A need for deeds: the gym where running isn’t about speed, but doing good

Tom Lawson

Rather than ploughing energy into treadmills and dumbbells, GoodGym members keep fit by helping their local communities. And the concept is spreading fast

Forget expensive gym membership fees, say those at GoodGym: why not burn calories and help your community at the same time?

GoodGym is a free-to-join network of runners across the UK that carry out workouts with purpose: from running to visit isolated elderly people, to helping out on big community projects. Those behind the concept describe traditional gyms as ‘a waste of energy and human potential’, and estimates that members have performed more than 55,000 good deeds to date.


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Founded in London in 2008, the network has swelled to 33 local groups across England and Wales, with a further 72 in the pipeline, including plans for the first groups in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Norwich branch of GoodGym was launched this week, and a Brighton contingent is meeting for its first session on 11 July.

Sessions include feeling the burn while tackling an elderly person’s overgrown garden in York, and ‘stretching for litter’ to keep Croydon’s streets tidy

Tara Shanahan, a runner since 2009, will be among the Brighton group’s ‘trainers’: those who help lead the local groups.

“We’ll be lacing up our trainers and hitting the streets for GoodGym’s first ever run in the city,” she said. “We’ll be running about 4km in total on the night and doing something amazing for the Brighthelm Centre.

“Don’t worry if you’re new to running. We’re a very friendly bunch and never leave anyone behind. Runners of all abilities are welcome.”

The first of what will be a weekly session, the launch will see volunteers run along the seafront followed by painting a fence and laying a woodchip path in a preschool garden. The school provides affordable care to disadvantaged children at the Brighthelm Centre – a community space in the heart of the city.

We’re a very friendly bunch and never leave anyone behind. Runners of all abilities are welcome

GoodGym advertises its ‘missions’ online for members to sign up to, with runs ranging from 3-15km. Sessions currently advertised include feeling the burn while tackling an elderly person’s overgrown garden in York, working up a sweat setting up an outdoor event for a Bournemouth-based homeless charity, and ‘stretching for litter’ to keep Croydon’s streets tidy.

Though GoodGym is free to join, members are given the option of a monthly donation to the GoodGym Charity when they sign up. The money goes towards running the network and to help with outreach to older people – a particular focus for the organisation.

Images: GoodGym Lambeth


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