Mel Bound, is a sports science graduate, sports marketeer, lifelong runner, and a Mom of 2. Her journey as an athlete, and as a Mum, was more challenging than expected and her struggles to adjust to her new reality led her to found, This Mum Runs, the world’s largest running community for Mums.
“I was chronically asthmatic as a child and was a bit marginalized because of it - I was that ‘weird wheezy kid’ growing up. Our family doctor told my parents that the best ‘medicine’ would be to be as active as possible. I started running and doing sports when I was 8 and was quite good at it. Once I got started, it was clear that I had found ‘my place’ where I really fit in,” she explained.
“Running became part of the rhythm of my life and was something I so enjoyed,” Mel continued, “By the time I went to university though, my relationship with running changed and unfortunately, I developed an eating disorder and started using running as a way of losing weight and punishing myself. Running went from being a very positive thing in my life to being quite a destructive hobby. I became quite competitive and was running 6 days a week with a club and a coach and was very actively trying to improve and compete.”
Years later Mel gave birth to her daughter and experienced PPD. “I really struggled after becoming a Mom. I was really shocked by the transition and did not adjust well to my new life and routine,” she explained while reflecting on the reasons why she struggled. “I was a bit older and was used to being really independent and traveled a lot for my job. I could be active whenever I wanted and loved that lifestyle. Then I suddenly had two little people to care for and really struggled with ‘Mum life’.”
Mel found it difficult to connect with other Mums and find her place in her new life. To make matters worse, she slipped a disk when her daughter was 18 months old and had a period of time when she physically could not exercise. “I was exacerbated. All the things that made me, ME, kind of disappeared. Exercise was one of those things,” Mel explained.
While she was recovering from her injury, while taking care of two young children, she started to wonder how other women coped. “I am someone who has had exercise as an integral part of my life and now I was completely inactive – so I started considering how other women must be feeling that weren’t active before having children? It must be impossible – how can you even think about exercising if you don’t understand the joy of it and have such limited time for yourself?” Mel said.
“I was really convinced that I never would get back to exercising like I did, I had lost all of my confidence. Luckily, I had an excellent trainer who really convinced me to try to run again. She encouraged me to find a new running buddy, another Mom, and go for it together,” Mel explained.
In 2014, following the advice of her trainer, Mel typed a desperate post on Facebook telling a bit of her story. She explained how she was struggling to motivate herself and had stopped doing anything that was about herself and that she was looking for another local Mum to become her running buddy. She couldn’t believe the amount of response she got from so many other Mums who felt similarly and wanted to meet up with her. 75 Mums turned up to a local park in Bristol to run with Mel that day.
“There I was standing with 75 women looking up to me for instruction as to how to get back on track. Which was very ironic as I was at a point in my life when I was personally struggling with a lack of confidence, and I really didn’t know what to do with all of these women!” she laughed as she remembered that first group run.
“It was November when I hosted that first run. Literally pouring rain and dark and just not really the most ideal time to head out for a jog – and all of those women still came out to meet a total stranger. That day it was clear that I was not alone in feeling such desperation to get out of the house,” explained Mel.
“It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, lots of Mums were struggling with the same things as me, and I just felt like I needed to do something about it. I had an interesting perspective because I had been an athlete and enjoyed exercise my whole life but also had experienced a time when I didn’t think I would exercise ever again and really understanding how hard that is to take the first step to being regularly active – it’s really hard!” said Mel.
Armed with a deep empathy for how it feels to be long term inactive, but with the knowledge of the joy it could bring, six months later Mel quit her job - and This Mum Runs was born.
“When I started to build up the TMR community, I focused on really trying to understand how women are feeling and make it a safe space for them to be honest and find support to make this lifestyle change and become regularly active again,” Mel explained. “Particularly women who haven’t done any exercise since school and may have very negative associations with it, as well as women who were previous active and fell out of the rhythm, they are who needed this type of program most.”
Today, This Mum Run hosts fitness events in 60 locations with an impressive 10.000 women participating each month.
