The changing face of social enterprise — TRiM (Transforming Running into Mindfulness)

Today, as part of our continuing series of stories illustrating the changing face of social enterprise we look at something very different — a new health and wellbeing enterprise that aims to use running as a means of improving students’ mental health. 

A Birmingham-based social enterprise is launching a pioneering intervention to help students in the West Midlands improve their mental health and wellbeing. TRiM — short for Transforming Running into Mindfulness — combines running and mindfulness to help students who are struggling with stress and mental health difficulties to improve their wellbeing, resilience and fitness to study.
 
Mike Buckle founded TRiM just over a year ago. The idea came from his own personal experience — both from his student days and latterly as a mental health mentor for several universities.  
 
Mike says, ‘I struggled with stress at university myself and so I know how detrimental it can be. And having worked as a mental health mentor at several universities I have also seen at first-hand the large number of students who are struggling with psychological distress — and the stigma that still surrounds admitting to mental ill-health and how overstretched wellbeing services on campus are.’
 
He recognised that the increased stresses on students and the struggle many universities are having to meet rising demand for student wellbeing services called for some kind of alternative prevention and early intervention programmes — ideally integrated into students’ existing studies.
 
‘Over the years,’ Mike says, ‘I had built my own resilience to stress through the powerful combination of running and mindfulness and I began to see that something similar could be developed for more widespread use in higher education.’

Michael Buckle doing what makes him happiest: running

The TRiM approach, Mike felt, would help give students greater control over their own mental wellbeing and health. ‘Structured running and mindfulness interventions can have a transformative impact on the academic lives of young people,’ he says. ‘It’s a way of improving both mental health and cognitive outcomes — as well as motivating students to become more physically active.’

With support from the School for Social Entrepreneurs and the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme, Mike set about developing the business idea, the aim being to pioneer a unique running and mindfulness programme for students at as many universities as possible.
 

TRiM’s mission

TRiM’s mission is to ensure that young people who are experiencing emotional and mental health difficulties can access beneficial programmes of aerobic exercise, running and mindfulness on university campuses right across Birmingham and the West Midlands.
 
Mike says, ‘We want to empower students with the skills, knowledge and confidence to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours that will help build resilience to academic stress; that will reduce the symptoms of psychological distress; that will improve physical and mental wellbeing; and that will enhance academic performance.’
 

I struggled with stress at university myself and I began to see that running and mindfulness could be developed into a low-cost preventative programme that could be used on any campus, anywhere — Mike Buckle

‘Our vision,’ Mike continues, ‘is to establish TRiM programmes across UK universities and to build a TRiM movement dedicated to creating more resilient and healthier student communities.’
 

Planning for the future

‘There’s still a lot of market research we need to do,’ Mike admits, ‘but the aim is to deliver our programmes to the HE sector — possibly under license as a kind of franchise, or by direct contract. We’re also investigating the position with clinical commissioning groups, hospital trusts and other health bodies.’

During 2018 TRiM will be launching pilot taster sessions and workshops on university campuses in Birmingham and the West Midlands, aimed at raising students’ awareness of the mind and body benefits of a combined approach to running and mindfulness. ‘But if that sounds dry,’ says Mike, ‘then let me assure people that it won’t be. Our aim is also to promote fun, an inclusive approach and social opportunities — physical exercise has great social relationship benefits too.’

TRiM’s website is up and running but Mike is seeking to raise additional resources to fund its fuller development. This will include 1-to-1 coaching, accredited wellbeing exercise modules, support for Skype sessions and possibly membership arrangements for accessing some online resources.
 
Assessing the social value and impact of the proposed services is also important and a pilot programme to measure the enterprise’s impact in Birmingham and the West Midlands is also under development.
 
Mike says, ‘We also see terrific potential for TRiM to work with third parties in the sports and physical activity sector and are in the process of collaborating with England Athletics to pilot a campaign to encourage young people in universities to use running as a tool for reducing exam stress and enhancing exam revision.’
 

How you can help

TRiM is keen to work in partnership with higher education institutions, health professionals, sports organisations, student groups, other social enterprises and third sector organisations and the private sector.  
 
Please SEND MAIL to Mike Buckle at TRiM if you are…
 
» A student who wants to try out TRiM workshops.
» A student who wants to volunteer or gain work experience working for a start-up social enterprise.
» A university, health provider or organisation who is interested in offering TRiM services and programmes to your service users.
» A company or corporate interested in sponsoring or advertising with TRiM.
 
 

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Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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