Running and Training in this Strange, New World
Updated: Mar 18
Like it or not, our world has changed, albeit temporarily. Schools are closed, events are cancelled, restaurants are limited to take-out... the list goes on. Most people reading this will have some effects on their life, from the relatively mundane to the most dramatic of upheavals.
In some cases, you may be working totally from home while your kids engage in “distance learning.” Or worse, you may be at work, say in healthcare, while your kids are at home (hopefully) ”distance learning.”
Your races and group runs likely have been cancelled. You may no longer have access to a gym. You may be limited in where and when you can grocery shop, and your restaurant options have become slimmer.
As a runner, how does this affect your training?
I have some practical thoughts, which you can read below, but also some more philosophical ideas.
This doesn’t have to affect your training, but it’s okay if it does.
This is a time of upheaval in our lives. Training isn’t necessarily going to be your top priority, and not only is that okay, it’s healthy. If you have kids and a family, your priority is likely them, and it should be. Training can take a back burner for a time. I’d avoid putting training completely on hold, unless that’s truly necessary, but your focus can shift, and that’s okay.
That said, if you’re working from home, you may find yourself with a flexible schedule and more time in your day. That could mean that you can continue your training as-is without it taking as big a percentage of your personal time. You could even spend MORE time with your family while training an equal amount. If that’s you, that’s great!
Be Careful Increasing Training
First, if your schedule has really cleared, ignore the temptation to dramatically increase your training. Not only are big increases risky, you’re also likely dealing with increases in stress. Combine those two together and you increase your risk of overtraining. Can you increase? Absolutely! Just do it carefully, and don’t get sucked into doing tons of workouts because you think you have more time to recover. If you need help navigating this, send me a message on the Coaching Page and I’ll help however I can!
Focus on the Little Things
If you have additional time, here’s where to spend it! Make a list of all the things, training-related or not, that you want to do or know you should do, but seldom have time. Add those in first. Whether it’s strength and mobility, adding in cross-training, best recovery practices, or reading with your family, use your additional time to do those things. When life is back to normal, hopefully some of these will become habits that you can more easily integrate into your normal life. Personally, I’ll be starting by adding in bike rides. This is something I enjoy, but don’t always have time to do on top of running. I’ll also be focusing on being really consistent with strength and mobility - another thing I’m not always great at doing.
Assuming it’s safe to do so where you live, get outside! In heavy urban areas that might not be possible, but most of us have access to trails or fairly deserted roads somewhere. The goal here is of course avoiding other people. Be cautious, but you don’t want to feel like you’re cooped up for weeks on end. Fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for your mental state, which will improve the rest of your life in this time. If you can’t get outside, please sit or use a treadmill near an open window, and supplement with vitamin D. Please, please, please follow CDC recommendations, which are changing weekly if not daily. Advice may vary depending on where you live, as well.
Stay Away from People
Should be a given, right? Still, there are times that runners might interact with people that they don’t think about. Chatting at a trailhead? Stay 6+ ft away. Running around a track? Could be risky, so stay aware, and stay 6+ ft away. If you’re on a trail and encounter someone going the other way, treat them like you would a horse on the trail. Announce your presence and move 6ft out of the way. Just be mindful of all the times we interact with people throughout our day, and think about how to handle things in advance when you’re not in the middle of a run!
Meet Up with a Friend
Notice... a friend. There are obviously risks with this, so use judgement based on the situation in your area and recommendations from health professionals. CDC recommendations are 6ft of space. If you’re running single-file or it’s windy, I’d leave 10ft of space.
Only you can determine your comfort level with the risks. If both you and your friend are otherwise isolated from other people, and their families are as well... risks are low. But unless you’re sure of that, be very cautious. I would not recommend larger group runs without significant precautions. Just because your group isn’t 50 or larger doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions.
Find the Things You Enjoy
Like I said, mental health is so important. Being isolated and having your routines thrown out the window can be extremely difficult. Find what you love to do and prioritize that. It may not be running, even if you also love that. That’s okay. Your priority right now is your overall health and well-being, not your training.
Limit Screen Time
This is a tough one. With so much time at home away from people, it’s easy to get sucked into using screens as your connection to other people. It may be helpful to do that a bit. But it’s still a screen, and it can really impact your physical and mental health. Call/FaceTime your friends. Use Facebook Messenger and text if you must. But please don’t mindlessly scroll Facebook and Instagram all day in lieu of the actual social interaction you’re missing.
This doesn’t have to be mediation or even anything structured. Just take time out of your day to simply exist. If you can do it outside, all the better. Don’t think, just be.
Races and group runs are cancelled. What should you do instead? I wrote about some ideas here. In short, plan an adventure, run a really cool route, go for an FKT, etc. There are countless options.
Ask for Help
If you are struggling with figuring out the balance of running and training in your life right now, please reach out for advice; I’m happy to give it. If you’re struggling with your kids’ distance learning plans, I’m happy to recommend resources, as I’m a PK-8 Music Teacher who’s fairly well-versed in other academics as well. If you’re struggling with mental health, please reach out to a professional. There are virtual therapy sessions available, so please explore that!
No matter what this ”New World” looks like for you, we’re all in this together. No matter what emotions you‘re feeling, or decisions you make, they’re the right ones. Be kind, be loving, be true to yourself.
“I know it’s dark right now, but just believe somehow, that soon there will be light.“ ~Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World
I just wrote a piece about finding balance with the sudden changes in your life if you’re stuck at home. Great for non-runners!
I’ll continue to write about this world we’re exploring together as things evolve over the coming weeks. Give Miles and Mountains Coaching a ‘like’ on Facebook to stay updated! If you have requests, you can comment or message there as well.
I hope you and your families stay healthy, happy and sane in this time of turmoil.