During the coronavirus pandemic we all find ourselves in an unprecedented situation and of course our main concern is for everyone’s health and wellbeing. At this difficult time we also hugely appreciate the amazing work being carried out by NHS staff and other key workers.
The lockdown is affecting all of our lives and many of us will feel under stress at times. We all need to look after our wellbeing as best we can and keeping active is such an important factor in doing this. But it’s crucial we adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines. This has become even more pressing recently as it’s been suggested that exercise could be restricted further if people don’t stop flouting the rules.
As runners we appreciate the positive impact running can have on our physical and mental health during these difficult times, so we definitely hope we are able to continue to do this if it remains acceptable. However we all find ourselves trying to carry out our running under very different circumstances, and of course the restrictions could be tightened further over the coming weeks.
Like many runners, I’m keeping my running going at the moment but I’m having to modify what I do whilst juggling bits of work from home, having fun occupying the kids and coping with the delights of home schooling. But when circumstances get more difficult rather than letting negative thoughts flood our minds we need to try to rise to the challenge and find ways around things. I also think the current situation definitely makes all of us appreciate our lives and our running all the more.
Here are a few tips that you may find helpful.
Rather than dwell on what you now won’t be able to do, focus on ways to make the best out of the situation. Think of how you’ll continue to get the best out of your running and still enjoy it. You might actually find you have fun coming up with new ideas.
Use the resetting of goals as a motivator
If you were training hard for an event that has now been postponed or cancelled, it’s time to reset your goals. Many events have new dates so that hopefully they may be able to take place later in the year, otherwise you may be thinking of taking part in an event next year. Now is more a time to embrace the pure joy of running whilst maintaining what fitness you can in a sensible way. But having a long term goal may keep your motivation going as you look forward to meeting up with your fellow runners at events again.
Discover new routes
The guidelines at present require you to go out for a run locally, so use the opportunity to discover new running routes near to your home that you wouldn’t normally have used. Make up new runs of different distances and perhaps create yourself a new set of pbs for these routes.
Run at different paces
To keep your running ability ticking over during this time it’s best to still include running at different paces. Fartlek, which means “speed play”, is a training method whereby you play around with the pace when you're running. The intervals you choose can be planned out in advance or if a route's challenging perhaps pick up the pace on the flatter parts or challenge yourself up a steep hill. You could just pick land marks out as you go and pick up the pace to the next lamp post or tree for example. During a run you could briefly stop and do some fast strides on a good stretch of terrain or even do some running drills if you find a quiet place on route. If you have a more extensive quiet area where you live you may be able to replicate some of your normal interval sessions. And if you live near a steep hill, hill repeats are fantastic for boosting your fitness.
Mix your running with other forms of exercise at home
You can achieve good fitness levels by working out in your home. If you own any fitness machines like a treadmill, a stationary bike or a cross training machine, use these for some workouts to supplement your running. You can use them to do interval type sessions to make your workouts more effective and interesting. Gym exercises can easily be carried out at home using your own body weight. Squats, lunges, step ups and press-ups are good examples. Light dumbbells can be used for some exercises but if you don’t have these then you could use old milk containers, or squash bottles. Gym type exercises can be made into a more aerobic type workout by doing them as a circuit. You could write yourself a list of exercises and change exercise every 30 seconds for 20 or 30 minutes. In a small space it's also possible to carry out some shuttle running and drills, perhaps you could set yourself up a ladder drill using some sticks. Many runners have also used their initiative to run some quite extreme distances running laps of their garden or a in room in their home.
There are a lot of great workouts online to join in with to keep your spirits up, try a variety of different ones to vary the emphasis of these workouts. Joe Wicks is doing a great job with workouts to get our youngsters active too.
If you’ve got kids enjoy keeping active as a family
As a parent, like all parents, I also find it important to keep my kids active for their physical and mental well being. It’s important to keep it fun so that exercising for your kids is a positive experience. Exercising as a family is a great way to have some quality time together and enjoy a variety of activities. I’ve written about this in more detail in my previous blog post. By keeping active ourselves we are also being a good role model to our children.
Engage with the online social side of running
Although we’re not able to meet up with running buddies or take part in events, it’s uplifting to engage with social networking sites for runners. It gives us the chance to support and encourage each other and to share experiences. Maintaining some of the social side of running is another way to boost our mental health.
Work on your weaknesses
With restrictions in place, it may actually provide an opportunity to work on your weaknesses. I live in a hilly area, so staying locally for all my training is improving my hill running which has definitely not been my strong point over the years! I also feel the lockdown has caused me to do more strength and conditioning work at home, normally I'm a bit guilty of not doing enough of this in favour of doing more running. Being stuck at home has made me work more on my stretching too, which does need some work. I’ve also been having fun doing much more kid type exercise in the back garden and indoors. We’ve found ourselves doing more home based exercise with our kids than usual now they’re not at school and because many of our other family activities away from the home have been curtailed. It’s actually made me have to improve my agility to take part in more kids games and activities in a small space and to keep up with them. In some ways it’s made me feel younger which is extremely helpful at this stage of my career! I’ve also enjoyed lots of trampolining in the back garden which I can recommend if you have one as it’s lots of fun!
Don’t overdo it
Although we all want to keep running, this period of lockdown should be a time to embrace running and exercise in whichever way we can. It’s not the time to overdo things, it’s more about ticking over and enjoying it. By doing too much you could pick up an injury and if you really overdo things it could compromise your immune system which is not what you want at this time. So now is probably not the time to increase the length of long runs or do very high volume interval sessions or push yourself to the limit on workouts. Being out for long periods of time could go against the guidelines too. A healthy amount of exercise however is shown to boost the immune system and when things return a bit more to normal you could then start to gradually pick your training up again.
Many of you may find that you want to take up running for the first time. This could be because you find yourself not being able to work at the moment and have some time, or that your usual chosen activity, for example a gym class, is no longer taking place. In this case it’s so important to build up gradually to avoid injury. The NHS Couch to 5K is great for beginners if you can find an area to carry out this safely. Combining running with home exercises will help to keep your activity more varied if you feel you want to do more activity.
If you’re going out running keep to wider paths and trails to ensure you maintain two metres or more of social distancing. If you can, run in places that don’t tend to attract lots of people going out for a walk, by doing this you’ll make it more possible to maintain good social distancing. If possible go out at a time of day when you know there will be less people about. Take precautions if you’re needing to open gates or climb over stiles. These are potentially a source of infection if others have touched them so perhaps wear gloves, ensure you don’t touch your face and wash your hands well on your return. If at anytime over the next few weeks and months you start to get any symptoms of illness stop your exercise regime immediately, self isolate and get medical attention if necessary.
The rules may change
As we’re all aware there’s a possibility that the rules regarding exercise may change. It may become necessary to exercise only at home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. If this situation arises it would of course feel extremely tough but I’m sure we all understand that it would be to save lives and protect our NHS. We would have to keep positive and continue with the activities that we can do in a small space. Circuit type training, gym work and shuttle type running or small laps are a great way of keeping active in the garden or indoors as well as getting a boost from some online workouts. I’m sure the circumstances we all find ourselves in will make us stronger and we’ll never feel like not going out for a run again as we’ll realise more than ever how lucky we are to be runners!
Take care and keep safe.