Running in the Age of Covid-19

This is for those among you who may be new to running or who are thinking about starting to run again after a long break. I just want to look at a few basics and to consider any precautions we might need to take in relation to social distancing.

The first point to make is that running is not compulsory! It is true that in public spaces – including parks, woodlands and fields –  we have to keep moving, but walking is perfectly acceptable. Or hopping. Or even gambolling. Apposite vernal imagery there!  The reference to walking is quite pertinent – it can play an important part in your running training. It is often the case that you will need to alternate between walking and running, particularly in the early stages of training and as your runs get longer. There is no shame in walking.

So, my top tips for emerging runners…

    • Understand why you want to run.
      We have established that running is not a legal requirement, so you have obviously chosen to engage in this activity of your own free will. For some people it may be that other forms of exercise such as team sports, fitness classes, gyms, and swimming are no longer available. For others, the new restrictions have perhaps created the time and opportunity to try something new. The important thing is to try to understand what you hope to get out of running.The benefits of running are probably universal in terms of improving our physical and mental well-being, but it is for us as individuals to recognise the elements that are most important to us. It is a very idiosyncratic thing, a bit like my actual running style.Hopefully from reading my various posts on here you will start to build up a picture of why running is important to me. I enjoy the fresh air and I’m lucky to live in an area with easy access to some lovely nature. It gives me thinking time, I can let my mind wander further afield than my body, it aids creativity, it helps me solve problems, and it reduces stress by letting me develop new perspectives on my difficulties. And of course, it helps with my physical health – strengthening muscles and joints, improving my heart and lungs, and increasing my stamina and energy levels (which, in turn, improves my motivation to do other things in my life).

 

    • Be cautious and realistic.
      Please do not go hell for leather on your first few runs. As the tagline for this site says, “If you can’t run it slowly, you can’t run it fast”. Check with your GP if you have any health difficulties that might affect your running ambitions.
    • Be well-equipped.
      This does not mean that all your running gear has to be beautifully coordinated (some people may think that my kit is more coordinated than my limbs when running!). Most importantly, you need footwear that matches your running gait – check out aspects of this such as pronation and supination. Wear socks that wick away sweat to reduce the risk of developing blisters. Dress for the weather, using layers that you can add to or remove. Gloves and hats are great for the winter! And keep safe with illumination devices when running in the dark.
    • Warming up.
      Some runners have elaborate warm-up routines. I like to keep it simple. I give my legs a little shake and swing my arms about just to loosen up. [If you are about to start a race, this needs to be a bit more extensive.]  The important thing is not to set off at a fast pace. Ease yourself in. In these early stages I do a body scan, noting where there are any aches, twinges or signs of stiffness. If you have significant difficulties, such as pain in one knee, it can adversely affect your running style and can lead to the development of further problems. Sometimes the right thing to do is turn back and save it for another day. I also do a psychological scan to check my motivation, expectations, goals and my general emotional state.
    • Stretching.
      stretchzonetxtThe importance of stretching after running cannot be overstated. Your muscles and limbs are beautifully warmed-up and so this is a great opportunity to improve your flexibility. Stretching also aids recovery from your exertions and reduces the onset of later aches and pains – runners are well aware of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)! You should aim to stretch your calf muscles, quadriceps, hip flexors and hamstrings as a minimum. Hold each stretch for at least fifteen seconds. I find it easiest to measure this in terms of breaths, one breath being a complete respiratory cycle (inspiration and expiration). I usually aim for between 8 and 12 breaths. My bonus stretches include arms, shoulders and hips. Running is a whole body experience – as you become more involved, you might find yourself getting into core and upper-body strength exercises! And yoga can be helpful too.


Covid-19 Considerations…

Consideration is the key word. We are on this planet together at the same time and we all want to get through the current crisis safely. IMG_9065Please observe the 2-metre rule and maintain this social distance while out running. This might mean choosing different times to run to avoid peak periods, or varying your routes so you can avoid narrow areas or “pinch points” where you are not able to pass others at a safe distance. PBs (personal bests) are important, but not at the price of putting others or ourselves at risk.

Please run safe, happy and free.

 

 

 

 

 

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