GoodGym: combining fitness with help in the community

Originally published on The Running Bug

A growing movement of runners mixing fitness with good deeds has turned the traditional run club format on its head.

Struggling with motivation and need a leg up? In the midst of winter it may be tempting to forego fitness in favour of the sofa, so now is the perfect time to combine your favourite sport with something a little different.

A growing community of runners who mix exercise with helping local communities has transformed the traditional run club format as we know it, and you can be a part of it.

A unique concept founded in 2009, GoodGym members combine fitness with humanitarian acts by undertaking manual labour for community organisations as part of a group run.

‘Basically we stop off on our runs at community organisations to help out with tasks such as gardening, clearing rubble, planting trees or bulbs and painting fences,’ GoodGym ambassador Stephen Kirlew told The Running Bug.

Members also stop off on their runs to offer support. ‘We help isolated older people with one off things they can’t do on their own, such as moving heavy furniture, gardening, or changing a lightbulb.’

The coach scheme

There are currently a million people in the UK who suffer from loneliness, and 2.4 million who have no one local to ask for help. GoodGym members can sign up to a coach scheme where they run on a regular basis to pay a social visit to vulnerable, isolated and housebound older people.

‘Many of our runners are paired with an older person. We call them our coach – because they provide an additional incentive to run,’ explains Stephen. ‘They’re essentially your coach because it’s a great incentive when you don’t want to go out of the house because it’s raining or cold!’

‘It’s a pleasure for someone to come and see me and have a little chat,’ says older person and coach Harry. ‘When it’s the same thing every day, it can get a bit worrying.’

Good deeds

Since its inception GoodGym runners have carried out over 40,000 good deeds to help older people and community organisations throughout the UK, operating in 26 areas nationwide.

‘There are three elements to GoodGym,’ explains Stephen. ‘We have the community organisation support that we give, the one off missions for isolated older people and the coach runs; which are the social visits.’

How does it work?

GoodGym essentially gets people fit and combats isolation and loneliness at the same time.

‘Runners meet up in groups as well as independent runs,’ explains Stephen. ’Our runners get together in a group, do a bit of a stretch and a warm-up, then run to the community organisation that we’re going to help.

We then complete the task in about 45 minutes, do a short fitness session and then run back! ‘

How to volunteer

Completely free to join, group runs are led by qualified running coaches who help with technique and support members to achieve their fitness goals.

All fitness levels are welcome, and GoodGym group runs take place in various locations across the UK, visit for details.