is 9 which is way too grown up for my liking but at the same time just the best age (but don’t we say that about every age??). When we have spare time between school, work, chores and ferrying our son from one sporting activity to the next we make sure we try to burn off as much 9 year old energy as possible whether it be a trip to the local park or getting out and about on our bikes.
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Before I worked for This Mum Runs I worked for Yeo Valley who have, hands down, the best staff canteen ever! My time there enabled me to train as a Social media manager with Digital Mums with the aim being to take the leap to set up my own social media training business. That plan was very quickly scuppered by crippling anxiety and self doubt brought on by early peri-menopause just as I finished the course. I had no idea what was happening until, after a little research, a lot of tears and blood tests, I realised that my hormones, or lack of, were to blame for pretty much everything that was going on in my head. It took me a long time to get my anxiety under control but bit by bit I started to reclaim my life and luckily the role at This Mum Runs was advertised at a time when I felt able to start taking control of my life again. Having very firmly parked the idea of setting up my own business I realised I wanted a role that was going to stretch and challenge me in an organisation that I would be hugely proud to work for so I took the leap and applied. I first met Mel, our founder, in the sleep deprived days of newborns back in 2010 and I’d followed the success of TMR since it’s beginnings so I knew that it was always going to be somewhere I’d enjoy working.
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As Customer Happiness Champion I manage the This Mum Runs online shop which involves making sure we have stock in place to send out to our lovely customers, packing up our orders with love and sending them out around the world. I can also be found answering all of the customer queries we receive in to our information@thismumruns.co.ukand orders@thismumruns.co.uk inboxes. I also work closely with our fab Head of People, Jo, to make sure that every element of a customers journey with us is as amazing as possible.
 
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There are lots of best bits about my job. Seeing our customers and community members posting photos of themselves online in their kit. Hearing their amazingly inspiring stories of how running improves their lives. Getting lush feedback from customers about how good our service is. Working flexibly to allow me to spend time with my son and last but not least working for an organisation where everyone involved is genuinely working towards the same goal of empowering women.
 
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Working part time means everything to me! I know it is a huge privilege to be able to work reduced hours so I make sure I remind myself of that when I have had wobbles in the past about not having the ‘highflying career’ that I always believed I would have in my 40’s. Having worked full time whilst my son was a toddler I applaud any parent that does that and does it well, I was useless at it and constantly felt torn in so many different directions. Now, I’m able to do a job I enjoy and challenges me, spend time with my family and, be proud of what I can give to both my family and This Mum Runs.

September brings change – juggling study, work and school runs.

I’m Bethan, 39 and an accounts manager within my husband’s business. I left my full time job in March 2018 to enable me to help my husband grow his business and of course it means I now have the flexibility to do school runs and after school activities with Dexter my 10 year old son.

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I discovered TMR at the point where I wasn’t going to do any more long races as I was fed up of training alone. I saw pictures on FB of the TMR launch in Cardiff on Cardiff Mummy Says page. I was disappointed to have missed it and joined the group. It was 17 March (an early Sunday morning) when I plucked up the courage to join the group for my first run.

As I walked nearer to the meeting point my nerves were in pieces; I need not have worried. One of the angels approached me and started chatting and the rest is history as they say. After running for a few months with the group every Sunday I saw Cathryn’s message about the angel training and thought why not! After finding my running confidence again I’ve entered several races including the Cardiff Half Marathon, Cardiff Trail Half Marathon and most recently the Vale of Glamorgan Coastal 18.5 mile Trail run!!

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The Summer holidays have been challenging, trying to keep a 10 year old entertained and fitting in working from home. Work meetings have been in the evenings which is definitely not ideal but the only way around things in the long holidays.

In September I am going back to college part time for another year of Accountancy. It really does feel like I’m going back in school. I passed my 1st year so I must be doing something right, I’m looking forward to it but at the same time I’m anxious about juggling school/work/college and life in general.

It’s the little things that get me through it though – like my son saying well done when I pass an exam, my TMR runs to get the headspace I need and of course my Friday night glass of wine (or 2)!

Last year I went out running on the morning of my exams so that I wouldn’t be thinking too much about them – I’ll be doing that this year too.

Taking on the Bristol Half Marathon

It’s race time for a lot of mamas in the TMR community and for many of us it will be our first race or first race at a particular distance.

