Running the Rock: Virtual fitness motivating people across the Rock

Virtual running clubs on Facebook are creating a fitness community across Newfoundland.

Rebecca Blake

Social media has a bad reputation for ‘making’ people lazy, but that’s not the case for East Coast Running Community, a virtual running club.

running, race, social media
Ryan, left, and a running buddy met through her Facebook group. Ryan has moderated the group since July of 2017. Rebecca Blake/Kicker.

Created in July 2017 by Angie Ryan, East Coast Running Community is a Facebook page dedicated to running. It is a virtual running club connecting people from all over Newfoundland. It is popular in rural communities.

Ryan, who lives in Pouch Cove, has moderated the group for the past year, but she has been running since its inception in 2017. She has been active in numerous health clubs on Facebook for many years.

Facebook groups have allowed runners to transcend geographic limitations. Chantelle MacIsaac, a runner from the Codroy Valley, is part of the same group as the Pouch Cove resident.

MacIsaac, a firm believer in social media as an enabler of fitness, met Ryan through the 30-day challenge group on Facebook.

“It’s nice to be a part of online groups – there’s accountability,” said MacIsaac. “So, you’re posting about your own progress. When other people post, it motivates you to get out.”

Motivation is the main goal of Ryan’s virtual running club.

Despite not being able to get into contact with Ryan before publication, she opened the closed Facebook group to Kicker for this story. Its mission statement is  “to support individuals in communities that currently do not have access to a running club in their area.” Later, the page description says another goal is to  “help others stay motivated with their exercise and training.”

Motivation, encouragement and community are all traits of the club.

“My personal fitness ethic hasn’t changed but it has given me other people to share it with. I used to run by myself, but this group has opened up a community of runners,” said MacIsaac.

The motivation and support are key qualities that attracted MacIsaac to the Facebook group.

“Oh, the encouragement,” said MacIsaac. “We share a post about ‘Oh I got a leg cramp today’ or ‘I ran a kilometre.’ It’s sharing encouragement and sharing each other’s triumphs and trails.”

Even though there are only five runners from the group in the Codroy Valley, where MacIsaac lives, she says the entire group of 83 runners creates a greater sense of community.

Motivation is a hurdle many people face when it comes to fitness. MacIsaac feels social media helps people push past that hurdle.

“You have two things: Your own accountability, and you have the influence other people have on you.”

Using social media as a means to get fit

The use of social media as a fitness coach isn’t new. There is an app for every kind of physical activity in existence; it’s running clubs that are a new development in social-media fitness.

running clubs, social media
Running clubs have been popular for years. Through social media, virtual running clubs have become equally popular. Rebecca Blake/Kicker.

Virtual running clubs based on Harry Potter exist. There is even one called Zombie, Run!  in which runners must outpace the walking dead. These clubs are interesting ways to transform traditionally lazy media such as smartphones and tablets into fitness motivators.

Karen Colbourne, a mother of four boys all under 14, found the fitness group through mutual friends who were already members of the group. Through it, Colbourne found motivation. She had a small group she ran with, posting regular selfies and updates on her progress.

“It was good starting off because I was motivated,” said Colbourne. “The group is very motivated and positive. I was good starting off and I kind of went downhill. But I’m hoping I’ll get back into (running) in the spring!”

Motivation is a reoccurring theme in the East Coast Running Community. The effectiveness of the motivation is measured by the individual. That accountability is what makes this running club interesting; each member has a sense of pride in their progress.

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