Parkrun, a free 5k time trial race that takes place mainly in parks and on public land, has taken the country by storm. According to Parkrun’s website, over 1 million people in the UK have taken part in a Parkrun event, but why is it so popular and what does this mean for PTs?
Parkrun was founded in 2004 by Paul Sinton-Hewitt; the first event was in Bushy Park in Teddington, London. Originally called Bushy Park Time Trial, it expanded to other locations and became known as UK Time Trials, before being renamed Parkrun in 2010. Events now take place every Saturday across the world in countries such as the United States, France, Italy, Denmark, Iceland and many more. There was even a Parkrun in Camp Bastion, the former headquarters of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
The other part of its runaway success is the fact that it’s simple, free and is community orientated. “Because it’s free, it allows people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to run a timed event to take part,” added Mawdsley.
You won’t just find experienced runners trying for their PB; you will also meet dog walkers, wheelchair users and families running together.
Parkrun can also help encourage participants to get more involved with fitness outside of the weekly 5k, like Clare Dowrick, a teacher from Liverpool:
“I’ve been doing Parkrun regularly since last September and I really love it! I enjoy exercising in the fresh air with the beautiful scenery, and have been motivated to join a running club with the idea of keeping fit enough to do the weekly park run.”
The popularity of Parkrun shows there is a nationwide appetite for exercising in a social and positive way and personal trainers might be able to learn from, and capitalise on, this growing community.
What does Parkrun mean for personal trainers?
According to Michelle Brewster, founder of Superchick, a virtual personal training programme for women, Parkrun has had both a positive and a negative impact on the personal training industry in her experience:
“Some people may see it as a great way to get fitter at no extra cost or investment in a personal trainer, whilst others may be more inclined to get a trainer to help them improve. Some runners will also be aware that physically being able to run 5km is just a small element of fitness, with other factors such as strength training, nutrition, muscular endurance, core, flexibility training and mobility being just as important to living a healthier lifestyle. These people are more likely to be interested in investing in a personal trainer to help them improve their overall health and fitness.”
There can be as many as 200-300 people attending a Parkrun event on any given Saturday. The vast majority of the participants will be local, meaning it could potentially be fertile ground for networking.
“Parkruns are a great place for personal trainers to gain clients, for the simple fact that multiple people attend Parkruns in a specific area,” said Brewster.
“Participants might well include athletes, those who are usually more sedentary, the elderly and children. Whatever the numbers involved, or their fitness level, the one thing these people have in common is that they are all demonstrating a desire to live a healthier lifestyle and be active. For a personal trainer, this objective is key to gaining new clients.
“Those who participate in Parkruns regularly can generally run 5km with ease, so many may want to enlist the support of a personal trainer to help them with their strength and endurance alongside Parkruns.”
Parkrun is not only valuable for networking, but there is also scope for collaboration as Elle Linton, founder of Keep it simpElle, personal trainer and fitness influencer, has found:
“There is an opportunity to collaborate with the event – maybe lead the warm up, or write for the newsletter in order to share your experience and expertise. It’s also a good place to put your skills and training into action.”
So, get down to your local Parkrun, take part and maybe even volunteer! Get involved with the community; it might be old fashioned, but it is still one of the best ways to get to know people and get your name out there.
One of the most popular aspects of Parkrun is how the non-profit organisation times each runner and gives them their own page on the Parkrun website. A runner signs-up online and prints out a barcode, which contains their unique athlete number. At the race they are handed a barcoded tag which will tell them their finish time and position. This data is recorded by volunteers, then exported to each runner’s personal page, giving every participant a record of all the runs they have taken part in.
Brewster believes that personalisation is the key to the success of Parkrun. “Being able to track participants’ results and compete globally on a worldwide league table, or to compete with themselves to get a better time – for me, this is a key incentive to encourage anyone to become more active; working towards a tangible goal.”
It may take a little extra work, but incorporating goals and encouraging your clients to surpass their PBs into your sessions may help to keep the client motivated. Putting it on a personalised webpage means your client can view it at any time and see that progress has been made, which in itself can act as motivation for some.
Parkrun takes place every Saturday morning at 9am; not everyone can, or wants to, make this time every single weekend. As a personal trainer, you could host something similar but at different times, such as weekday evenings.
“The social aspect is probably one of the biggest draws of fitness these days, especially for those who may be newer to exercise,” said Linton. “It’s a way to motivate yourself, especially if you have friends attending too, as they will help to keep you accountable. It’s also a way to make new friends who share similar interests and a way to both give and receive support if you’re a little less confident about running.”
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