When Richard Metcalf walked into a young mums’ coffee morning in Whitehaven asking them to get more active, they were initially a bit sceptical.
The group of “mams” had been meeting at Mirehouse Community Centre for their Friday morning catch-up and cuppa for about three years, but it had always been a sedentary affair.
Richard – a coach development officer for Active Cumbria – was proposing they used the time to not only socialise but exercise as well.
The group were initially worried that Richard might be a Mr Motivator figure, threatening to turn their Friday morning relaxation into a hardcore series of physical jerks.
However, the idea of the initiative is that Active Cumbria provides the equipment and the option of doing activities for free, with the mams deciding when, and if, they want to take part.
A grant from Cumbria County Council has provided the money to pay for the equipment and venue hire.
Richard said: “They want to do something together that’s non-judgemental, not competitive and means they can have a bit of fun together.
“It’s a slow and long journey. I am not going to come here and say let’s run 10 miles because that would never happen.”
The approach seems to be working, with 14 mams regularly taking part in activities such as netball, table tennis and badminton.
“They are not keen on going to a leisure centre because their perception is that it’s all sporty people,” added Richard.
“Because they’re mums, one of the big constraints is just having the time. But on Friday mornings most of their kids are at school.
“They also feel a bit guilty spending time and money on themselves. But we are doing something that’s free.”
Active Cumbria is using Go Active as its media partner to promote the initiative, and Richard hopes the Go Active Mirehouse Mams will be a pilot for a model that it can roll out in other communities around the county.
“We know that physical activity makes a difference to physical and mental health, but it has to be sustained,” he said.
“They want to do some activities for their children and we are hoping they will deliver them in the holidays and they can build their confidence to do that.
“We are looking to find a community champion or community activator among the group who can carry it on when we go away from here.
“We’ve got them some equipment, so we are aiming for them to be self-sufficient.
“One of the main things is that they just want to get fitter and be able to do more with their children.
“The other thing we are trying to get is some community cohesion and strengthen the whole community.”