Running and Training During Covid-19

To say that we weren’t all put through a tailspin over the past few weeks would be an understatement. The Covid-19 crisis has reached into each of our households and its quickly becoming apparent that its grasp is one that will be measured in months, not weeks. Even when things do go back to “normal”, normal will be a “new-normal”.

Its times like this that one might ask themselves, in the face of such unrelenting peril, what is the point of it all? What’s the point of training for that Gran Fondo? Or that 5km run? Or that Ironman triathlon that has been postponed for the foreseeable future. It certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to feel that concerns over your personal fitness pales in comparison to the global scale of the pandemic. But here’s the thing, we need purpose.

If Russian writers were good for anything, it was for quotables that make writing blogs really easy. Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “the mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for”. I mean if that doesn’t sum it up, what does? When you’re sitting at home having worked through whatever your remote role needed you to do that day, or when you’ve run out of things to clean, is it really so crazy to think that sticking with your training plan is that unreasonable?

To be at peace with themselves musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write. And runners must run. Its not that crazy.

With that out of the way, I’m going to talk about how to train, and train responsibly during the Covid-19 crisis.

Sweating Responsibly During the Covid-19 Crisis

I’ll say this in no uncertain terms, it is our collective responsibility as a society to take care of one another, and look after those most vulnerable among us. This means observing whatever directives put forth in your region by the government and health experts. As I write this in Alberta, it means observing physical distancing practices. For my readers abroad, it may mean observing physical distancing practices and staying within the confines of your home with the exception of going out for groceries or going to the doctor.

The simple fact of the matter is that as the Covid-19 pandemic affects regions differently, we’ll all be observing different measures depending on the severity of the situation. Right now, my brave friends who work in the Calgary Health Region are telling me that there’s an unsettling calm before the storm thats set in through the hallways of the hospitals. Elective surgeries have been postponed, and beds have been made available, hopefully for the crisis that never comes.

They’re doing their part to be ready for the influx. Your part in that process is to not go mountain biking, trail running, cave diving, scootering, road biking, backcountry skiing, extreme fishing, skijoring, or anything else of the sorts that pushes you beyond or near the limits of your skill level, such that you would in any way that would risk you ending up taking a moment of their precious time. No one is saying that you can’t go for a ride or a run because you’re responsible for looking after yourself, but the moment your decision to “send it” lands you in a hospital, then others are responsible for looking after you when they could be looking after someone who didn’t have the luxury of deciding on where they’d land themselves.

Be Aware of Recommendations in Your Region

I have a lot of readers in California and most of you are probably in the US. Effective March 19, residents of the state of California were ordered to shelter in place until further notice, meaning everyone is to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible. However, as outlined in the directive first put in place in San Francisco, for example, most shelter-in-place mandates allow for people to go outside and engage in solo outdoor activity, such as running, walking, and hiking, as long as people practice safe social distancing (stay six feet apart), do not gather in groups, and do not go out if they are feeling sick.

Other states, including New York, New Jersey, and Illinois have statewide mandates, and other cities and counties, including San Miguel County in Colorado, Blaine County in Idaho, and Athens-Clarke County in Georgia have implemented similar measures.

Overall, be sure to check your local public health recommendations and the current health mandates in your area, found on your state/province and local government website before heading outside for a solo workout.

A Safe Physical Distance

The number one rule right now is maintaining a safe physical distance of 2 meters. I’ve been asked by several people whether or not its safe to run outside. My response has always been, yes, provided you can maintain a safe physical distance between you and another. So here are my tips for running while maintaining that safe physical distance while out on the pavement

