GoodGym believes that the gym is a waste of energy - energy that could otherwise be used to make communities better.
The GoodGym model combines exercise with doing good. It sets up ‘paired runs’, where runners visit isolated older people, and organises weekly group runs that incorporate volunteering in the community, like clearing a river of rubbish or helping an elderly person tidy up their garden.
GoodGym launched formally in 2009. Before this, founder Ivo Gormley and a few friends had been developing the idea informally in Tower Hamlets for a couple of years, running to visit older people.
Over the next few years, GoodGym experimented with different models to expand into new areas. It tried supporting volunteers to establish new GoodGyms by developing ‘GoodGym Open’, which included an operating manual and licence to use the brand and website. It also tried directly managing new areas, employing full-time or part-time trainers.
GoodGym found that the model using a part-time trainer had the most potential to become self-sustaining, and its scaling strategy is now based on this approach. If people are interested in bringing GoodGym to their area, GoodGym will set up a web page to track the number of people signing up to run in that location.
Once ten committed ‘founder’ members and twenty runners have signed up, GoodGym seeks start-up funding to get the initiative going in that area.
It then employs a part-time trainer to organise group runs locally, while continuing to carry out some processes centrally, including matching runners and older people.
GoodGym does seek start-up funding from local authorities, but believes that in the longer-term, each area should be self-sustaining. In 2013, it introduced a voluntary monthly donation to help cover operating costs.
90% of members now contribute, although the donation has always been optional.