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UK Coaching Team
17
Developing Mindsets Organising and Planning

Behaviour Change: Making Headway the Redway Way

A case study of Redway Runners, from Milton Keynes, who are utilising the EAST behaviour change framework to motivate and inspire their beginner running groups

As we are reminded daily, we have turned into a nation of slackers and lazy bums.

A corrosive social (or should that be slothful?) revolution has piggybacked on the digital revolution, manifesting itself in poor dietary habits and an upsurge in sedentary behaviour.

This has had a devastating effect on public health – and National Health Service budgets! 

There are plenty of cardio junkies, but sadly, they are outnumbered by those whose involuntary reaction is more cardi-oh-no!

Challenged to reverse the inactivity crisis, the coaching sector has responded with a vigour it hopes will rub off on the public.

While the nation’s health has gone west, UK Coaching, as a leading pioneer of change, has gone EAST to effect a 180-degree change in direction – and mend the nation’s self-destructive habits.

EAST stands for easy, attractive, social and timely, and is a behaviour change framework devised by the Behavioural Insights Team and adopted by UK Coaching as an underpinning feature of its Behaviour Change Tactics workshop.

The four guiding principles are designed to help coaches influence people’s attitude to exercise so that they are ‘nudged’ (not nagged) into getting active and staying active – encouraging lasting behaviour change.

And great news: EAST works, which is brilliantly illustrated by the work of community running club Redway Runners.

 

On your marks. Get set. Go!

Think of the coach education chain as a relay.

UK Coaching tutors run the first leg, delivering a workshop that is attended by, in this case, representatives of Leap (the Active Partnership for Bucks and Milton Keynes).

Leap takes hold of the baton and organises a bespoke workshop for Glenn Dickinson and Helen Wiggins – the Run Leaders of popular local club Redway Runners.

Another seamless changeover as Glenn and Helen, having been provided with the necessary tools and information, run with it! They apply behaviour change strategies using the EAST model to engage with their participants more effectively before, during and after weekly sessions.

This is the final exchange. The 15-week beginners’ group are now on the last leg of the relay. The finish line is in sight.

A change for the better

Leap’s Workforce Development Manager, Sion Kitson, caught up with Glenn and Helen, and the beginners’ group, to assess if EAST had helped steer them in the right direction towards a healthier, happier lifestyle, and to ask what behaviour change tactics had been used during their 15-week programme.

Here is a comprehensive breakdown of EAST in action.

Easy

  • Booking via email replaced by Eventbrite (a platform that allows organisers to plan and promote events and publish them across Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks) to make the process far simpler for both participants and run leaders.
  • Venue (Gulliver’s Land car park) – convenient free parking in the evening.
  • Runners are set achievable weekly goals – rather than focusing on the bigger goal – to help build confidence (eg, run continuously for five minutes).
  • Facilitated homework sessions to help runners overcome their concerns about going out alone and feel confident they are doing the right thing between sessions.
  • 15-week format progresses at an easier rate than the standard 10-week format.

Attractive

  • Selling the benefits of exercise – that it can provide mental well-being as much as the more obvious physical benefits. Include run leader stories (eg, Helen working towards running her first marathon in May).
  • Recruitment via recommendation – encouraging recent beginner runners to share their experiences with new groups.
  • Zero cost.
  • Supportive environment – two run leaders who complement each other well: Glenn’s experience and Helen’s bubbly personality.
  • Sociability aspect.
  • Fun activities (Starburst Challenge – use of sweets as rewards at the end of a session, triangle relays).
  • Word of mouth and personal recommendations showing the impact the beginners’ course has had on friends/family who have done it before.
  • Going out in a group better from a personal safety viewpoint than going out alone.
  • The promise of a big celebration and cake at the end of the course.

Social

  • Build expectations about session structure – warm-up, run, cool-down – so runners know exactly what to expect before even turning up at the session.
  • Encouraging self-help groupings for homework sessions (connecting individuals).
  • Friend recommendations/support – members recommend friends to join the beginners then come along with them to provide support.
  • Weekly homework email – offers support and, more importantly, interaction (the group have now taken this on via Facebook with little input from Helen or Glenn).
  • Positive image nudge provided by helpers of all shapes, sizes and ages (‘people like me’).
  • Promotion of social interaction via group Facebook page – to be kept open after the course has finished to keep the sense of community that has been built up.

Timely

  • Work to a plan but with flexibility to deviate from it to meet the needs of the group as they progress or if goals vary within the group.
  • Pace-based sub-grouping to reduce feelings of inadequacy.
  • Quick responses to issues raised by email or Facebook (especially relating to those who may incur injury or illness, with support in place to help get them back on track appropriately).
  • Email of weekly homework one day after the session to keep them motivated and give them time to complete ahead of the following week.

 

Graduation ceremony

Glenn and Helen’s group was one of seven Redway Runners beginners’ courses that started at the beginning of January.

The other six all ran to a standard 10-week format and were geared towards participants ‘graduating’ at the Milton Keynes 5km parkrun and then joining the club. More than 100 beginners graduated on 18 March.

“Many beginners feel pressurised by the 10-week format – a target they feel is unachievable. However, everyone who has completed our 15-week format has taken the decision to graduate just like everyone else,” said Glenn.

From its humble beginnings six years ago, club membership has mushroomed and currently stands at over 1300.

Seven more beginners’ courses are due to start at the end of April, and virtually all places are booked up.

“We must be doing something right!” said Glenn, who added that adopting the EAST model had been intrinsic to the impressive levels of positive behaviour change they have seen. 

“EAST helped formalise a lot of things that we already did but also gave us some great new ideas.

“For example, some people registered for the course up to three months before it actually started, and we realised that we should try to keep in touch. We even offered to meet up for a get-together and a walk over the Christmas period.

Just think how difficult it must be for people with low fitness and self-esteem to go out and do these sessions on their own. Our sessions provide a safe, secure and non-judgemental setting for them.”

Related Resources

  • An Introduction to Behaviour Change

    View
  • Why Coaches Should be Buzzing to Understand Behaviour Change Tactics

    View
  • How to Embrace Casual Participants

    View

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