  • Run the route less travelled. In Calgary, Edmonton, and basically any other landlocked urban centre, running down “along the river” is an easy go to for runners, joggers, walkers alike. Find a different route that takes you a little bit off the beaten path. That may mean running in less scenic park or commuter corridor. If you show up to go for a run and find a busy parking lot, be agile, and change your plan to hit up a different route.
  • Keep your distance from your friends. I’ve seen a lot of this and its important that out of an abundance of caution we continue to maintain a safe distance even while running with our friends. Consider running in a “flying V” or a diamond to keep your distance of 2 meters from one another.
  • Be polite. Go wide. There’s this strange awkwardness that comes when you’re running down the pathway and someone coming from opposite direction doesn’t move over to give you a wider berth to keep that 2m distance. Then you think to yourself “well if I go really wide around this person then they’re going to think that I think that they have the virus”. Assume they’re playing out the same awkward situation in their head and go wide. These days the polite thing to do is to assume you have the virus and that you’re trying to not get anyone else sick (sadly, there are many people who have the virus who can be asymptomatic, so this may not be far from the truth).
  • Make your presence known. This is just good sense and probably something we should do as runners all the time. When you’re out for a run and approaching someone from behind, maybe another runner, maybe a group of walkers walking abreast, be sure to announce that you’re about to go by. You see this every spring but people happen to get startled when a runner whizzes by unannounced while they’re happily gabbing away. A kind “passing on your left” or “I’m just going by you on the right”, goes a long way towards not scaring someone, or not having someone step right into you because they don’t know where you’re headed.
  • No Spitting or snot rockets. Partly because its gross even though we all do it, but mostly because there’s a highly infectious and possibly fatal lower respiratory virus going around that travels in particles of moisture from our respiratory tract.
  • Keep your outside shoes outside and your inside shoes inside. The virus does live on the ground, and for those of you who are alternating between outdoor runs and indoor workouts, I strongly recommend keeping a pair of shoes for running outside that you leave at the door, and a pair that you use inside that stays inside, especially if your routine includes floor work. 

Staying Healthy

Its well known that getting in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to brisk activity can help your immune system keep viruses at bay. So IT IS good to go outside and get moving, but be sure you know what’s going on in your area and if there are any restrictions or mandatory self-quarantines. And, if you’re sick or at-risk of spreading the virus, you shouldn’t go out—the bigger concern is spreading it to those who are at high risk, such as the elderly or immunocompromised.

That being said, after a hard workout or race, as you deplete your stores of glycogen, your immune system does not function as well as it normally does. That means in the hours following a half marathon or marathon if you have been exposed to someone who has been sick with the flu or coronavirus, your bodies defences are weakened. Additionally, mental or physical stress—caused by running a marathon or a very hard workout—could slightly increase your chances of becoming ill.

Honestly, when it comes to the tough sessions where you dig yourself into a hole of pain, sweat, and despair, maybe dial those back for the time being unless you’re doing so in isolation and can guarantee that you won’t be exposed to the virus (helpful tip, you can’t guarantee you won’t be exposed to the virus unless you’re reading this in a self sustaining bunker somewhere). For the time being, think about health, not gainz.

The Mental Side

Now, I’m not a mental health expert. I’m an amateur athlete with a blog. So I can’t pretend to give you advice on staying level through this all. I can only talk about my experience.

I run or ride to keep myself anchored through this. It gives me structure to my day, a reason to plan when I eat, something to look forward to as the day goes on, and its been one of the only reasons I’ve gone outside. That being said, everyone is going through this differently. If you don’t feel like running or working out or riding, don’t feel the need to until you’re ready. If you want to curl up and read a good book, then curl up and read a good book. If you’ve always wanted to try making fresh pasta, try making fresh pasta.

These are unprecedented times. This is a generation defining moment that’ll be talked about for years to come. We’re living in a world of uncertainty with a virus that up until now at least, seems to be figuring us out faster than we’re figuring it out. That being said, never before in human history have we had the capacity to remain connected with one another than we do now. If there’s one thing that I know will help us get through this, its the use of technology, and social media to remain connected to one anther. For the time being, our interactions may be limited to talking to at a friend or loved one through a screen, but together as a global community WE WILL get through this. And there’ll be a day when you can put down that phone and give your loved one a hug.

So check in on your old friends, your new friends, your work friends, and of course your family. There’s no reason anyone should be going through this alone. Before you continue reading, I ask you, text a friend who may need a friend to ask how they’re doing.

Tips and Tricks to get Through the Days and Weeks During Covid-19

I reached out to a few friends in my run crew to see how they were dealing. Their insights were definitely worth sharing and probably the perfect way to leave you with today’s post.

The biggest think for me is taking time to do all the recovery work I always tell myself I’m too busy to do. I have no excuse for not rolling and stretching when I am home so much more.
– Ray B.

