Greenwich GoodGym
Outside one of our favourite charity shops in Greenwich

If you’re a community group in SE London looking for volunteers, help or simply to spread the word about what you’re doing, 853 can help you get your message out in its new Community Spotlight feature.

Here’s SARAH PLACE, the trainer of Greenwich GoodGym, explaining how you can get fit, do good things and make new friends at the same time…

What actually is GoodGym?

To put it simply, we are a running community who run to do good deeds. Instead of going to the gym and running meaningless miles on a treadmill, we run to a community project or charity to volunteer our time once a week. It’s a great way to meet other lovely runners in your local area whilst giving something back to the community and getting a run in, of course!

GoodGym was set up by Ivo Gormley in Tower Hamlets and has now expanded into pretty much every London borough! So no excuses! But not only that, GoodGym has now gone country-wide with locations in Bristol, Brighton and York to name but a few.

I am the trainer for the Greenwich GoodGym and every Wednesday we meet at 6.45pm at the Old Royal Naval College for our weekly group run. A typical session lasts about 90 minutes, which includes a warm-up, a run to the task, doing the task itself (which can involve weeding, painting, lifting, tidying… any kind of manual labour really), a run back, a fitness session and some cool-down stretches all with lots of chat and laughs and smiles along the way.

How far is the run?

The length of the run varies each week depending on where the task is but typically we run between 3 and 7km in total.

Greenwich GoodGym at the Cutty Sark
At Greenwich’s Cutty Sark

Who can join?

The best thing about GoodGym in my opinion is that it is SO inclusive. Absolutely anyone and everyone is welcome! In my Greenwich group, we have someone who runs a 2hr 36min marathon, while on the other end of the spectrum we have runners who are just starting out on their journey! There is never any judgement, everyone helps and motivates each other, it’s just the type of crowd that GoodGym attracts! On the whole, we’ve found that people who are interested in both running and volunteering tend to be rather nice!

We assign a back marker on every run so no-one is ever left behind and people are welcome to push themselves as hard or as little as they like.

A lot of people come for the social aspect. So we often jog to the task as a big group which gives everyone the chance to make a new pal and catch up with existing ones too.

Greenwich GoodGym at Thomas Tallis School
Speed weeding at Thomas Tallis School

What kind of volunteer work do we do?

I’m responsible for organising the tasks and I try my best to mix it up and vary the tasks each week. As I mentioned briefly above, the task usually involves some form of manual work. We’ve been to the Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice charity shop to do some painting and some general tidying-up around the place. They really struggle for volunteers so they are always super-appreciative of our help. The week before that, we planted some bulbs and swept up leaves at the Royal Hill Community Garden. Yes it was dark, but gardening in the dark by head torch light is our speciality!

And then the week before that, we ventured a bit further afield to Kidbrooke for a speed-weeding project at Thomas Tallis school. On previous runs we have helped the Scouts, local schools, churches, community centres, charities… you name it, we’ve probably done it!

Greenwich GoodGym at Old Royal Naval College
This is where we do our warm-up each week

How can you get involved?

To see where your nearest GoodGym is, just head to the website. And then, well, just turn up! I totally understand it going up to a group of people for the first time can feel a bit intimidating, especially if you go along by yourself. But everybody is so welcoming and you will settle in immediately. GoodGym also does a lot of work with isolated older people, so there are opportunities to get involved with that too if you wish.

It can help your running too – the possibilities really are endless. We’ve had runners enter their first ever race after joining GoodGym, and then going onto complete their 5k, 10k, half and full marathon distances – even ultra-marathons! It’s super-inspiring stuff. So please go and check it out, you’ll make some great friends, get fit and help out a bunch of people along the way – triple win!

Greenwich GoodGym meets at 6.45pm each Wednesday at the Old Royal Naval College. Look for the red T-shirts!

There’s also Lewisham GoodGym (Mondays, 6.45pm, Glass Mill Leisure Centre), Bexley GoodGym (also on Mondays, 6.45pm, Crook Log Leisure Centre), Bromley GoodGym (Tuesdays, 6.45pm, Bridge House Tavern by Penge East station) and Southwark GoodGym (Wednesdays, 6.45pm, Old Spike Roastery, Peckham Rye).

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