Running with GoodGym

GoodGym at rooftop garden

Find a new motivation for staying active – do good, get fit.

Running with GoodGym changed my life, it gave me a new reason to get outdoors and reignited my love of running.

I hadn’t been out for a jog for a few years, but when I moved to London I researched local running groups, as I knew there would be lots around. After scrolling through lots of websites and social media accounts with pictures of speedy-looking runners I thought I’d never find anything that catered for people wanting to run at a slower pace and non-competitively. That was until I stumbled across GoodGym.

What seemed so good about GoodGym?

As well as being a running group, GoodGym involves engaging with the local community, volunteering, meeting new people and creating friendships. In a nutshell, GoodGym is about getting fit by doing good. Instead of pumping iron at the gym, GoodGym runners use their energy to de-weed the local community garden or move some furniture at a nearby older person’s house so they can fit a hospital bed in and come home from the hospital. Another plus is that on the group runs (which happen all across the UK) there is always a voluntary backmarker, so nobody gets left behind. Best of all, running with GoodGym is free, or you can give a monthly donation that goes towards the operations of the charity (yes it’s a registered charity too!), paying the run leaders.

GoodGym at the farm

What is a group run like?

I’ll tell you a bit about my experience of going to a GoodGym run for the first time. My closest one was based at Battersea Arts Centre, so I rocked up at about 6.20pm, 10 minutes before the advertised start time and perfect timing for an after-work activity. There were already about 15 people there in the cafe, looking ready to run. Before I could ask if they were there for the GoodGym run, one of them spotted me and introduced herself. We got chatting about work and general life in London, so I felt welcomed, at ease and almost forgot that I would be running that evening! Ana, the trainer and run leader, turned up 5 minutes later and came over to welcome me as she noticed that I was new. She was very friendly and enthusiastic and explained how the group runs work and about some of the other runs that I could do with GoodGym too. By the time we got to her general introduction to the whole group, there were about 40 runners there, and over half of them were women so I felt really relaxed and secure.

After Ana’s brief introduction, we headed outside to do a warm up. We also did an ice breaker so I got to learn a few names and had a good laugh with everyone. Someone had already volunteered to be the backmarker, and they made sure nobody got lost or fell behind. I thought I would be running with them for the duration of the run, having not run in a little while. However on GoodGym runs they run at such a steady pace that I found myself in the middle of the group, chatting with some other runners. I was so busy chatting to people that the 2km jog to the local community garden whizzed by.

At the community garden, we split up into different groups as there were a few tasks to do, from digging holes for new trees to sweeping the paths. I spent my time removing weeds from the plant beds and really felt like I made a difference. The community garden was only managed by a couple of volunteers, but with over 40 runners we got a lot more done in 30 minutes than they would probably be able to in one week. Once the tasks were completed we jogged back to the Battersea Arts Centre (uphill this time…), stopping on the way to do some planks and a hill sprint. Ana gave a lot of good tips about how to run uphill, and so even though I was nowhere near the fastest in the group, I ran up the whole thing on my first try.

By the time I had done a few group runs, I was hooked! GoodGym quickly became more than a running and volunteering group for me, I made friends and improved my wellbeing. GoodGym ticks three of the NHS’s five ways to wellbeing: getting active, connecting with others and giving back. It’s the volunteering side that provided me with a new motivation to stay active. I wasn’t just running for my own fitness, I was running because others needed me to help them! So if you’re trying to find new ways to look after yourself (and others!), both physically and mentally, then see if there is a GoodGym local to you. If there isn’t, then you could always contact them to see if you can help set one up.

Now that I’ve been running with the organisation for a couple of years, I’ve racked up over 150 good deeds (you get one for each run you do to help a local community organisation or older person), become good friends with someone from a completely different generation and background to me, and have improved my running speed and form.

You can find out if there is a GoodGym set up near you here.

Let me know what your local group is like when you go along! I’d love to hear about your experience at others across the country.

GoodGym at rooftop garden