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Virtual running clubs can help keep us fit and connected

Virtual running clubs can help keep us fit and connected

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When I first had the idea of setting up a virtual running club for my employer, little did any of us know of the ‘annus horribilis’ that was in store for us. It was in March of this extraordinary year that I used the Strava activity-tracking platform to create an online space for myself and any of my colleagues to store, analyse and admire our walks, runs and cycles.

Then, just as I was designing the Buck Running Club posters, intended to be pinned up in the canteens and break-out areas to drum up interest among workmates, the first national lockdown measures were announced. Over six months later, and most of us haven’t returned to those office spaces!

Priorities had changed, not just in my office in Bristol, England, but around the globe. An unprecedented restriction on our way of life had been imposed on us in an attempt to restrict the spread of the Coronavirus, and each of us was now focused on making the best of the new normal, both professionally and in our personal lives.

I didn’t see it at the time, but in hindsight the virtual running club was more relevant at that time than it had been before. Most of us were homebound and limited to a solitary daily exercise in the outdoors. We were suddenly forced to appreciate our rationed exercise, and were more dependant than ever on technology to stay connected. How did I not recognise the huge value of the club I had created?!

Imagine my delight, then, when some weeks later I logged onto the platform and thought I’d check if anyone had found their way to the club’s page… and there were dozens! Not only that, but the group had members who I had never met, from all around the world!

Across the United States we had colleagues running with us from Missouri, Georgia, Indiana and other states too. We have one dedicated runner (and cyclist) in Mississuaga, a city in Ontario, Canada, that I hadn’t heard of before and was compelled to find out about due to its enticingly exotic name.

It’s not easy to connect colleagues from around the world at the best of times, but as you can see, a virtual sports group presents a unique opportunity. We can share pictures of our favourite local routes (I could even get to see Mississuaga!), we can give each other ‘kudos’ for our activities, and pass on messages or ask for advice. Best of all, it was free of charge and took a matter of minutes.

Employees working from home may feel isolated from their colleagues, but simple measures like this can help keep them united and engaged, as well as encouraging healthy living.

With further lockdown measures announced for the UK, there could be no better time for an employer to promote a healthy activity and a sense of togetherness with a virtual running club.

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