Not too long ago I decided that I needed to get in shape, or at least, in better shape. I had foolishly agreed to run a 5K obstacle course around Battersea Power Station and was, needless to say, petrified. I don’t run, it doesn’t suit me. I struggle to keep in a straight line and more often than not look like I’m being chased. I also hate gyms – they are sterile sweatboxes and I find them overwhelmingly odd. So, basically, I had to get in shape without running or going to the gym, and that’s when I found out about Green Gym.
Green Gym is run by The Conservation Volunteers who have been reclaiming green spaces since 1959, clearing woodland, planting trees and offering invaluable training and support in environmental sustainability. They launched Green Gym in 1998 and currently there are 70 running across the country. The concept is pretty straight-forward – get fit by getting your hands dirty. Plant bulbs, clear weeds, meet people and feel pretty altruistic at the same time. It’s incredibly relaxed, there are tea breaks, you’re outdoors, and it’s brilliant.
I rocked up to one of these Green Gyms in Regent’s Park on a fairly cold and fairly windy Saturday morning. After having a little wander around the park the team leader explained to us what we would be doing – helping to create a small wildlife enclosure by laying hedges and clearing any encroaching vegetation. A pile of shovels, spades, trowels and rakes were carted out and we were invited to dive in. It’s all brilliantly casual whilst at the same time being pleasingly difficult, you work at your own pace, help other people out and get involved wherever you can. It beats chugging Power-ade and pushing floor while Rita Ora plays on repeat.
There’s a real sense of community to the Green Gym experience, a real willingness to hang out with like-minded folk and come away feeling fresher, healthier and content in the knowledge that you’ve done your bit. Clubs are regular, they’re free and they’re incredibly inclusive, regardless of your shape or size. Just find out where your nearest club is and send an e-mail asking to come along, or if there isn’t one nearby, then start one yourself! Keeping healthy AND helping the environment? That is the literal definition of a “win, win.”