Hundreds of women in the east end of Glasgow have been improving their physical and mental health thanks to a women’s-only jogging group.
The Jiggly Joggers CIC is a community-based walking/jogging/running network specifically for women looking to get active. Affiliated with jogscotland, the club is also part of Shettleston Community Sport Hub (formerly Eastbank Community Sports Hub), which helps expand its offering in the local community.
How it began
Wanting to improve her own physical health but too afraid to join an established running club, Elaine Leitch (pictured above) founded Jiggly Joggers in February 2018 to help support other women looking to get into physical activity.
Elaine said: “I wanted to create a place for people who, just like me, don’t have the confidence to join a club [but] feel like they belong somewhere.
“We aim to make people feel better about themselves both physically and mentally and reduce their anxieties about outdoor exercise.
"The principles of the group are anchored around supporting those women to overcome their reasons for not participating in physical activity – many of which are mental health-based.
“We know from research what the benefits of physical activity and social interaction are on our mental health, therefore we try to make Jiggly Joggers a welcoming, friendly and inclusive environment to kickstart people’s journey.”
The club currently runs five sessions - suspended during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic - at four socially deprived areas* in Glasgow including Budhill, Easterhouse, Tollcross and Hogganfield.
At each of the four locations is a Couch to 5K and a 5K improvers session, and there is also a 10K and half marathon training and walking group at Budhill. Each location has a designated route for participants to follow.
The emphasis on the sessions is supporting health inequalities in the area, while providing a safe space for participants to give their best, whatever that may be. No pressure is put on the women to do more than they feel comfortable with, but each training course is celebrated with a graduation, T-shirt, medal and certificate.
Success of the group
Jiggly Joggers has been life-changing for many of its 130 members. One member who has benefited from the group has been Joanne Tominey (pictured fifth from left).
Joanne commented on the influence the group has had on her life by saying: “My life prior to Jiggly Joggers was a working mum with two boys with health conditions that required frequent hospital admissions and appointments. This combined with full-time employment and running a home left little time for me.
“Finding information on the group through a dieting club, I joined and found a gentle introduction to jogging. Not only has my physical health improved, but my mental health - which I was struggling with for a long time - has improved too.
“Two half marathons and multiple friendships later, my life and that of my family has dramatically changed for the better.
"I can’t thank Elaine and the group enough for their help and support.”
Having the support of the group and a reason to get outdoors has been a real lifeline for many of its members through lockdown.
During the first lockdown (March 2020) the group kept engaged through social media with activities such as bingo or quiz nights to stay together and support members living alone.
The group also held socially distanced relays which raised thousands of pounds for local charities, arranged donations of food parcels to their local food bank and gave boxes of treats to frontline key workers in local care homes. As a result of their efforts the group won the jogscotland group of the year award in 2020.
In August 2020, Jiggly Joggers were awarded £8,320 from The National Lottery Community Fund to continue their work in the local area to reach more women in the east end.
Part of the fund will help support the Jog Leader training that will be happening in April, to provide volunteering opportunities within the group, as well as high-vis vests and first-aid kits for each of the sessions
The demand for the group throughout the pandemic has been very high with new members looking to join daily. What’s more, a new buddy system has been created to encourage the women to go out running with someone else from their local area.
Elaine said: “Many of our women are happy to come out and meet another runner to get that social interaction, this is particularly welcomed by our women who find themselves working from home and then in some case home schooling on top of that.
"The group provides a safe environment for our women to be running in pairs, as running after work in the dark can be very intimidating.”
Community sport hubs
The hubs network is one of sportscotland’s key programmes, using funding from The National Lottery to bring sports clubs and local partners together to develop and grow the sport offering in the community.