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TWO DOORS DOWN

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Having now had three weeks of our new Saturday morning group, it’s incredible and I still get astounded, by the small stories and conversations that are had during the sessions.

These aren’t your stereotypical stories that you often associate with people who start getting involved in a being active, such as of losing weight or completing 5K runs in PB times. These are the stories that are less often heard but are, in my opinion, much more important and something that I wasn’t expecting when we began this project.

An example of one of these stories happened this Saturday and was overheard by Lex, one of our regular attendees and volunteers.

As always, people arrived, signed in, and after a quick demonstration of the activities we were to be completing in the session, we warmed up and then clustered people together in groups that would stick together and complete the circuit.

After four exercises of the first set and as participants began to relax into the format, conversations began.

As you would expect, some of the groups consisted of people that had arrived together in order to support each other and give one another the confidence to come along to something totally new, whereas other groups were made up of total strangers.

In one particular group made up of complete strangers a conversation began that could potentially change their micro-community in a big way. Two of the participants were chatting and the normal conversation of where do you live, how far have you come developed and after a few second the two people had established that the lived “two doors down” from each other. Practically neighbours.

The funny thing is that they had never spoken to each other before even though practically lived on each other’s doorstep.

This is something that you may expect in a large city such as London, Birmingham or Manchester but not a relatively small City like Exeter.

Now, who knows what neighbourly relationship will form as a result of their random Saturday morning meet up at our group, it may well just be a smile and a wave while on the way to work or when nipping out for a loaf of bread, but in terms of community connections and cohesiveness we have broken down another barrier and brought people together and made the tiniest of difference to those two people’s lives.

In a time when there is so much discussion and debate about loneliness and disconnected communities, it’s nice to know that on a tiny scale we have incidentally and unintentionally begun to help people get fit, be more active and come together and meet people that were less that a stone’s throw away.

In fact just “Two Doors Down”.TWO DOORS DOWN

It’s not the Hokey Cokey!

So, in very unusual circumstances, although not for this winter seeming as though it has been one of the wettest on record in Devon and Exeter, we cancelled our Saturday morning session.

As we (this weekend’s volunteer leaders) were getting ready to head out and set up on what we prayed would finally be a dry Saturday, the rain failed to stop and decided to get heavier and come down in rods.

The WhatsApp messages were pinging more regularly than an excited ball bearing on a supercharged pinball machine. Should we? Shouldn’t we cancel? Will it stop? Won’t it? Will anybody turn up in this weather? And so on……

But as 9am got nearer and nearer we decided to call it on this occasion and start sending out the notices on social media that we weren’t heading out this Saturday.

It’s always sad when we cancel as session as we know people are casting off the duvet, wiping the sleep from their eyes and getting ready to start the weekend with a blast of exercise. Little did we know that that’s exactly what some of the regulars were going to do regardless of our decision.

Back indoors, and as I wasn’t going to be running around the park, I thought I’d better make the most of that hour by getting some admin done and updating all the event times and posters for all the groups that seem to be spreading across the city.

As I was making the most of my limited admin skills a message and picture popped up on Facebook from one of our regular attendees who is becoming more and more of an inspiration to myself and others in the St Thomas area. And here it is!!!

“A few of us turned up at park this morning. I’d arranged to meet someone from our depression and anxiety group to participate in Freemoovement and did not want to let them down. We all assessed area for safety and decided to do a warm up, then the Moove through session with static stations of exercises. We did three circuits, and finished with a cool down. Both myself and Deborah led.  We used the railings for push ups and benches for triceps dips, in between jogging we did fireman ladders, squats, lunges, star jumps, stand up Russian twists, all six of us enjoyed. Here’s a photo”……..

Now I’m not sharing the photo of the happy faces of those who turned up in the heavy rain and got a combined  360 minutes of exercise  when I was tinkering with social media – But  “That’s what it’s all about”. Freemoovement is a community activation project that makes a difference no matter how many people attend.  It’s not the “Hokey Cokey” but if you “bend your knees” & “stretch your arm” and add a bit of Ra! Ra! Ra! – then what’s not to like!

Who’s got the party bags???

P.S. Final footnote on this blog is that the session that ran was delivered by two ladies that attended our YMCA level 2 Award in Community Activation and were able to lead a session with no kit, no music, no plan!!!  Just the confidence and adaptability in being able to be active and encouraging others to get active too!  WOW!

As the year ends it’s time to review!

AwardsWell it’s been a whirlwind of a six months with so much happening and so many requests that the BLOG has totally dropped off the face of the Earth. However, with recently receiving an award from DevonLive for our contribution to Health and Wellbeing in the community it’s obviously time to get an up to date blog done. 

 

We will start with the award. Although it was listed as recognizing “Paul Mouland” for his contribution, this award was for so many more people than just me. There have been leaders, volunteers, community builders, keen attendees and numerous others that have all played their part in spreading the word and motivating each other in coming out and getting active in their community.

 

The goodwill and community cohesion that has surrounded the groups have at times been almost overwhelming. It’s the shear diversity of the groups that continues to amaze me and the fact that even when the nights turned dark and the temperature dropped, people seemed to become even more determined to get off the couch in the evening and head out the front door for their weekly fix of Freemoovement. 

 

As we really start to reflect at the end of the year after having had 6 months to fully understand what it is people want from the groups, we are in a much better place to support others in Exeter to set up their Freemoovement groups and facilitate them with the skills and knowledge of how to get their own project off the ground and self-sustaining. 

