The Good Gym: Running to Help Your Local Community

GoodGym is a running club that helps people improve ties to their local community by helping out community projects with manual tasks.
The Good Gym helps out with demolition. Photo by Good Gym Liverpool

The Good Gym helps out with demolition. Photo Creative Commons by Good Gym Liverpool

Goals and Values
What were your activity’s community goals? Help out local community projects. Help people become more engaged with existing projects in their neighbourhoods.
What do individual participants get out of the activity? Participants improve their physical wellbeing, meet like-minded people, and get to know their local community better.
What You Need For This Activity
Who can participate?: All ages. There are some fitness requirements depending on how far the run is.
What resources are necessary? A place to meet / get changed / store stuff. A first aid kit is handy, and a printed map of where we’re running to.
What kind of mentors/facilitators with what skills does it require? Our facilitators are generally community-minded personal trainers. Really, you just need someone who enjoys running, and either has a good knowledge of local community projects or is good at finding them!
How long does it take? An evening.
Describe the places and social context that this project is amenable to:
The project works well in areas that have under-resourced community projects – e.g. poorer areas of cities.
How to Do This Activity
Preparation:
Contact local community groups and find a task that needs doing! It should take an hour max, and should be flexible to accommodate a variable number of participants (i.e. we never know exactly how many people will show up!) The community group will need to provide any equipment required e.g. gardening gloves; wheelbarrows etc. Someone from the project should be on hand to meet the runners and give a brief intro to the task. It’salso  useful to show community groups examples of past runs: http://goodgym.org/run_reports
Recruitment:
This is tricky initially! We generally rely on word of mouth for recruiting participants. It’s generally pretty photogenic and on-message for local press though, so make sure to contact them! Read an example from the inaugural Newham (East London) run.
The process of the activity itself:
  1. Meet at a set location (ideally with a bathroom and changing space).
  2. Take a register of participants (email addresses, twitter handles)
  3. Facilitator gives a brief intro about e.g. where we’re running to, how far it is, what the task is when we get there, what the potential risks are (i.e. runners are responsible for their own safety.) The facilitator should assign a strong runner to be “tail runner”, to ensure no-one is left behind. It’s good to also mention that a volunteer will need to write about the run afterwards, just so people are thinking about this during the run / task.
  4. If the group is large, split into smaller groups for the run, ensuring someone from each group knows the way!
  5. Run to the community activity. Faster runners should do “loop backs” to keep the group together.
  6. Arrive at the community project, intro from project rep, do the task! We aim to keep energy high and get a good workout by doing things quickly where possible e.g. running with wheelbarrows etc (obviously for tasks like painting, this may not be wise!) Doing stuff fast is way more satisfying, and it’s fun. The facilitator (or a participant) should aim to take photos for the run report.
  7. Run back; Stretch; Applause!
Post-activity follow-up
A participant should write up the activity and send it to the facilitator. Encourage people to tweet about it (ideally including the community project twitter handle if they have one), virtual high five each other etc.
Finally, what would you do differently? Other notes and concerns?
It doesn’t always go this way! The biggest challenge is finding community activities and communicating the sort of tasks we can do.
Background and Context
Who are you, and what does your organization do?
  • I’m Andy Lulham. I’m a developer, I volunteer with GoodGym (running; doing tech stuff). I’m @andylolz on twitter, feel free to contact me! GoodGym is @goodgym on twitter.
Links to further resources: 
  • Guardian stuff here:
  • Awesome video here (though it is about the other side of GoodGym’s work):
  • Recent local press here:
Posted in Community Impact, health