Eeeeeeeeek! Nerves, excitement and feelings of ‘can I do it?’ are all pretty familiar to anyone racing for the first time. Our lovely community member Cat is prepping for the Bristol half marathon on September the 15th. She will be surrounded by a sea of TMR love; Bristol HM is a popular event in our community and sight of TMR tops flying along the portway is such a motivator! We hope Cat’s story will help many of us get over our ‘first race nerves’ so that we can have a positive and uplifting race experience.

‘So, I am Cat. I’m a full time mum/carer to my autistic 12yr old son and 20 month old daughter. I also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and my main symptoms include constant pain, stiff joints and random numbness in hands/arms and feet/legs.

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I love everything about running. During – gives me a buzz from the physical exercise and also often seeing people sat in cars and feeling so free! After – the buzz of the adrenaline rush and endorphins produced by the run.

I found TMR after a friend told me that there was a Facebook group that you could arrange to meet up with to go for a run with other mums.  I love so much about TMR. The support, the togetherness of the Facebook page. The amazing women who give up their own time to help other women get out on social runs. The social runs. The seeing other people in the TMR tops and shouting out to them and getting big smiles from a distance.

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I am training especially for Bristol Half Marathon in September and I’m really hoping I can get in done in just under 2 hours. I am also doing Severn Bridge Half Marathon and Two Tunnels 10k both of which are in August.

My main inspiration for entertaining Bristol half was Bristol 10k and how much I loved that. But also that I am trying to raise a little bit of money for Bristol children’s hospital so thought running both the 10k and the half would be a good way to do it.

My preparations have been to continue on as I have for a while. I run 20-30miles a week with a mixture of 5k runs and 10+k runs. I do group and solo runs and try to run in different places if I can.

My top tip would be to build up to the distance slowly but surely, mix in some hills and some flat. Don’t panic just slow and steady. It took be about 6 months to build from 10k to the full 13.1 miles so don’t be scared to take time.’

Cat, you are an absolute inspiration, we can’t wait to see you at the Half Marathon on the 15th September.

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September brings change…

Where have the summer holidays gone? For many of us the start of September brings massive change and for some of us that’s about our children starting school, a house move or a new job. For Elise, one of our amazing Military Mums Run Angels, this year has seen all three of those happen! Elise offers some sound advice for this time of year…

My name is Elise Jones I’m 35 years old. I found TMR through face book and joined the TMR Military Mums group when it launched in Tidworth earlier this year. I’m also a run angel! I’m mum to two boys aged 1 and 4 and I live with my husband in Wiltshire.

image1Summer holidays this year have been a little hectic but also wonderful! We’ve spent the last three weeks back home in Kent. We’ve been spending as much time as possible with family and also getting our home ready to rent out on our return to Wiltshire where we live in our military quarter. My eldest and my husband both have their birthdays in August so we celebrated those and have had some brilliant family days out, we particularly love the beach!

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I am dreading September! My eldest son has just turned four and will be starting primary school. Cue tears! Not only that but my youngest will be starting nursery on the same day. Cue even more tears! It’s also about time I return to work. My previous job was in Kent before we moved to Wiltshire so I will be polishing the CV and job hunting again!

I’m feeling really anxious about everything and have already had a few tears about my babies growing up far too fast, time slipping by too soon and whether or not I still have any employability after two years out of the game. I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do and the thought of an interview sends me into a slight panic. It feels like the end of an era, one I’m not entirely ready to face but then again I’m not sure anyone ever really is.

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Running for me is my number one cure for anxiety! It’s so cathartic. It always helps clear my head and see things in a more positive light something that I have been trying to do more of this year. Exercise not only keeps me sane but gives me a different focus and let’s me set personal goals I can work towards. As well as TMR I belong to my local athletics and running club and I also recently discovered a love for CrossFit but being a TMR run angel has been really rewarding. I love being able to help other mums like me who might have the same anxieties, feel just that little bit better, even if just for a little while. Time for ourselves away from being mum is so important. Self care is key! That and coffee with a good friend which is what I will be doing on that first day of school!

