Are you a solo-runner wondering whether you should join a running club? Virtual running is at an all-time high and, leaving aside COVID, for good reason. Running is a great way of improving and maintaining good physical and mental health. Many people in Ireland and indeed globally run to boost their mental wellbeing.
Solo Vs Group Running
Blackrock Athletic Club previously examined some of the benefits of being part of a running club. However, does it matter whether you run alone or in a group?
One study of note examined the behaviours of two groups aged 16 – 24 years old. They were split into two sets, those who took part in team sports and others who exercised alone at least once per week. The study found that those who exercised as part of a group had better mental health than those who exercised alone. In addition, they also felt better connected to the people around them.
Social support networks developed during group activities was one of the main drivers for this. Participants value group activities as they are able to connect with people who share similar interests and experiences.
Why We Run
The motivation behind why we run also affects mental health outcomes. The relationship between motivation and mental health is explained by the self-determination theory. Self-determination has a personal and psychology-relevant meaning today: the ability or process of making one’s own choices and controlling one’s own life. It is a vital piece of psychological well-being; as you may expect, people like to feel control of their own lives. Therefore we are more likely to experience the mental health benefits of running when we feel we have more choice and are in control. When we have a stronger connection to others, their encouragement makes us feel more capable and likely to succeed.
When these elements are at play in our environment, we tend to take part more because they are enjoyable and important to us. When people do activities for these reasons they feel happier and have more energy.
A running club offers a great way to meet up with other runners to go on a group run. There is also great camaraderie and I have made some great friends. You can call yourself a “runner” rather than someone who just goes out and runs! Sinéad Howard, Women’s Captain
Alternatively, when you feel you are not good enough and have less choice or control, you may suffer a reduction in wellbeing. Naturally, when we feel this way, we try to do activities to avoid feeling guilty or perhaps even receive short term praise from others. More on autonomous vs controlled motivation can be found here.
We are less likely to succeed in running long term this way because we are not doing things for our own enjoyment.
If you choose to run on your own because it is important to you, you will likely experience better mental health than if you did so as part of a team just because you worry about letting your teammates or coach down. You would be choosing to take part in the sport for others and not for your own reasons. Research from staff at University of Limerick highlights the importance of the right type of motivation in relation to mental health.
Team members who were able to make choices around training felt connected to those around them. Their mental health was better and they performed better at their sport. Creating the right environment was so important.
Blackrock A.C.’s Fit4Life is what got me back on track running. Since I joined, Fit4Life have been a very supportive, inclusive bunch of people and are also good craic on a night out!
Arik Warshager, Fit4Life member
Should I Join a Running Club?
Do you identify with some of the motivators for running with others outlined above?
Joining a club can only enhance your experience of being a runner, whether through competition, group running, support or advice. Running clubs are no pressure environments that add to your options. They are not aimed at replacing the solo runs we all enjoy, they just provide a nice alternative. Some might think that running clubs are only for serious runners upfront at races. This is rarely true. Deciding to join a club is one of the best things that any runner can do. Club membership can often instigate big improvements in performance, provide lasting memories, experiences and friendship.
After moving to Blackrock, I went along nervously on the first night to run 5k and NEVER looked back! 11 months later I had run the Dublin City Marathon! Even though we can’t run together in groups right now, the virtual races every weekend keep me motivated! Helped of course by the friendly faces I see from the club whenever I’m out for a run on my own now. Victoria O’Mahony, Fit4Life member
As of February 2021, Blackrock Athletic Club is home to 527 members ranging from beginner right up to elite. Training takes place Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Blackrock Athletic Club training schedule is available here. Runners of all ages, abilities and nationalities are welcome. So whether you are looking to do your first 5k, get in shape, master running up hills, do a sub-3-hour marathon or just for better wellbeing, we would love to hear from you. It is worth noting that some of our top runners admit to just coming along to certain fixtures for coffee!
Details on the Different Blackrock Athletic Club membership options can be found here. As with athletic clubs throughout Ireland, you can come along and try it out before committing to membership.
I joined the Blackrock AC shortly after moving to Dún Laoghaire. I’ve made a lot of friends in the club whom I’ve been training with and shared many sprints as well as long runs and chats. The camaraderie of the running club is wonderful – there is mutual support of the healthy lifestyle you’ve found in running and you get to share so many fun running experiences together. Igor Pashchenko, Men’s Group
Blackrock Athletic Club is proud to host regular virtual events. Our latest event, the Blackrock Virtual Relay 10k took place over the weekend. New members are welcome to join during this time and take part in the various virtual events going on as well as be part of the local WhatsApp and other conversational groups going on.
I thought that joining Blackrock AC would be a good way to make me run consistently while getting to know other people in the running community. The virtual interaction with the club members has been amazing and I have done more consistent running than I ever would have imagined possible for me. I consider myself a runner now, even a bad weather runner! Sarah Conroy, Fit4Life Member