How entrepreneur Nichola is helping fellow mums shape up
With prams parked safely to the side and toddlers playing contentedly nearby, new mums are having a “pramtastic” time getting back into shape after pregnancy.
It’s not just the presence of prams and toddlers which make this new boot camp unusual but the chatter and laughter which fills the air as the women push themselves to get fit.
The Pramtastic classes are the latest offering from Tribal Fitness — a new women-only boot camp which aims to bring a fresh and novel approach to working out.
Set up by Bangor woman Nichola Jarvis, 31, who is herself a new mum and an expert in family nutrition and obesity, the idea is to bring fun to fitness while also embracing the great outdoors.
Now added to her popular Babe Bootcamps is Pramtastic where new mums can even bring their babies in on the fun, with special exercises designed to include the little ones.
Nichola said: “I’ve spent 10 years working in community health and fitness watching new mums struggle to fit exercise in to their new lifestyle.
“Women are often keen to get their figure back after having a baby but sometimes this can be very hard due to childcare arrangements and costs, as well as feeling de-motivated with exercise thanks to the boredom of routine, poor post-natal advice, lack of support and restrictive contracts.”
Nichola, who is originally from Bangor, moved to live in Newcastle in England where she did an honours degree in sports studies.
She married her best friend at university, Andy and settled in England where she worked for the Newcastle local authority as a health and well-being officer, specialising in tackling obesity in families with children under the age of five.
Two years ago she started her own family and shortly after daughter Kiera was born, the couple decided to move back to Northern Ireland.
Nichola said: “I wanted to be closer to my family and I also think Northern Ireland is a brilliant place to bring up kids.”
That’s when the idea to set up her own business came about and just over a year ago, Nichola launched Tribal Fitness.
Drawing on her experience of working with young families in England and being a new mum herself Nichola decided to tailor her classes to suit the lifestyle needs of local women.
She said: “My job in Newcastle focused on trying to get young families to make health and nutrition part of their lifestyle.
“If young children see their mums exercising and eating fruit and vegetables they are more likely to do it.
“Seeing the success of previously working with ladies, by stripping away all the ‘gimmicks’ of fitness and educating women on nutrition, rather than rigidly following a diet sheet, was very rewarding.
“I truly believe short-term fitness fads just breed guilt for women when they don’t work.”
Devoting time to helping women enjoy fitness in a non-conventional way, was a big inspiration for Nichola.
The emphasis, she says, is on fun: “The idea is that working out should be enjoyable and not a chore. My belief is if you have a laugh you don’t notice how hard you have worked.
“The ladies in my classes tell me that the hour goes by very quickly because they are enjoying it so much and that’s what drives me and makes me passionate about what I do.”
Her other major inspiration was a love of the great outdoors.
She said: “We have gorgeous outdoor spaces, especially here in Northern Ireland, and they are fantastic for keeping fit; if you know how to use these natural areas to your advantage!”
Even though we tend to get more rain than shine, Nichola insists the weather doesn’t deter her hardy workout teams.
“In my book there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. If you let the weather stop you then you would never do anything in this country.
“In the last few weeks we have held pramatastic classes in rain, wind and thunderstorms but we are not completely bonkers - if we need to take shelter, we will.”
Nichola takes a holistic approach to exercise and drawing on her past experience she is also keen to give advice and tips on family nutrition as well as exercises that can be done at home.
She says: “I’m absolutely passionate about what I do and I love helping people to break those bad habits and for me it is not a chore.
“When women tell me they feel healthier or that they’ve dropped a dress size, that type of feedback and knowing that it is working for these families, is what makes it all worthwhile.” Juggling running a busy new business with being a mum has been tough and Nichola says it is only with the support of her family and husband Andy, a freelance marking manager, that she has managed to put so much into making Tribal Fitness the success it is.
Daughter Kiera meanwhile is learning by example: “When we are in the park she would do her keep fit exercises because she has seen mummy doing them.
“The proof really is in the pudding and if you set the example for young children which the women in the pramtastic classes are doing, it will pay off.”