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The Running Boom: Programming for New Pandemic Runners

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A running boom? When 3,961 current runners were asked when they began running, 28.76% stated they started running during the pandemic.

A recent survey conducted by RunRepeat asked 3,961 current runners how many of them began running during the pandemic. The survey aimed to learn more about running motivations, participating in races and how the runners differ from those who began before the pandemic.

Here are the key findings:

  • 28.76% of current runners started running during the pandemic.
  • These new runners are 19.82% less likely to participate in in-person races over the next 12 months.
  • New runners are 115.37% more in favor of virtual races than pre-pandemic runners.
  • Motives for running are changing. Physical health is the primary motivation for 72% of new runners, up 18.03% from runners who began running before the pandemic.

Nick Rizzo, the fitness research director at RunRepeat, said the current situation poses a major opportunity for any gym who has already been tackling member engagement by offering programs like outdoor classes and bootcamps.

“These types of events or offerings are prime opportunities for gyms to build a community within their gym and leverage it to engage with new potential members,” said Rizzo. “What’s clear is these new runners have a primary focus on their physical health, and gyms should be looking for ways to engage with the local running community to be a part of their holistic solution to health.”

Results from the survey stated 72.78% of new pandemic runners are motivated to run primarily for their physical health, 18.03% more than pre-pandemic runners.

Specifically, these new runners are:

  • 34.27% less likely to run for competition or achievement.
  • 31.44% less likely to run for social interaction.
  • 14.81% less likely to run for mental or emotional health.
  • 3.00% less likely to run for their confidence or self-esteem.

Ryan O’Toole, the regional manager for Anytime Fitness Cheswick, Leechburg, and an upcoming third location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the founder of Culture First Fitness, agreed gyms and health clubs should embrace the running boom – whether in club with treadmills or outside.

“Instead of trying to compete against more people wanting to run, facilitate it for them and their communities,” said O’Toole. “I think gyms are afraid to lean into these things out of fear of people leaving, but if you are doing a good job of providing them knowledge and coaching them to complement what they are already going to do, they will stay. Creating a culture and family atmosphere will keep them loyal to your facility for all that you bring to their life beyond some gym equipment.”

O’Toole’s tips for facilitating programs for new pandemic runners include:

  • Scheduling group runs.
  • Creating a members run club group on Strava.
  • Holding running events for members – especially if you can partner with local businesses or add a charitable aspect.
  • Coaching new runners on the importance of proper strength training to complement all of the running for injury prevention and improved performance.

Read the full report from RunRepeat.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is an editor at Peake Media. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com

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