The different type of Liverpool gym that combines exercise with helping in communities
1 year ago
A different kind of gym in Liverpool is combining exercise with supporting communities to give people a chance to get fitter while they help out someone who needs it.
GoodGym Liverpool members walk, cycle or run to lend a hand with neighbourhood projects and charities, or to do practical jobs for older people locally.
That way they get to use their energy to make a difference to other people instead of just slogging away in a regular gym or running alone.
The idea for GoodGym came about in East London over a decade ago when its founder, Ivo Gormley, started visiting an elderly man who lived nearby to take a newspaper and some food a few times a week.
Conscious that he wasn’t doing much exercise at the time, he decided to run there rather than walking.
The idea got funding around the 2012 Olympics which allowed it to expand, and since then it’s carried on spreading to take in cities and towns across the UK including Liverpool which launched in 2018.
Now post-Covid, the Liverpool GoodGym group is growing again and linking up with community groups and good causes in the city, as well as organisations who work with older people such as Age UK, Citizen’s Advice and Sefton CVS.
Ed Field from GoodGym explains: “GoodGym is about combining exercise – walking, cycling and running – with doing something in the community.
“There are two strands to what we do. One is doing tasks for local organisations and charities, where we run, walk or cycle to any not-for-profit group who needs some help. That might be to a foodbank to sort donations, to a nursery to paint a room, or to a park or community allotment to do some weeding. Anything that benefits the community, we’re able to provide volunteers for that.
“The other thing is supporting isolated older people, so we go to homes to do practical things in the home or garden like prescription pick-ups or food shopping, or just changing light bulbs. It’s basically anything that becomes more difficult as you get older.
“We also work with hospital discharge teams so if an older person maybe can’t be discharged because their bedroom is upstairs and they can’t manage stairs anymore, some runners can go around to bring a bed downstairs or help with the delivery of hospital equipment.”
Ed says anyone over 18 can join GoodGym for free and there’s no commitment to do something every week, it’s just as and when people have spare time.
Liverpool members just click on to the website and it shows upcoming active sessions around the city. Ones coming up include painting fences at the Greenhouse Project in Liverpool 8, clearing out a shed for Ullet Road Church near Sefton Park, and teaming up with Friends of Everton Park to give it a spring tidy up.
Each one starts off at the suitcases sculpture on Hope Street for a warm-up before a run to the wherever the task is. There’s also an option to meet at the location if anyone wants to miss out the running part!
“People do have different motivations for signing up,” adds Ed. “Some are looking for easy ways to volunteer and GoodGym is great because you go to a different place every week. That means you’re not volunteering at the same charity shop, for example, every week you’ll be doing something new. Plus it’s all quite physical and fun and social, especially if you’ve got a bunch of 10 or 20 people doing something together.”
Since the pandemic, Ed says they’ve seen an increase in the number of people wanting to get involved in ‘micro-volunteering’ and GoodGym makes it easy to do good locally.
“More people want to do stuff in their own neighbourhoods and they want to feel connected to where they live. One of the really nice things about GoodGym is you get to learn about different community groups and organisations that are often on your doorstep but you just weren’t aware they were there.
“And it’s not just the activity itself, it’s about the bonds you make with other people. You go because you want to get a bit fitter or you want to do some volunteering, but actually you keep going back because you’ve made these really good friends and you’ve become part of a community.”