How joining a gym made me part of Croydon’s community

By - Wednesday 18th January, 2017

Rather than waste all our energy on a treadmill that goes nowhere, let’s put it to good community use

Photo by GoodGym Croydon, used with permission.

GoodGym is a running group where people run and do good at the same time for the local community. It’s new form of ‘speedy volunteering’. It started off small in 2008 with a pilot project in Tower Hamlets, east London. Now there are GoodGym communities in twenty-nine boroughs all over the nation, with many more areas catching onto the idea and planning to set up their very own GoodGyms in the future. We are most fortunate that Croydon’s in there, and already has a lively GoodGym community in place.

The organisation makes good use of human physical energy by getting its members to provide manual labour for community projects. It also gets some of its members, once DBS checked, to run on missions to help older people with tasks in their homes and gardens, and for social visits to elderly people. The success of GoodGym could be clearly seen in 2016 as it won the Sports Industry Community Programme of the year award and also the very first Innovation in Running award at the Running Awards.

Our GoodGym group helps many local organisations

Our borough got off the blocks in May 2016, with the first event kicking off at the Croydon Arena sports centre. A fantastic turnout of twenty-seven runners helped by cleaning bikes and litter-picking after a sports event… and also ran eight kilometres, no small feat. Since then, Juliet Stevenson, Croydon GoodGym’s excellent trainer, has kept the GoodGym crew busy every Tuesday evening with a group run. She has now organised nearly forty runs in total.

So far, the local group has provided manual help to many local organisations such as the local council, the Salvation Army, the Brownies, Neighbourhood Watch and the South Norwood Clocktower Market. The activities in which the runners have been lucky enough to be involved have varied from mundane (but still important as ever) litter picking and leafleting, to the more unusual and exciting sowing of wildflowers at Thornton Rec, sorting out saffron corms (crocus bulbs) and then later on saffron picking at the Croydon saffron farm, and planting mushrooms with coffee grounds in Croydon’s local urban garden at Reeves Corner.

You can help tackle the loneliness too often experienced by Croydon’s senior citizens

And that’s not all the Croydon GoodGym community has been up to. We’re also a social lot, who have organised get-togethers including a fantastic cheese and wine night at Smoothbean! café and a festive Christmas celebration at the newly built Boxpark.

GoodGym is an excellent opportunity to explore and get involved with your local area. It’s a flexible form of volunteering, which means you can sign on to group runs whenever you can make them. It’s also a great way to meet new people and make new friends.

It’s also a most effective way to help others. 17% of elderly people living alone are visited by friends or family less than once a week. By running to an elderly person’s home and just having a cup of tea with them, whilst perhaps delivering them their newspaper once a week, we can help tackle the loneliness and isolation of elderly people who live in our area.

GoodGym helps us get fit sustainably

Running in a group means you are encouraged to keep up the pace especially if you’re one of those friendly competitive types. There is also online encouragement through the website, via virtual cheering (if you sign up to runs and complete missions) that also encourage you to keep up the fitness routine.

And it benefits the environment. GoodGym is an alternative way of getting fit sustainably by running outside and doing outside circuit training, using benches, external walls, your own body weight and whatever else we can find, instead of using gyms lit with fluorescent lights and filled with electric-powered gym equipment. It could end up saving you money: having access to a qualified fitness trainer who lead runs free of charge, and by having routes set up all around the city and on different days, who now really needs to keep on forking out for that monthly gym pass?

Plus, you get a cool red GoodGym t-shirt when you sign up. (Signing up is free, but if you’re feeling generous, you can make a donation).

If you are interested in joining or finding out more about GoodGym please check out the website.

Croydon GoodGym is also holding two starter sessions this January to introduce new people to the organisation. All fitness levels are welcome (even if you have never run before). The starter sessions are on Sunday 22nd January at Thornton Heath Rec, starting at 2:00pm to help with the gardening, and Saturday 28th January at Park Hill Rec at 12 noon, to finish off painting a public mural.

 Croydon GoodGym is also looking for local organisations, charities and local elderly people that may have missions for our runners to complete. Even if it’s as small as changing a lightbulb, please do get in touch if you can think a bunch of friendly local runners can help out. You can get in touch via the website or by .

Elderly people who would like runners to do missions or just come over for a friendly chat and some company can also get in touch with GoodGym on 0203 432 3920.


Dasha Barber

Dasha Barber

I am in my last year of my masters in civil engineering at UCL. In my spare time I like to sing the blues, dance and run. I am currently training for my first ever half marathon in Worthing

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  • Juliet Stevenson

    A really great article and fantastic to hear about what is going on in Croydon. Fitness and community work – great combination!

  • Deb Redmond

    I called into GoodGym Croydon for an evening session with them when I was visiting the area last year. Juliet and the team were so friendly and welcoming that I instantly felt like part of the group.
    Keep doing good guys, you’re doing a great job!

  • Paul Becker

    I’m a massive Goodgym fan. We have one in Bristol and I’ve loved all the great projects we’ve been involved in. Croydon Goodgym sounds like it’s really taking off now so I’m coming up this weekend for the first of the starter sessions to meet Juliet and her group -and get involved!