Transform your life with running – a blogpost from the Ashiana Community Project

The benefits of physical activity are needed more so than ever in the current climate. The government has given the go ahead since the first lockdown to get outside for exercise one hour per day and this has become an opportunity and transformative time for many of us. Maybe we are actually seeing the value in getting outside and the benefits of getting outdoors have made us appreciate nature, appreciate the environment around us and raise our own awareness as the effects of being outdoors come rain, sun, snow, sleet or windy conditions has started to support our mental health and makes us feel less stressed, worried or anxious. If you are still sitting on the sofa contemplating …….stop and turn your thoughts into action. Spring is on the horizon and that’s another great reason to get some outdoor exercise, enjoy some warmer weather, lighter mornings and evenings. What’s stopping you?

Running can support weight loss and help us to improve our fitness levels with the aim to enhance our wellbeing. Running helps to relieve stress and literally allows you to let go of any stresses and worries and gives you the space to get a clearer perspective. Whatever your reasons for getting fit or losing weight, running can transform your life in many ways. The women in our community running groups have reaped all the benefits and have seen a significant change in themselves, such as feeling better in body and mind. Our women tell us their mood is uplifted, their energy levels shifted and their outlook to life much more positive. At ACP Women’s Wellbeing hub we have empowered women to run, jog, even a skip, hop and a jump at times! Our women’s run club has allowed our ladies to step out of their comfort zones at a pace that suits them, and we believe with patience, determination and a hope that things can change and anything is possible with the right mindset.  Prior to lockdown we would meet in the local park – Farm Park for a warm up before making our way down to the canal path for a 5k run, there’s no set distance but we decide on the day mutually. We used to get together Monday’s and Friday’s for a stretch, a chat and a run. Many women feel intimidated when they hear the word run because maybe they have a visualisation of a sports personality and they think running is out of their reach. Anyone can run, as long as they are physically able , you don’t need to be a Jennifer Ennis, you just need to be you! We lead and encourage our women to find a pace, a steady breath and we have fun, we laugh, we share parenting stories, beauty tips, recipes and health hacks. We have built a wonderful community of women who run regularly and attend our sessions because they are feeling the benefits and a making new friends and promoting community.

Since the restrictions we have set up a virtual club and we have now moved onto Whats App and been able to create a community through this platform, we record our runs using Strava and share and motivate one another. As a run lead and yoga teacher I have recorded and posted stretches and run warm ups to support women to ensure they are still getting a similar experience as if we were face to face. The fact that women are empowered enough to run on their own is a clear sign that the work we do to support health and wellness is making a positive impact in the community.

Sparkbrook, Bordesley Green and Balsall Heath East are areas of Birmingham synonymous with social deprivation and poverty  and some face barriers when accessing services that enhance their wellbeing because of a number of factors such as low income, high unemployment, lack of formal education or training therefore joining a gym may not be on their list of priorities. Most families are surviving with the resources they have and for some communication can be a barrier as English is not their first language. There may be cultural barriers and expectations that prevent families accessing the services that could potentially support them. At ACP Family Wellbeing Centre we work to support people in the community to ensure they have the means to access services that will support their overall health and wellbeing and we recognise that BAME community families don’t always know what is available to them. Our advice teams support families with accessing financial support by ensuring they are in receipt of the right benefits and have access to the streams of grants and funds available to them. The team speak community languages and this in itself gives families the confidence and reassurance in using the services.  We have supported hundreds of families through the pandemic in line with Covid rules. You can read our 100 days of Covid report here;

BAME women in particular who have joined in our services have transformed their outlook from spending time indoors, taking care of their families, children and responsibilities to also start to take care of themselves, by lacing up and heading out for fresh air and exercise. If you are a woman reading this and have always wanted to try running and need some motivation and inspiration, come and join our family, we welcome you with open arms! You could be anywhere in the country reading this and if you have access to What’s App you can take advantage of our women’s virtual run club. When the restrictions are lifted and life resumes back to a new normal and you live locally, then get in touch and join our free sessions. We would love to hear from you.

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Stay Safe

Stay Well 

Written by : Kam Bola

Women’s Wellbeing Coach