10 July, 2017

Niclas and his daughter Melina both like to run. But even though there are many adaptive running competitions it turned out to be very hard to find adapted running group sessions. This made Niclas start Just Ordinary Running (Bara Vanlig Löpning).

What is ”Just ordinary running”? (”Bara Vanlig löpning”)?

It is a group for practicing running – where everyone is welcome to join – no matter if you have a disability or not. It doesn’t matter if you can run or walk, if you are in a wheelchair or an electric wheelchair. Everyone participates on their own terms.

Some of our runners have physical disabilities, others cognitive disabilities – but our focus is always the runner her- or himself and her/his driving force. The social part of our training is just as important as well. We want our running groups to be a social activity and a place where runners can meet new friends.

There are still way too many people with disabilities who spend most of their time together with their parents and/or their personal care assistants. To them we want to offer something more. Therefore, we also end every running session with some time to just socialize.

Melina and Niclas
Melina and Niclas

Who are welcome to join?

We adapt the trainings to every runners’ abilities, and encourage all forms of movements – no matter if you move a finger, drive a wheelchair along the 1,5 km trail or run the 3 km trail on you own.

The youngest person in our running group is 9 years old and the oldest one is 25, but we have no special age limits. Every runner brings his or her co-runner – who can give the runner the support he or she needs to practice.

How come you started this initiative?

I am a father myself to a girl with a cognitive disability and she has always loved to run. But it turned out to be very difficult for her to find running groups to practice running.

There are many big running competitions where people with disabilities are invited to run – probably since those are arranged by larger organizations and there are also seen as valuable PR activities. However, when it comes to daily running practices for people with disabilities it turned out to be very difficult to find anyhting. When I realized this I decided to start this initiative. I have also always liked to run myself so it felt like the right thing to do.

Today I also have a great co-trainer in “Just ordinary running”; Elin Jonsson who puts a lot of energy into arranging our running groups in Karlstad (Sweden).

Niclas and Elin – trainers at “Just ordinary running”
Niclas and Elin – trainers at “Just ordinary running”

What is it that you like so much about running?

Just to see how enthusiastic our runners are every time they come to practice is enough to understand how much this means to them. Many of them have the experience of “training sessions” at habilitation centers where everything focus on things they are less good at. And this has caused many of them to think of training as something very boring. We want to push our runners instead – to do more of the things they are already good at. We want to be the ones who challenge them and make them proud to achieve new goals – on their own terms!

We also want our runners to grow – and involve them in different ways. Like to take lead and run a warm up session for the whole group for example. To see possibilities and not difficulties is something that is really important to us.

Where do you have running groups today?

Right now we have one running group in Nacka, Stockholm (Sweden) and one in Karlstad (Sweden), but we have the ambitions to expand into other cities in Sweden as well and are already planning on starting up new groups.

Working out at training
Working out at training

Running is just one part of what you do together with ”just ordinary” (Bara vanlig) – what more do you do?

I have worked as a personal care assistant both for my own daughter and for different companies, and in 2015 I felt the need to do more. I wanted to engage in questions around attitudes and services in relation to disabilities and to educate and inspire others. I started to give lectures about my experiences from the personal care assistance – both as a parent and as an employee. Today I hold lectures about attitudes, leadership and health/CSR perspectives in relation to disability matters.

I have also started a podcast together with Emelie Wernberg (26 years old, and who has a personal care assistant herself due to being born with spina bifida) and Elin Jonsson (23 years old who works as a personal care assistant). We are all very engaged in personal care assistance in different ways, but we hardly never agree since we all have different experiences and different perspectives. In our podcast we want to share this more nuanced view – and we believe it is more interesting for the listener when we also share our different views. The podcast will be available in September.

Niclas, Emelie and Elin have recently started a new podcast.
Niclas, Emelie and Elin have recently started a new podcast.

What advice would you like to share with other parents?

That it is really important to get time to be just you as well. In my case – not to be only a dad and/or an assistant but to be just Niclas as well. To run, listen to rock music and drink beer for example. Of course it is not always easy to find the time for this, but I believe that it is really important to try to not become too over protective and give up yourself totally. This is something we speak about in the podcast as well!

Melina and Niclas
Melina and Niclas

Read more about “Bara Vanlig” on their web page and follow “Bara Vanlig” on Facebook or Instagram.

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