Free Those Arms

As most of you will be aware, we are running a month long campaign encouraging women to free their arms and legs from long sleeves and leggings, shake off the fear of being judged and enjoy their bodies. You can check out the stories that are being shared across the This Mum Runs social channels using the tags #FreeYourArms #FreeYourLegs

As part of the campaign we asked Body Image Guru, and Global Body Image Movement Ambassador, Lisa Beasley to tell us what she thinks holds women back when it comes to body confidence. Here’s what she said.

Read More

Running, Mental Health & Me: Vicki’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Vicki Merrin has run with our Pill mums since 2017. She opens up about the effect that an unplanned third pregnancy, emergency c-section and making the transition to being a stay-at-home mum had on her mental health.


After an unplanned pregnancy and c-section with my 3rd daughter, I felt desperate when I brought her home. We were in the middle of renovating our home, and this, coupled with a business expansion during my pregnancy, meant that I was already struggling more this time around. The shock of an unplanned c section, illness and not going back to work left me feeling out of control and unable to cope.

This affected my relationship with my husband and children and I felt distant and separated from those I loved.

I eventually contacted my GP about how low I was feeling about 6 months post delivery, and was referred to counselling – I refused medication – with a diagnosis of anxiety and mild postnatal depression. The counselling certainly normalised things for me and helped with how ashamed I felt.

Joining This Mum Runs in November 2017, 7 months post birth, was life changing for me. Having something just for me, the endorphins that exercise gives you and just the camaraderie that TMR offers you made such a huge difference to my mental health. I don’t think the girls even realised what they did for me but I didn’t need them to.

I think there’s still a huge stigma about feeling ‘down’ after having a baby, as I certainly felt it. However, I feel that was more through pressure I put on myself than how I was treated by medical professionals. The GP and counselling I was referred to were all understanding and caring. I think TMR needs to be referred to by the NHS!

Running, Mental Health & Me: Sarah’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Sarah is relatively new to TMR, and runs with the Thornbury group. She shares her story of depression that began in pregnancy and has persisted long after.


My mental health issues started when I was pregnant with my first son, and got worse when he was born. At this time, not much was said about mental health problems, and there was a strong sense of stigma, shame and misunderstanding in admitting to them; a family member even proposed I did not seek help in case my baby was taken away from me.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and prescribed medication. I was very ill and extremely anxious about issues such as cot death and being an inadequate parent. My son, probably sensing my emotional state, was a very fretful baby and cried for most of his first year (or so it seemed) until he started to walk and become more independent.

Physical activity, and especially being outside and running has made the biggest difference to my mental health, and I cannot imagine being without it now. I trail run 4 or more times a week, and find the release and challenge to be mind and life changing. I regularly enter trail races which gives me a huge sense of achievement.

As an organisation, TMR in my experience so far, has been very supportive of women, many of whom are happy to discuss their mental health (perhaps because I am open about my own issues, and that may give “permission” for others to feel able to discuss their own). The TMR community feels inclusive, honest and open about mental health issues, and that’s great.

I believe there is still a way to go to make talking about mental health and getting help for mental health conditions equal to how we would treat and talk about physical health conditions. There are women who I believe are shamed into being silent in their struggles when there is help available. There are women who ask for help and are offered only medication and a very long waiting list for any further support.

As women I believe there is so much we can do to support and build up other women experiencing these struggles, and I’d love to be a bigger part of that process. There are midwives and other professionals who could be better at having the conversation with women; an antenatal midwife, when I confessed during my second pregnancy that I was feeling low said “Oh don’t start all that nonsense again.” Not that helpful!

I find Postnatal Depression a somewhat meaningless term; for me, depression started before babies were born and has persisted long after! There is something minimising about the term, as though it’s somehow less serious than depression or anxiety that is not related to having a child. That needs to change.

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Running, Mental Health & Me: Alice’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Alice Tanaka runs with our Wandsworth mums.  When her son was born at 28 weeks, Alice’s world was turned upside down and she was faced with an entirely different experience of becoming a mum from the one she had imagined. She shares her story, and explains that it’s never too late to seek professional help.


My first (and only) son was was suddenly born 28 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy, with only stomach cramps as a warning sign. He weighed under 3 lbs. As there had been no complications for me during the birth, I was discharged from the hospital after 3 days.

Leaving the hospital, no longer pregnant, without a baby, on the day my milk came in, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My son had all the usual issues for a premature baby born at his gestation, chronic lung damage, jaundice, brain bleeds, a PDA (hole in the heart that usually closes soon after birth – his didn’t) and obviously, he was just so small.

