Ellie is one of my dearest friends- She’s been lovely looking after me while I’ve been unwell- bringing over trashy books, making brekkie, and also writing up her recent GoodGym experience for you to enjoy. Thank you for this fabulous guest post, Ellie! (To contribute a guest review then email firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE BASICS: GoodGym is an organisation that aims to help us all exercise while doing good stuff for the community. Seriously, what’s not to love? It has three brackets:
- free weekly runs, where you run for a bit, do a bit of physically active volunteering, then run back (this is the thing I did)
- mission runs, which are one-off versions of the above
- old people partnering, where you run to an isolated older person, have a cuppa with them, then run yourself home again
(FYI you need CRB checks for the latter two and there’s a small membership fee with it).
THE BITCHES: Ellie
THE CLASS: This was a weekly community run, held for free, open to anyone. They’re all over London, and there are two within a mile of my house. Joy of joys, no excuses for not going back…
It was Tuesday when I went, that day in London where it just didn’t stop raining. Ever. I was at home all day chilling out and by the evening I was really ready to get out and do something with my day, despite the torrential rain. Hence the reason for going out running in the omnipresent downpour.
I walked in to the coffee shop the GoodGym group meet in, and saw there were already some friendly faces. The group leader explained the evening to me, and then a few other people came over to say hi to and chat with the newbie – which I thought was nice. As the evening went on, I realised their friendliness was essential!
7pm hit and we all started jogging to our destination through the rain, splitting into smaller groups to keep chatting. After playing rugby for fifteen years, I thought I had reasonable fitness, so I wasn’t too concerned about chatting and running. Oh, I was wrong. So wrong.
Most of the group seemed, like me, interested in fitness but not some kind of buff body harrier. Within the first 2km, though, it was clear that I was going to struggle with keeping up… people surged forward in the rain keen to get to our destination and I did my best to keep up (read: ran about 500m behind anyone else, red in the face, feeling a bit sick and trying not to fall any further behind).
My lack of running prowess didn’t matter one jot, though; the group made sure someone was running with me at all times and I felt really welcomed.
So I arrived at Dalston Community Curve Garden, soaking wet, out of breath, and needing a sit down after running a fast 5k. The rest of the group had caught their breath waiting for me, obviously, so we moved straight on to moving a hella load of earth. There was a huge mound of compost (or possibly earth, I’m really not sure of the difference) that needed shifting, and so with the rain pouring down over us we started digging. What amazed me here was the way we worked together, me barely knowing the rest of the group, organising ourselves and getting on with the job like we were worker bees or something. It was like a work team-building exercise where you’ve got a job to do, but you’re kind of relaxed, kind of trying to make a good impression, and most of all you’re not taking yourself too seriously.
Everyone was having a good time and the digging was hard going, too, so we were getting loads of surreptitious exercise in. After 30 minutes of digging my glutes and core were telling me enough was enough, and fortunately we were just about done with the job. The group were then on a bit of a high after organising ourselves quite effectively and doing a nice bit of team work, which was much needed as it kept me buoyed for the run home.
We hit the pavements again to retrace our 5k route, the faster runners going in a group together back to the meeting point, and the rest of us wending our way in our own time. Like the way out, someone made the effort to slow down and jog at my pace. I always had company, always had good conversation, and always had friendly smiles coming my way. Turning up as the newbie and slowing everyone else down could have been really awkward but I felt really welcomed and supported.
After getting back to the meeting point I downed three glasses of water gasping for refreshment and some rest; my legs were exhausted, my muscles aching, and I had a huge beam on my face. I got on my bike to face the 2km back home, and then collapsed in the front door.
Seeing my bright red and exhausted face when I walked in through the door, my girlfriend laughed at me, then handed me the pint of water she was drinking from and said ‘you clearly need this more than me’.
THE VERDICT: The next day I was aching all over my stomach, back and legs in that really good way; I knew I had worked hard, and felt proud of myself. Weirdly I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself while I was out with the other runners because I was chatting so much and meeting new people. The social element was great; I met lovely people, and I’d really recommend it for a social fix. Plus GoodGym gave me some new motivation to get out and exercise by myself, which I’ve been lacking for a while – that was an unexpected bonus.
And the cherry on top is that I can now say I did some volunteer work this week – and it didn’t even feel like ‘work’!
So the verdict with GoodGym is exercise plus volunteering plus socialising and all for free. What’s not to love?