Here’s an article from Friday’s i newspaper on people getting fit and doing good for the community. It always strikes me as a waste of time and energy going to the gym. Better to do something useful.
“A sweat-drenched crew of joggers advances on Hackney’s Wilton Way estate, pickaxes and pitchforks in hand They’ve come to clean up . “These flower beds used to be notorious areas for hiding drugs and weapons, says Wilton Way resident Debbie Michener, as the joggers set about with their tools. “I personally found 2 meat cleavers and 4 chef’s knives at least 9 inches long. What this lot do is come in and clear an area doing the donkey work for the community to build on.”
The joggers, all Hackney locals, are part of an organisation called Good Gym – a running club with a difference. “Wen people are pounding a treadmill or lifting weights, all that energy is lost,” explains Hackney co-ordinator Joel Wiles. “today we’re helping the community to grow and strive while doing essentially the same thing. ”
The Good Gym concept started in 2009, when filmmaker and social entrepreneur Ivo Gormley (son of sir Anthony) decided to use his desire to get fit to reach out to the old and the lonely. “I wasn’t doing any exercise and didn’t really like the idea of a gym,” says Gormley. “There are always people lifting loads of things that don’t need lifting and running nowhere on treadmills. It seemed like a bit of a waste, so I started running to deliver the newspaper to an isolated older man called Terry.”
Today, with 1,300 regular participants and 20,000 registered runners Good Gym is one of the most popular running clubs in London. As well as visiting the old, its members form “running flash mobs for good” that boost local charities and community projects. “It’s so exciting to know that pretty much every night there’s hundreds of runners running to do something that makes a difference to peoples’ lives,” says Gormley. “But there’s so much more that needs to be done. A million people say that they are ‘aways’ or ‘often’ lonely ad we’d love to be able to reach more of them.
with a forthcoming collaboration at the Southbank Centre, Gormley hopes the project will expand into the national consciousness “We’re already in Bristol and Bath, and we’re aiming to be n eery major city in britain within the next 2 years. We’ve got 5,000 runners signed up in places where we haven’t even started yet – there are people in Cardiff, Glasgow, Newcastle al saying that they really want this to happen. It’s not the solution to everything. We’re not gong to fix isolation and loneliness but we really want to make a big contribution.” ..the older people visited by the Good Gym-ers are referred to as “coaches” “They’re the ones getting you out running and inspiring you,” says Kevin Nugent. “There was one day when it was snowing outside and I was like: ‘Am I really gong to go running in the snow? But Connie was waiting for me so I just had to man y ad get out there. I wouldn’t let her down lightly.”
The question remains – do old people actually like having their homes invaded by sweaty do-gooders? “I did always turn up sweaty,” admits Kevin, “but she said it made a huge difference o her. when I said I couldn’t visit her any more, due to becoming a father she was offered to go back on the list and be paired with another runner and she said it wouldn’t be the same and that sWay the community garden is starting to shape up. In just 30 minutes no less than 47 slabs of concrete have been aid. “It’s generally good use of your time,” says Gormley. “You get a double hit of endorphins and positivity.”