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17 July 2018
Health, sport & fitness

Get healthy and do good deeds with GoodGym

Running group combines motivating fitness enthusiasts with helping the community in Hackney.

It's a dark, dreary evening in Hackney and I have warmed up in a cafe, along with 17 other people who are preparing themselves for a 10-kilometre run.

The cold weather should act as a deterrent, but this is a run with a difference; our mission is to make our way through the maze of Hackney's streets in order to reach an allotment in an estate in Stoke Newington that needs clearing out.

GoodGym good deed

Run to an older person's home in Hackney where you'll team up with other runners and help them with something they are struggling to do themselves

After warming up, we start running, occasionally spurred on by pedestrians - who still seem to have the Olympic spirit coursing through their veins - some of whom run alongside us for a while.

Once at the allotment, our many hands make light work of the task, disposing of the corrugated plastic, concrete slabs, and broken pots strewn around in just 15 minutes.

This is GoodGym, an initiative by Ivo Gormley. He was inspired to set up the not-for-profit organisation by his experience of visiting Terry, a retired soldier. He would bring him a copy of a newspaper, incorporating a run into the visit, and Terry would offer Ivo support and advice in return.

Following this principle, runners who sign up to GoodGym get a chance to keep fit at the same time as doing a good deed for an isolated older person, or the community as a whole.

GoodGym team work

Work out by helping local community projects, and run back all within 90 minutes

The initiative began in Tower Hamlets in 2009 and has rapidly expanded across the UK.

The Hackney group started in 2013. Ivo says: "Hackney is a great place to be running. We are also working alongside some good organisations in the borough including Growing Communities."

Good Gym member Kate O' Halloran, from Stoke Newington, is a big fan of the set up. She says: "It's a win-win situation. I personally lack the motivation to run in the winter months. As well as giving back to the community, running with others forces me to work harder than if I were going alone."

Fellow member Lauren Garland, a long-time Hackney resident, has now completed over 50 good deeds including individual home visits, group runs, and one-off journeys to help with minor emergencies such as changing light bulbs or making deliveries.

She says: "I was really not a fan of sport at school. I went running, but never much further than five kilometres. I was inspired by others here who did more."

By Rebecca Shahoud

Run to plant trees for the local park or shift earth for a community gardening project

Run to plant trees for the local park or shift earth for a community gardening project

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Run regularly to see an isolated older person in Hackney

Run regularly to see an isolated older person in Hackney

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Run to help community projects in Hackney

Run to help community projects in Hackney

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Running together on the streets of Hackney

Running together on the streets of Hackney

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GoodGym members help local community projects

GoodGym members help local community projects

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Getting ready for the GoodGym run in Hackney

Getting ready for the GoodGym run in Hackney

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Run to plant trees for the local park or shift earth for a community gardening project
Run regularly to see an isolated older person in Hackney
Run to help community projects in Hackney
Running together on the streets of Hackney
GoodGym members help local community projects
Getting ready for the GoodGym run in Hackney

Updated: 03 January 2019

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