The Ramgarhia Sikh Temple (RST) is located in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and was founded back in 1969. The congregation is from all parts of Birmingham and although the Gurdwara (temple) is open to everyone every day, the main congregation usually gets together as a group on a Sunday morning.
Health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke are quite prevalent in the Indian community, and there is a growing issue of obesity in our younger generations, so we wanted to do something to encourage people to get into the habit of regular physical activity.
The idea for the Couch to 5k programme came from one of our brainstorming session at one of the RST sports and wellbeing sub-committee meetings, which meets once a month and is responsible for the sports and wellbeing initiatives at the Gurdwara.
We held an open day during the Vaisakhi celebrations at the Gurdwara over the weekend of 14/15 April to encourage people to sign up to the RST Couch to 5K. We created a full training programme for 10 weeks, starting on Sunday 22 April, with a target of participating in our first ever parkrun on Saturday 30 June. The programme consisted of three training sessions a week, including a Sunday group session at the Gurdwara. This created a sense of camaraderie and as the group sessions on the Sundays became very popular the number of participants started to grow.
The main challenge was that many of the group had never done any sort of real exercise, so we were mindful of making the programme as fun as possible. It worked, and most of the participants started to register for parkrun in the final 2-3 weeks.
On Saturday 30 June we had 103 people take part at Cannon Hill parkrun in Birmingham – including the RST Management Committee and our Trustees. Not bad considering that we only started the programme with 15 people in week one!
As an extra incentive, we were proud to welcome Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathon runner. He ran the first 30 metres with the group and stayed around afterwards to chat to them. The event was covered by ITV News and we are hoping that other community groups are inspired to run a similar programme.
My advice to any community group who is looking to do something similar, is to prepare, keep it simple, and remove the element of competition as most people just want to do it for a healthier lifestyle.
Many of the participants have already been saying they feel a lot healthier, happier and fitter. Now that people realise how easy it is to take part in parkrun, and how supportive and welcoming the atmosphere is, I am confident that many of them will become hooked on parkrun – just as I am!
parkrun’s Facebook groups for people living with Heart Conditions, Diabetes, Blood Pressure Conditions and Obesity are places where people living with those conditions can share their parkrun experiences and stories. The groups can be found at the following links:
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