 

We are now on the brink of setting up a coaching course for volunteers so we can be sure that each group is fully equipped to deliver their own sessions. However, we are still looking for a suitable sponsor to help fund the training of our volunteers as asking volunteers to pay £250 for a course and then volunteer their free time is a step too far. 

 

We are also about to launch our first Saturday morning session, starting in the New Year. This will again be a new step for us and the aim will be to help people with their New Year resolutions and give those who can’t make weekly evening sessions the opportunity be active and join our amazing group of participants and volunteers. More details will be on Facebook and Twitter shortly. 

 

Finally, I really must hit home how much of this project is a pure community initiative that is now aimed at much more than just getting fit in the park.  Community cohesion, reducing social isolation, removing barriers, improving mental health, connecting with neighbors, empowering volunteers …… the list goes on.

 

So, if you would like to be part of what seems to have a limitless amount of possibilities then get in touch. We’d be happy to discuss new ideas, explore new groups, form partnerships, receive advice and work with anyone who shares our ethos of helping people and strengthening communities to improve health. 

What it’s about!

So, here’s a more detailed description about how this all came about.

Having worked in the Sport, health, fitness and education industry for 20 years and steadily building knowledge, skills, experience while maintaining the passion for helping people and wanting to improve myself, I thought it might be a good idea to set up something in my local community to see if there are other people who have the desire to get fit but are somewhat put off by the traditional barriers to participation.

Having helped with previous projects in my local park, Cowick and Barton Playing fields, which have included planting trees and volunteering at community events, I thought it may be worth a try to set up a community health activity group based around doing some basic exercises that everyone is familiar with. You know – press ups – sit ups – step ups  – tricep dips and so on.  Nothing new & not reinventing the wheel.

So, with the support from some local residents we started meeting, just the 4 of us on a Monday and Wednesday evening. In the space of a few weeks this became 10, then 15, then 20 and so on.

That’s roughly where we’re at now, but seeing how much people enjoy social activity based around getting fit and supporting each other, who knows what the future may hold.

Find us on Facebook and twitter.

Onwards and upwards. And if you want to come along we would love to have you join.

 

 

Where now?

Where now?

So in order to get down some more details and specifics about how the group is coming along I will try and get a blog done at least every fortnight and if possible every week.

If other group members want to additionally get involved and get their own thoughts down and send a blog in, I’m happy to post up as it’s really important to continually get feedback and the thoughts of the group. Especially as things start to grow and it gets more difficult for me to chat to everyone in the group each week.

We have been having some fun in the last week as Wimbledon has been on, and getting everyone in the group involved in picking numbered tennis balls from our luck dip bag and combining these drawn balls to a selection of exercises. This has added some great group interaction and really made the activity session more varied as no one has any idea what the programme will look like when they arrive.

The groans when a 40 second ball was drawn, combined with the exercise cone representing burpees was priceless. Then the faces dropped as the realisation of what we were about to do was equally memorable. However, the most surprising part was how a group of mainly non exercisers managed to cope with 40 seconds of incredibly intense exercise. Really inspiring.

This week we also did our first Saturday morning session which again went well considering the 8.30am start. Having 8 people attend, with three members coming for the first time, was great to see. Moving forward we just need to plan how this additional weekly session can be catered for, as when the football season starts there will be less field space and I will personally struggle to get there every week. But in the interests of group sustainability maybe this is where I step back a little, and place the trust in the community spirit created by the group.

So quickly to finish on a personal wish list, I’m hoping we will go over the 30 attendee mark in one session within the next week or so, and then sustain between 20 – 30 to really cement the group and its success.

So see you Wednesday if you are coming along for more Wimbledon themed fun.

And don’t forget to tell friends and bring them along. As always the more the merrier.

P

 

10 weeks and still going strong!

So now the group has been going for 10 weeks it’s a great time to take stock and evaluate what we have achieved. I have to give huge credit to thanks to key members of the group including: Laura, John and Sue Taylor, Chloe, Oscar and Helen. Without their commitment and help with sharing information including posters, Tweets, Facebook posts, the group would not be as successful as it has become. Although I have mentioned just a few people here, there are obviously many more people in the group whose infectious enthusiasm has additionally helped the group’s popularity.

So 10 weeks in, the group continues to expand and grow with new faces coming along all the time. We have now exceeded over 100 members on the new Facebook page and have had in excess of 60 people take part in various sessions. The weekly attendance is still around 35 – 40 people, which is great considering a large number of the people that attend would be considered inactive on the Sport England guidelines. Add in to this the low amount of press and media that has been sent out and the fact the group has grown organically from just a few posters around the park and the willingness of people to come up and ask what’s going on and if they can join in is incredible.

I’m still holding back at the moment from marketing too heavily as I am concerned the group may actually get too big and be difficult to manage. However, this week it was great to have the confidence in splitting the group up and having regular members lead their individual group. It was amazing to see, as I looked over from my group, everyone getting stuck in, laughing, joking and having a fantastic time with people they barely know and may have only met through the group. Long may it continue!

On another note, I have been asked to set up another group in a separate park on the other side of the city. I’m going to give it a go seeing how popular this group has become and what a positive affect it has had on the people attending. If this can be replicated then hopefully more  people can get the same benefits from their individual park programme.

The only issue I have with this at the moment is that we will need a sponsor to provide finances to buy kit etc, and then additionally set up a training and education session for the members of that community to be able to lead their own sessions.

So if anyone knows of a local company, or companies, that would like to provide finances for a community lead health activity programme – Shout Up!!!!

I`ll leave it there for now and post another blog in the next week or so.

Cheers P