He also had other complications: a chemical burn from a procedure that went wrong and he got sepsis. The scariest part was when our son frequently forgot to breathe and his heart rate would drop to dangerously low levels (again, a common issue for premature babies). This set off all the alarms on his incubator with nurses and doctors rushing over to wake him up. Luckily, my son grew well and with that he grew out of many of his issues from being premature. He came home, on oxygen, just before his due date.

I hadn’t realised at that time, the emotional strain of visiting him everyday for 12 weeks, most times wondering if he was still breathing.

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During the time my son was in hospital, I was incredibly anxious and stressed all the time. I also thought I was to blame; I mean, it was my body that had pushed my son out too early. I felt guilty that I’d ruined my husband’s first experience of becoming a dad, that he had to get used to his new role under the watchful eyes of nurses and doctors. So I stopped talking to my husband about how I really felt.

I also just felt so angry. Angry that we weren’t able to have the “normal” first time experience most parents do. I didn’t feel able to connect with other mums. We had missed meeting new parents at NCT class as my son came before our classes started. Once my son was home, we couldn’t go to playgroups as he was at a high risk of infection and then when that passed, I found it hard to pick up where we should have been.

After my son’s first birthday, I couldn’t understand why I still didn’t feel better. My son had grown to a normal size for his age, was hitting regular milestones and didn’t seem to have any lasting damage from being premature. But, I was still so anxious all the time and I couldn’t relax. For a long time, I thought maybe this was how I was a mother, that all mums get anxious about their children.

When I went back to work, the additional stress of a project I was working on just pushed me too far. I cried everyday in the toilets at work, I was drinking every night at home, I wasn’t running.

I tried to hide this all under a smile that I was doing fine and loving being a mum! But, the thing that made me get help was my anger. I had never felt so much rage before. I finally called an anonymous advice line at work and then went to my GP. I felt a massive relief just to admit how I was feeling, as I was exhausted from trying to hide it from everyone.

The GP diagnosed PTSD, anxiety and depression and I received 12 weeks of CBT therapy. The therapy was amazing. Talking to a stranger allowed me to be completely honest about how I felt as I didn’t need to be concerned with their feelings. I finally voiced some of my darker memories from my son being in NICU. I realised that although the trauma was over, I will still living in that state. The therapist also helped me identify a negative pattern of behaviour I often get stuck in and we worked on things I could do to break the cycle.

Around the time I was getting therapy, TMR started in Wandsworth. I had run a lot before I got pregnant and knew running made me happy, but it was so hard to start again. However, I found TMR so inclusive. I am a slow runner and I think back then, as I was still building up my fitness, I was even slower.

At TMR someone would usually hang back and run with me and the loops meant I never felt like I was too far behind the speedy runners. The Sunday runs and wanting to meet up with everyone motivated me to go for a few runs in the week. I loved finally being part of a “mum” group too. As the mums all had children of very different ages, I didn’t feel the same pressure as other mum groups where it can descend into a competition about what your child can/can’t do.

Before I got pregnant I ran to lose weight, now I realise, I run for my mental health. Running with a lovely bunch of people on a Sunday is even better for my mental health! I now notice such a difference to my mood, my outlook and my energy when I’ve been for run outside.

This Mum Runs meets Jasmin Paris

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International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceForBetter

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.

Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a societal issue. The pressure is now on for a gender-balanced boardroom, government, media and sports coverage.

Collective, bottom up and top down action and shared responsibility is the key to real and lasting change. International Women’s Day is such a significant moment each year, an opportunity  to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, political and sporting achievements of women – while also acting as a clear call to action for accelerating gender balance.

This Mum Runs is a community powered, purpose driven organisation with a vision that aims to redress the balance when it comes to women and sport; to empower women everywhere to be healthier and happier through community and running – with a particular focus on mobilising women who are completely inactive.

Here are some stats that might (should) shock you;

2 million fewer women than men are active

I don’t know how this makes you feel, but reading stats like this has the power to make me weep.

And yet, this is not a new conversation.  It’s been like this as long as I can remember; I was the sporty kid at school 30 years ago but can remember how painful it was to watch friends who loved being active, not making the school sports teams and then slowly switching off from exercise completely. Many of them have spent the past 30 years completely inactive.

