Why I think GoodGym makes me a more resilient sort of a chap

I’m going to use this blog to highlight as many examples as I can of projects/initiatives that I think promote resilience amongst individuals and communities. I thought I’d kick off with my experience of GoodGym.

As set out in my previous attempts to assess my own resilience my greatest weaknesses are around my “social” resilience and my “health and wellbeing”. While I’ve still a way to go to bolster these, I got to thinking about how my weekly runs with GoodGym were probably having a bigger impact on me than I had perhaps recognised.

Put simply, GoodGym matches people who like to run and do good, with people who need physical tasks doing, either isolated older people who become less isolated by being paired with a runner, or community projects that need the sort of muscle for 30 minutes that only 20-odd random runners can provide. If you want to know more about their impact, I heartily recommend this blog post from Ashley.

But I want to focus on the impact on the runners. I started GoodGym when it came to Camden in April 2013, and have been attending the weekly group runs as much as I can (I’m on about 50 something good deeds done). Now physically it has had a massive impact. When I started, a 5k run was both a long and arduous task that normally left me retching for air. In the 18 or so months since then I have run two half marathons (so technically a marathon), run regularly every week, and while the booze still gives me a bit of a gut, I’m generally the fittest I’ve been in my entire life. It goes further than that though. It’s been a rough year. When my mum passed away very suddenly last year it brought to life a lot of demons I thought had been long since buried, and I spend the vast majority of my time these days wishing that everyone and everything would just go away.

Everything apart from GoodGym.

Each week, no matter how horrible the weather (it’s not normally that bad, the sun always shines in Camden), I look forward to seeing the friends I’ve made, new people to the group, the banter with the community centre caretaker, and for one part of the week doing something completely positive that only makes me feel good about myself. I’m not always the most sociable of chaps, but I love having that sociableness (not a word I know) around me and it focuses my heart and mind on moving forward and doing my best for others and myself. I’m going to get properly signed up and hopefully pair up with a coach (i.e. local older person) in the new year, and while previously that might have filled me with dread(!) I’m actually really looking forward to being an even more active member.

And deep down, I think GoodGym has made me a better person. Not necessarily a nicer person, but someone who is more resilient and more willing to get stuck in and take risks, and I don’t think this is just because of the physical side; in fact I think it is more from the inspiration I take from the people around me.

One final reflection. We were digging up a bit of area by a road in Primrose Hill for a wild flower garden, and this chap stopped to ask us what we were up to. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say he’d clearly had his fair share of troubles. When we explained it to him, his eyes lit up and said it sounded like something he really needed. I’ve not seen him since, but I really hope I do, because he’s probably right.

Thanks to everyone who both run GoodGym and run for Goodgym. It means a lot.

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2 Responses to Why I think GoodGym makes me a more resilient sort of a chap

  1. John Wade says:

    Hi Alexander
    A nice read. I’ve instinctively ‘taken against’ GoodGym (here’s why https://johnbromford.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/loneliness-and-the-long-distance-runner/ ) but you’ve made me pause for thought. How’s it going another year on?


    • Alex Kenmure says:

      Hi John
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Hugely appreciated. I found your post really interesting. I think your reservations are entirely valid, but as with most things, the issues are a little more nuanced than you’re initial reaction. I’m still running with GoodGym and now am on to my second coach. Looking back on my original post, I can only say that I’ve got more and more from the experience and feel like I’ve been more comfortable reciprocating that as well, particularly through my coach runs. I’m not sure I agree with the deficit labelling you attached – I’d say it is quite the opposite and that the interactions, whether on an individual or group level really tap into the strengths of all parties involved.

      I do think you’re on to something though with the disconnect from communities that are being helped. Maybe it’s in that last phrase I see the difference. I’m not sure we help communities, we just do good as a community within a different community’s space. This can sometimes be challenging and i’ve often wondered if we’ve hit a classic “bridging” issue where GoodGym has fostered a very strong community of interest that regularly operates in very small geographical communities.

      I don’t see this challenge as insurmountable, and the fact we have open challenging conversations about this gives me hope we can find some ways of bridging that gap. I don’t think that necessarily means more runners from the community, or indeed that we do more work for the local community – i’d prefer to see it as us understanding each other a little better.

      If you ever fancy giving it a go, give me a shout! In the meantime i’ll share your post around my friends – i’m sure they’ll find it fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

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