Vern Hill aka ‘The Babyman’ is a father of two whose post-natal fitness company went from a small gym in Fulham to being listed in the Royal College of GPs’ lifestyle took kit.
Mr Hill, 41, has 17 years of personal trainer experience specialising in pre and post-natal fitness and his journey with CARiFiT began in 2016.
During past sessions Hill would wear the baby in a carrier so mums could focus more which created less interrupted classes, this sparked the idea of creating a workout that could be done while mums wear their own baby and before long he was being recognised as ‘The Babyman’.
Mr Hill said: “It was a group of mums in Wandsworth who collectively came up to me one week and said ‘Can you train us all? We’ve all been watching the babyman.’ And it stuck.
“It became a thing around Wandsworth Common, quite a close-knit area of London, ‘Have you seen the babyman?’
“It didn’t do any harm business wise, at least it was a differentiator.”
The idea of CARiFiT took a year to develop with the plan to stick to live classes but sessions have since been taken online and travelled around the world to 20 countries including Australia and New Zealand.
He said: “We started with one or two classes a week, people didn’t really get it as an idea so it was a lot of hard work and persistence early on and as it is with lots of these things mums tell other mums so two or three became three or four and so on.
“Then within the next six months every class was a sell out and it has never really looked back from there.
“Just before lockdown we were teaching 120 classes a month across London and beyond, we trained twelve new teachers and the live class stuff was very exciting.
“Alongside the live classes we spent a lot of time developing an online members area so people can do CARiFiT anywhere in the world.
“With everything that is going on at the minute with the closing of gyms that’s really come into its own and we’ve had over 10,000 online members since we first launched which has been amazing.
“We’ve seen triple our normal monthly sign ups since lockdown for online memberships and that is holding steady.”
One of the issues facing CARiFiT is the lack of a market for baby wearing fitness programs which has made making a name for themselves tricky.
He added: “We’re kind of carving this out as we go which has made it very interesting and challenging and one of the things we do quite a lot as a business is open ourselves up to an independent evaluation.
“We’ve just been part of a study for a University College of London masters thesis about the psychological benefits of our method and because it’s new we need to have that deeper explanation ready for people on why it’s beneficial and why it works.
“When we had the independent evaluation done the mental health benefit scores we achieved in terms of increased positivity, increased self-care and self-confidence were even stronger in our online members that had never been to a physical class than they were in our ladies that came to physical classes.
“The big stamp of approval which was nine or ten months ago is when we got listed in the Royal Colleges of GPs’ lifestyle toolkit, you don’t get a much deeper level of credibility than that.”
When discussing what the future holds for CARiFiT, Mr Hill is certain the mission is to keep raising awareness while delivering the classes both online and in gyms across the country.
He said: “It’s really just letting mums know this option is out there, it’s very real, it’s very accessible and it really gets all kind of results across mental, physical, social and emotional markers.
“For that it is purely raising awareness and that is challenging at the moment, every fitness business has switched online because they’ve had to.
“What we do is definitely niche, but it does span a couple of areas of fitness, plus baby wearing plus post-natal so awareness is very much the big mission at the minute and letting mums feel and experience the benefits of what we do.
“That’s the mission, to keep growing awareness and growing access whether that’s online or live classes.
“We just want people to reach CARiFiT and benefit from it.”
Various membership options are available. Membership is currently free to all NHS staff. For more information visit the CARiFiT website.