The free initiative helping Bristol City and Bristol Rovers fans improve their fitness in 2024 – Bristol Live

Personal trainer Grant Rees set up ‘Fans to 5k’ in order to help fans of both sides of Bristol improve their fitness for free while adding a competitive element
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As 2024 approaches, there will be Bristolians all over the city who will be starting to put together their resolutions for the New Year this week with plenty of the goals set fitness related. It's standard practice for people everywhere every year as January 1 approaches, they strive to get fitter and more active and set themselves targets to do so. How many of them that actually get completed is another question.
It's no secret that gyms will be forking in a fortune next month as they tend to do in January as people get themselves started on their respective fitness goals by paying x amount of money for a gym membership.
However, for people in the city looking to improve their fitness in the New Year, there is an exciting initiative that will do just that and won't take a penny out of any pockets.
Personal trainer and Bristol Rovers fan Grant Rees set up 'Fans to 5k' in order to help people improve their fitness without having to charge them. However, it comes with a twist. The idea of the programme is for fans of both Rovers and Bristol City to sign up and plot against each other, adding a competitive element to striving towards the eventual target of completing a 5k through running, jogging or walking via a 10-week training plan.
Having been a success earlier this year and backed by Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, Fans to 5k are still taking sign-ups ahead of the start date on January 1 but participants can still join after the tournament has officially begun with the programme striving towards being ready to complete that 5k whether that's through running, jogging or walking.
Speaking to Bristol Live about the initiative, Grant Rees discussed how it came about and called for more sign-ups, saying: "It was probably a couple of years ago when I first put this initiative to Bristol Rovers Community Trust where myself, I am a personal trainer, I'm an endurance coach and I personally have a bit of a guilt that it's only people who can afford my services that I can help and actually what I want to do is help as many people as possible.
"I've always done a charitable element of my work and last year I coached Nick Weeks to the seven marathons in seven days so I've always done my bit for charity where people can go off and achieve whereas what I was getting to know was that I'm only helping people who are almost motivated to achieve. What I wanted to do was help people get started on their fitness journey and the best place to do that and sort of throw that blanket over as many people as possible is to connect with a football club.
"As a Bristol Rovers fan, I went to the Community Trust and said, "This is my idea. It's called 'Gas to 5k.' We'd basically brand a 5k training plan specifically for Rovers fans to engage with them and make them feel like they are representing the football club in getting 5k fit. That initiative launched earlier in the year where I essentially called it getting pre-season fit. We had 63 people sign up over a two week window and of that 63 sign up we had 28 people that went on and completed their 5k 10 weeks later so it was a success from that point of view.
"We had the support of the Mayor and the Department of Health who could see what we were doing. The evolution of that really came from knowing that not everyone who signed up completed it and knowing that I can also try and reach more people.
"My idea was to go with a new purpose and put the ad on the fact that you are representing Bristol Rovers and to add some local rivalry to the fact that it would spur more people on to get more active but it would do so because people want to beat their rivals as opposed to becoming active. We're using the power of a fan's psyche.
"We've got a really powerful tool at our disposal to try and get people more active so that's essentially the evolution of it really and that's how we've gotten to this point."
At the time of writing, there have been considerably more Bristol Rovers fans sign up than Bristol City supporters with the red side of Bristol needing more representation via sign ups. Although there is of course a rivalry element to the programme, the main purpose is that it brings a community together, striving towards the goal of being fitter and healthier, all for zero cost.
Over the course of the 12-week tournament, participants will log their activity, be that via the training plan or, for already active people, their own running, and that will eventually form a league table with one fanbase eventually being claimed the winner.
"Because the tournament runs for 12 weeks, you could start two weeks into January," Rees added. "That's the point so you don't have to make that decision on January 1 and everything has to be aligned. However, because I've got the sign up available and I run a support group for both fanbases, that support group becomes a real key role in keeping people active and keeping people involved so if you sign up two weeks into January, you would still come onto our support group which is only for the fans doing it and you would have that support, that unity of your fanbase.
"The whole 5k thing is about walk, jog or run to 5k fitness. It's to try to open this up to those people who are inactive but say, 'Look, you can be 5k active. It doesn't mean you have to run your fastest Park Run like you're 16 again. When I did the Gas to 5k, I walked it with an individual who, in the 14 weeks they were doing the training plan for, they lost over a stone and a half and they dropped out of type two diabetes need for medication.
"It's not about doing a run, it's about being active walk, jog or run and that's where I'm hoping we can throw this big net over as many people to get as many active as we can.
"You need to let people know what is on the horizon. Professionally from an endurance coach and changing lifestyles of health and fitness, people need to know about the idea and it needs to sit so I wanted to promote this before Christmas. I wanted people to sit down at the dinner table and say, 'I'll have that extra pudding and I'll have that extra beer because I'm doing this in the New Year' and that person says to it to someone else on the opposite side of the table and that person signs up. I want them to do that knowing that there's a change on the horizon.
"More importantly, in times of hardship, this change is for free and that's one of the most important things. I don't want people going and paying for a gym membership or doing these things they might not use. This is free and it's proven to work and it's going to have the most powerful thing behind it which is fan unity or fan rivalry."
Those who would like to participate can sign up by clicking here.