Running clubs: The social way to stay fit

Every Thursday after work, a group of around 20 sports gear-clad enthusiasts gather outside the Millennium arena in Battersea Park for an hour of jogging and conversations.

The Belgrave Run Club, the organisers of this sporting meet-up, are just one of many running clubs currently sprouting around London.

The start of a new year is generally a period for self-reflection, and many people decide it’s time to get back into shape. 

But this newly-found motivation usually only lasts for as long as the New Year’s resolutions are still high on the priority list. 

Once the post-holiday stress sweeps over, the gym shoes go back to the closet for another year.

Joining a running club might just be the perfect solution. 

Sofia Costa, a 29-year-old sales manager from Battersea, and one of the newest members of the Belgrave Run Club, says being part of the group was the only way she could stay motivated. 

“I would have stopped after five minutes if I was on my own.

“One of my New Year’s goals was to really get into running. But because I don’t like to do it alone, this has been really, really good.“

Running is notoriously a solitary activity but this is rapidly changing, as now more than ever people crave social interactions. 

During lockdown, running largely became the sport of choice, as it provided an excuse to go outside and even exercise with friends.

Having the right coaching is important when taking up a new sport

“I already made three good friends! And that’s one of the other things I really like about it. You go to get fit, to get into running, and you end up meeting really nice people that you otherwise wouldn’t necessarily come across,” adds Sofia.

A typical session at the Belgrave Run Club goes like this: the members meet outside the arena, chatting away until everyone joins; newcomers are greeted by the coaches, professional runners Dan Jarvis and Jack Rowe, who enquire about their current fitness levels and previous running experience.

Once everyone arrives, the coaches lead the group through a warm-up designed for preventing injuries, and split them up into smaller teams based on their ability. 

They run, walk and talk for about 40 minutes, before grouping up once again for some light stretching.

Dan and Jack always aim to adjust the difficulty of the session depending on who’s turned up that day, catering to people from all levels of experience. 

Dan, 26, who runs competitively for Bedford & County Athletics Club, is aware that starting a new sport can feel extremely intimidating – but is assured that anyone can do it.

He says: “In terms of getting into running, it’s all about doing it at your own pace. 

“While a lot of people think coming to a run club is all about running fast, most of it just comes down to enjoying yourself. Building slowly and building consistently.”

With winter’s long, dark evenings still ahead of us, running clubs offer an added benefit. 

For women especially, the group provides some extra safety and reassurance during their workout.

“We have quite a lot of women in the club. I think for them it’s important to know they’re not in the park on their own,” says Dan.

As running clubs grow in popularity, Dan and Jack have watched their club flourish, since starting it in August last year.

“We had seven people turn up on the first session. The club has grown gradually and we have around 40 people signed up currently.”

Belgrave is only one of several clubs based in Battersea Park. 

Throughout the week, you can see groups of eager runners from Puresport, Clapham Chasers and Battersea Harriers to name a few.

Running is proven to have many health benefits, including weight loss, improved fitness and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Furthermore, regular runners notice significant improvements in their mental health, including reduced stress, anxiety and depression.

Fans of the sport are also familiar with something called the “runner’s high” – the state of euphoria after finishing a run, because of the endorphins released in your body. 

With the right coaching and some extra push from their friends in the group, members of the Run Club are well on their way to achieving it.

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