Embracing the discomfort and trying to find peace and calm with my own thoughts. Paying close attention to how and why I’m feeling anxious or other feelings. Realizing that life is changing and embracing that, rather than trying to maintain the pre-COVID life.
– Joe B.

For me it’s been something as simple as a lunchtime yoga practice – it helps calm my mind, stretch & get in a bit of exercise. I don’t have to leave the house or even have to change (Lulu all day everyday working from home!). I could never get that in before, and I’m just truly grateful for all the online classes from Yoga Nova/CrushCamp/Kate Mak.
– Krista M.

I am starting this today. I am tracking what I am accomplishing every week and then while I should be accountable only to myself, it helps having someone keeping me as well. Just like physically I will keep my run coach now to keep me on track, personally I have decided to enlisting friends (teal/hayls). We decided we’ll chat Sundays sharing our weekly accomplishments and our goals for the upcoming week. Could be small for me – 3 runs, 1 yoga, and read 3 chapters of a book,..but they’re there to listen and I don’t want to go through my week with nothing to share. —- told myself today I don’t want to go through these 2-3 months with a blur of “getting by” and want to know i accomplished something. e.g books (haven’t read in years), marathon coaching certification maybe! – just sharing with you guys now is helping me.
-Jeff S.

I’ve been going on exploratory walks it helps me practice staying present. Trying to not let the busy thoughts that do not serve me right now overtake the beauty within the present moment. Now that spring is fast approaching I am looking and listening for signs of it. Which I will take as a once and a lifetime experience since the city is so loud with metro clatter on an average day.
– Vicky S.

In all seriousness, focusing on the long game and continuing to believe in mean reversion. This crisis will pass. I continue to assess what’s in my control, what I can do to help those who need help, and where I want to be when this ends. A crisis isn’t a time to pause, it’s an opportunity to produce real change.
– Mark S.

I’ve started listening to the audiobook “Grit” by Angela Duckworth while going on a walk outside every morning. The book really focuses on overcoming challenges and the power of an optimistic and transformative mindset, instead of feeling powerless to suffering or failure. It’s really helped start my day in a positive headspace and think about how I can personally develop and come out of this stronger than before. (Really recommend the book if you’re looking for a good non-fiction read).
– Cynthia M.

I am committed to moving my body for 30 minutes a day, in whichever form feels best. ?
And embracing the opportunity to be flexible with “when” and “what”. Some days it’s strength training, some days it’s a walk around the block with Bruno.
– Kelli Z.

I’ve been trying new recipes, which makes dinner more of an activity. It’s been fun to try to figure out what we can make with what we have in the house, and what we can substitute for what we don’t. There’s been a few winners (which I’m happy to share)! 
– Krista W.

I’m still keeping the belief that our race (Ironman Canada) is alive and well so I’m still focusing on future goals. Also picking one thing per day to accomplish that I normally wouldn’t. Also might do things I think about, but don’t normally do like doing some writing.
– James P.

I’m trying to get into the routine of doing all of the things I’ve never made the time for before so that hopefully they’re habits once this is all over… yoga, strength, foam rolling. And writing out my plan for the week every Sunday.
– Teal G.

What’s been helpful for me is alternating between a “productive day” and a “vacation day” (my job is very in person so I’m fully off work right now). Basically allowing myself to sometimes feel overwhelmed/anxious and read all day, then the next day getting my act together and crushing some goals! Trying to achieve some sort of balance.
– Sophie C.

Mental health:
1. Regularly checking in with others, actively listening and maintaining a support system and sense of community i.e YYCRunTalks. Because we are all in this together.
2. Being mindful that what works for others may not work for me and that it’s OK to take it day by day and not have my activities so structured that I put unnecessary pressure on myself and feel anxious or guilty that I am not doing enough.

Physical Health:
1. Getting a good night’s sleep.
2. Waking up and seeing what I feel like doing that day. Whether it’s running, a walk, weights training, stretching or nothing at all. And if it’s no workout at all, knowing that that is ok too.
– Ashley L.

No Shower Happy Hour Virtual RUNTalks

Every Monday at 5:00pm MST through the Covid-19 Physical Distancing I’ll be hosting a RUNTalk with various athletes, coaches, and run personalities. Be sure to watch my instagram at @raflopez or the @YYCRunCrew instagram for all the details!

Here’s a look at this past week’s RUNTalk!