Thursday, January 21, 2016

Running With Purpose: GoodGym

A common thing people never seem to have time for (or say they never do) is volunteering. Living in London, it can be sometimes hard to volunteer through your job as it costs money, with the premise of it being used as a corporate outreach. Fair enough.  Or it may just be too darn popular (city farms anyone?). Also, a lot of places want you to commit to x number of weeks to show up, which is hard for people with a variable work schedule. So you end up not volunteering at all, more dejected than hopeful.

Then in comes GoodGym- a brilliant idea that was born out of frustration with gyms. It all started back in 2008 with one borough, but now its has blossomed to over 12 and even has groups in Bath and Bristol.

How does it work? Well it's quite simple and its right on their website:
We do three things:
  1. We run in groups to do manual labour for community organisations.
  2. We run to make social visits to isolated older people who we call our 'coaches' because they motivated us to keep going.
  3. We run missions for vulnerable people; clearing gardens, changing lightbulbs and doing odd-jobs for people who struggle to do them alone. 
We are supported by some of the best personal trainers and running coaches in the UK. They come on our group sessions and help us keep our fitness and technique on track.
I went along to their inaugural Southwark GoodGym event on Wednesday. Everyone was very friendly and there were many 'newbies' so striking up a conversation was easy. Jo, who is also a personal trainer, got us warmed up and we set off on a very leisurely run to the Wilderness Center. When I say leisurely, I mean between 10-11 minute miles. Bringing up the rear was Adele, who made sure no one got left behind or lost. It was fun to spend a couple of minutes just chatting away only to realise you were at your destination!

Getting Tasked...
I never knew Galleywall Nature Reserve existed until then, which to be honest I am a bit ashamed about as it is not too far from where I live. It looks like a great places to bring the young ones, with plenty of snails, bug huts, and green space to have a quick dash about. We got split into groups and I was put into compost detail. There was four of us so we ended up taking turns of turning compost and removing twigs. Apparently sticks are the bane of the compost world-- who knew?

After about 30 minutes or so it was time to head back. Jo had us skip to the next street corner to get us thoroughly warmed up again, then offered a 'challenge' to have people sprint to Old Kent Road and back. I did not hear the and back bit and only realised as I was huffing away and saw people coming back... Oops! Still, managed to get the heart rate moving.

Verdict: I would not call GoodGym an intense workout- nor do I think it is meant to be. It's meant to get you outside and into your community while sneaking in some exercise. It's also meant to be fun- one thing many people do not describe running as (myself not included). I will say that it makes a great recovery day. Light on pace while adding a bit of strength. Sign me up!

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