In more recent years, social media has added a myriad of pressures on women and girls who are persuaded that if you don’t look a certain way (ripped abs anyone?), don’t wear the right things, can’t (or don’t want to) ‘get faster’, then sport just isn’t for them.

Even the team behind the much lauded This Girl Can campaign admit that while the campaign changed attitudes, and women were inspired by the ‘real women’ shown in the campaign, the insight still shows that there “must be something about those women’s lives that is different to mine and enables them to exercise because I still don’t believe I can”.

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Add the very real pressures on Mums of time and childcare and the impact of childbirth on their bodies and what chance have we got of actually changing things?

As it happens, we believe change is coming.  And we believe that Mums are at the heart of it all.

Whilst on the surface we may appear to be just a “running group for Mums”, we are driving the narrative hard to change the decades long status quo for women everywhere, forever.

We’re proving that if exercise is about how it feels, and about how it makes you feel, then it really is for every women everywhere.  And we’re using the power of community to make this a life long change for good.

 

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Through the work we are doing – with hundreds of free runs led by specially trained volunteer Run Angels in cities across the UK and a thriving online community – we are positively impacting Mums lives: as well as the obvious physical benefits of regular exercise,  we’re impacting on women’s mental health, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, increasing confidence, creating connected local communities and cascading healthy habits that affect the entire family.

The added bit of magic is that when Mums are active, their daughters are 80% more likely to be active too, so imagine the impact we can have on the horrendous statistics at the top of this article as a global community of active Mums?

What better way to celebrate the game changing work we are doing to #BalanceforBetter on International Womens Day, than a run in the Edinburgh hills and an interview with Mum and Ultra Runner, Jasmin Paris.

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Jasmin recently took the world by storm when she won the infamous Montane Spine race – a brutal 268 mile, non-stop, winter mountain marathon that encompasses the entire Pennine Way.

Jasmin not only won the race, she beat the entire field of runners – both male and female. She was a day ahead of the first male competitor and broke the course record by a whopping 12 hours.

All this and she stopped at every checkpoint to breastfeed her daughter or express milk for her.

Just think about the epic-ness for a second….

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What makes Jasmin most impressive to us is how she describes her relationship with running – a “hobby” – and why she gets up every day at 4am to run “because I love how it makes me feel”. 

In our interview, we explore how she fits it all in, how she handled the post race questions about “beating all the men” and what her message is to women and girls who think “I can’t” when it comes to sport.

Grab a cuppa, get ready to be inspired and watch Jasmin’s interview We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.

If you want to join our 50,000 strong global community that is working towards real and lasting change, sign up for our weekly email

And if you’re keen to get more involved, want free community runs in your area, are a funder or brand that would like to work in partnership with TMR to accelerate our impact, you can contact Mel and the team

#thismumruns #IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter

 

I joined TMR and fulfilled my dreams

I have been running with This Mum Runs in Wandsworth for a year and it is the best thing I’ve ever done!

I had always wanted to start running but was deterred by a lack of courage – that I would be slow, that I was not fit enough and worst of all, that I wouldn’t be able to finish. But one summer day last year, four months after I have moved to London, I decided to gather the courage and give it a go.

The first run was hard, and as expected, I could barely finish the 30 minutes. Michele, Emma and Man-yee were my Run Angels and would always run at my pace so that I was not left out, and thanks to the fantastic looping, I usually finished around the same time as the others.

I still remember the smile on Michele’s face when I finished the first run, and the three simple words ‘YOU DID IT!’ – the the most powerful thing I had heard for a while.

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Since then, I would always try my very best to make the Sunday run (and of course, the bRUNches and TMR social as well!).

Gradually I have seen myself getting fitter, the runs became easier and I could start chatting during the run. We chat about everything, from running to kids, from holidays plans to festive dinner recipes.

Taking part in the London British 10K – and the medal at the end – was the best gift to celebrate my first anniversary in the country, and it would never have happened if I had not joined the This Mum Runs community!

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Mine has been such a journey of personal empowerment – because now I know my dreams are achievable. This Mum Runs is a place where there is no judgment, no pressure, just love and support – and I will be forever thankful for the difference it has made to my life.