When asked, what has made TMR so successful, and why other Mums should give it a try, she proudly explained, “Our communities are safe spaces where women can be vulnerable. Have never seen a single piece of negativity posted or communicated in any of our groups – our members really provide each other with unwavering, unrelenting support.”
“The entire concept is based on genuine insight (from other Mums) about what’s happening in these women’s lives. The barriers, their needs, supporting them in making a real change in their life. We deeply understand the women in this community and build our programs in an intentional way,” she continued.
Over the past 5 years TMR has also focused on how to build stable, sustainable communities. “It’s not as simple as just opening a Facebook group and posting every so often, hoping that women will show up, said Mel, “I really had to learn how to be a community manager, how to be a leader for these women.” Mel is even a part of a special Facebook community leadership group since being selected by Facebook as an emerging talent in community management. She receives training, mentoring, and direct access to product management and development, meaning that she personally gives insight when it comes to building features are needed to run successful communities via the social media platform.
When deciding on the exact purpose of the runs, Mel kept in mind that not everyone loves exercise, and that taking that first step to start can be extremely difficult, let alone continuing a regular fitness routine while managing a family. She had a clear vision about making TMR less about putting even more pressure on Moms but rather making running something ‘fun’ to do for yourself.
“Exercise doesn’t have to be based on results. TMR doesn’t focus on time or speed or distance any other results than can add stress. It’s much more about creating headspace –
without feeling guilty about taking that time for yourself,” she explained, “If you make it about the numbers, at some point you will fail. We are already hard on ourselves and feeling like we failed isn’t going to help make a behavior change to result in exercising regularly. Taking that time for yourself is the thing to get you out of the door.”
“The only requirement to join the runs is to be able to jog (at any pace) for 30 minutes,” Mel explained, “We know that not everyone starts at that point, actually most do not! We have developed an online program to help you build up to jogging 30 minutes, on your own timeline.” Mel has launched an App called ‘Run 30’, which includes 24 (virtual) sessions with herself as your coach to work up to running 30 mins.
“The coaching program itself takes you from 0 running to 30 minutes of running, gradually. It’s not necessarily a linear process – as Mums often have interruptions. The App caters to those situations to help Mums from getting discouraged, tracking your usage and helping you get back on track after taking a break, to be able to get to that 30 minutes at your own pace,” explained Mel. The ‘Run 30’ App is specifically targeted to Mums, with a wide range of information and videos from pre- and post-natal specialists, answering all of your questions about fitness when you are pregnant or recently had a baby and beyond.
“Typically, during pregnancy, but also postnatally especially there is so much misinformation about what you can and can’t do or recommended fitness regimes, recovery, etc. which often means that women just stop exercising all together,” explained Mel, “It was important to me to make sure that TMR supports women throughout their motherhood journey, no just when they attend one of our runs, but that women everywhere can access this type of information from female health specialists, hopefully to help them stay healthy and active, no matter where they are.”
Virtual solutions have become more important than ever since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020. Mel and the This Mum Runs team also had to be creative to make sure their community could continue to stay healthy and fit at home. They started virtual workouts, including HITT classes, and Pilates, hosting all classes on Zoom and have slowly been starting to explore ways to safely run group runs in person again.
“We are trying to make everything comfortable for trainers and participants (about 700 runs a month). It’s pretty significant when you think about how to make it safe and coordinate everything under the new rules, but it feels important to keep it going and find solutions to get Mums moving their body and out of the house,” explained Mel.
TMR is busy building a track and trace system, which is required to help runners book time slots in advance, leave their contact information, and check-in & out, amongst other features to make sure that future TMR events are as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, new features on the Run 30 App will eventually enable and support women who want to launch their own community and host runs in their local community, very literally taking This Mum Runs across the globe. “Our mission in the next 3 years is to reach 1.5 million women globally. Our vision is for the programs TMR hosts to be available to women anywhere, anytime,” explained Mel. “It’s about promoting the wellbeing of women, encouraging them to come together, support each other, and take time for themselves.”
- Mel, Mum of 2, England
Download the Run 30 App in the Apple Store or Android Store and start running with Mel!