Like many other runners, I was shocked and disappointed when my A-race was cancelled only 10 days from race day. At the time, I was frustrated and started looking for another race, but when things settled in, I realized that it was for the best. I had to accept that there weren’t any other races scheduled anytime soon. I had it all going, I was training for the race with a group of friends, I was getting ready to wear my first ever run club singlet in unity with my group. I even had a beach vacation planned for relaxing after my PR. When the race was cancelled, I found myself feeling lost. Does this sound familiar? Here’s some advice from one runner to another, about how to keep your head up during COVID-19.
In addition to long-time run lovers, many other people are just getting into running for the first time in a while because of the coronavirus. Gyms are closed and many states are only allowing people to exercise outside alone. Getting back into running after years of not doing it can be tricky because you can push yourself too hard without realizing it. When we run for over a ¼ mile the exercise becomes more aerobic which is much different from doing sets in the weight room. When you’re lifting in the weight room you will only be doing a set for 10-30 seconds which works on mainly the anaerobic system.
How to get started running
Running is a simple exercise, you’re basically bounding from one foot to the other repeatedly. We naturally know how to run from a young age. When you’re getting started with aerobic running or (distance running) you will want to hold back while you’re doing the exercise. New runners shouldn’t be overexerting themselves because this will leave you gasping for air soon into the run and that isn’t the goal of distance running. You should run at a comfortable pace that you could have a conversation with someone else. Side note do not run with friends during the COVID-19 outbreak. The point of getting into running right now is to be social distancing while getting in shape.
If you’re new to exercise
If you’re new to exercise and haven’t done any form of exercise for a while you may need to do a run walk program. An example of this would be to run ¼ mile and walk ¼ mile for 2-3 miles until you can run on the whole time without stopping. For people, new to exercise to build most of your workouts around brisk walking. An example of this would be brisk walk for 30 minutes Monday, run walk ¼ run off and ¼ walk for 30 minutes on Tuesday, brisk 30-minute walk Wednesday, run walk ¼ run off and ¼ walk for 30 minutes on Thursday, brisk walk for 30 minutes Friday and take off or do two more brisk walks on the weekend.
After 4 weeks of this see if you can start to do 30 minutes of running on Tuesday and Thursday without stopping. Something to keep in mind is to find a place to run that is somewhat flat because hills with add a whole different challenge to your workout.
The rules of social distance running
When you’re running outside you should follow the guidelines of social distancing. If you’re running with someone make sure that you’re 6 feet apart always unless it is a spouse or partner. For men, I would recommend running solo if you’re running outside. For women, it might be best to run in pairs keeping distance for safety. Make sure to pick trails that have plenty of space for passing other people because you may run into others running on the trail. It is nice to pull over to the side of the trail and let other runners pass you with plenty of distance. If you don’t want to go outside to run using that treadmill that has been collecting dust might be a good idea.
If you decide to run on a treadmill at home, there are some fun workouts you can do because running at the same speed for a long time can get boring.
Doing hill repeats on a treadmill mixes up the workout and keeps things interesting. An example of a hill repeat on a treadmill would be to set your incline at 5-7% and walk for 2:00 minutes and sprint for 1:00 minute. Repeat this 8-12 times with a 10-min easy pace run for warm up and cooldown. A second example is to do longer hill repeats for up to 4 minutes at a 5% incline to work on your lactic threshold without all the pounding from flat surface running.
Treadmill interval workouts are a great choice if you want to mix things up to keep from getting bored. When doing intervals, you can do ¼ mile, ½ mile, ¾ mile repeats with ¼ of rest between each repeat. Things to keep in mind is that many treadmills will have a little lag before they get up to speed so you might want to start speeding the treadmill up .1 miles before your repeat.
Doing a steady state work out on the treadmill can be boring but you will need some easy runs between doing intervals. A way to make this more interesting is to slightly change the speed of the run every ½ mile so that your legs don’t feel stale. I usually bump the speed up or down by .5 MPH which won’t impact the effort too much. A steady state workout is not a fast workout but it’s also not slow. This is a pace you can run for a little over one hour.
A treadmill recovery run is important if you’re feeling a little flat from your other workouts. It’s important to pick a pace that you can do all day without getting tired. Use the McMillan calculator
to figure out your recovery pace. Keep your mileage relatively low on recovery runs. We don’t want this run to turn into a long.
Running advise for seasoned runners.
Many of us that love running have seen our races get canceled and this cut our seasons short. We are feeling lost and don’t know what to do without a goal. For seasoned runners, this is a great time to work on building up a base, cutting some extra fat or building some strength if you have a place to do it. Arthur Lydiard was the god father of high mileage running plans. He loved to have his athletes build a massive base of aerobic fitness before getting into race specific workouts. He wanted all his athletes to have an engine that won’t quit during a race. Some of his athletes would run over 100 miles before starting a race specific training cycle. Many of his athletes went on to become world champions with his style of training.
You will have another race some time. Treat this as an off season and base build so you will be stronger for your next training cycle. Base building is “aerobic pace”, your easy pace. (Find it in the McMillan calculator.). Do consistent volume during the week with long runs that don’t exceed 16 miles. Speed work can also be part of base building, 200-400 meter repeats, fartleks, strides, or pick-ups, but don’t burn out on more intense speed work than this.
Keep a schedule
Schedules and routines keep us feeling organized and help us stay happy. When you are quarantined or working from home, your schedule can fall apart. Make a regular time of day that you run. If you were running before work prior to COVID-19, keep getting up and running even though work might be at a different time. Keep track of your workouts on a calendar and try to stay consistent as though you are on a race-training plan.
Do you slack on cross-training? A lot of us do. Now that you are base-building, add in a day or two of injury-prevention exercises. Some helpful exercise routines can be done in your house without much equipment. Resistance bands are a personal favorite of mine; you can order them online. Other options might be yoga videos, callisthenic routines, biking, or weight lifting. Remember, this has a purpose for your training, it is helping you get stronger so when you start your next race plan you will be better than before.
It’s easy to give up on healthy eating if you are feeling stressed or bored when you are quarantined. Try to keep this in check, remind yourself that you are still training. Eating better will help with your mood and help you stay strong. Since you are doing shorter long runs and less speed work, you don’t need as many carbs as you may have needed for your previous training. Take advantage of this, you may be able to go into your next training plan lighter and faster.
Keep it fun
Try to keep it interesting and run different routes from your house or drive to a different place for your runs. Depending on the restrictions where you are living and your own comfort level, you may still have the option to run with a family member or a friend. You can also add in some variety by adding in hill repeats or some of the other speed options listed above. If there is a holiday, wear your holiday running shirt even though you are alone!
Stay social virtually
Social distancing is leaving a lot of group runners running alone. Share your runs and your accomplishments with your friends on social media. If it’s hard to get going without your accountability-buddies, plan a virtual run where you all run the same distance and share pictures. There are even some options for virtual races that send medals and gear, which could be a fun way to connect with friends. Join a running group on Facebook or start your own where you can post your runs and see other people’s runs to stay motivated.
Like all things, this too shall pass. At some point, we will be running together again, taking group pictures, and training for races. Try to look at this as a long build-up to your next race. Take some relief in the fact that we are ALL in this together, and we will all get through it.