Gyms are closed. Spin classes and boot camps are cancelled. Worst of all, you’re stuck at home for most of the day.
As people look for an outlet to exercise and escape the confines of self-isolation at home, running has seen a boom during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Right now, when the sun comes out, every path, park, and neighborhood is crowded with runners,” Brooklyn Track Club Women’s Performance Team running coach Kate Gustafson told CNN. “I live in Brooklyn Heights, and I’ve never seen so many people out running through Brooklyn Bridge Park at all hours of the day.”
While Gustafson notes that New York City has long been a “running city,” there has been a noticeable uptick in people running outside.
“Now, I see that there are more people out running and cycling than doing anything else outdoors,” Jessica Zapotechne, a performance running coach for adidas in NYC, tells CNN.
“It feels very hopeful when there is a lot of fear and anxiety going on — to see people getting out and moving their bodies.”
However, even running is not immune to the changes that this pandemic has brought on. Running groups are no longer meeting, and purposeful training is put on hold and races all over the world have been cancelled.
“It’s full of mixed emotions,” Gustafson said of running in NYC right now. “The city is quiet, and you can move more freely from one neighborhood to the next; but it feels empty and lacks the energy you come to expect from living in New York City.”
With states, including New York and California mandating shelter-in-place orders, running is one of the few physical activities you can safely practice while getting some fresh air outside. All you need is a pair of shoes, and you can easily get your sweat on.
So, where do you start? By getting outside and taking that first step.
“Start today, start small, and don’t worry too much about the numbers/metrics right now,” Zapotechne said.
“Try a combination of running and walking to start. Consider that one mile is a huge success, especially done regularly. Consistent effort is the best way to start as you will build results in a healthy manner, versus heroic efforts by trying to run too far, too fast, too soon.”
If you haven’t laced up your running shoes in a while, don’t expect to be running the length of a marathon anytime soon. It takes time to build up the strength and stamina to go long distances, so don’t be down on yourself if you’re having difficulty running a mile or more.
“Be patient with yourself,” said Gustafson. “Maybe you think you should be able to run 3 miles straight without any breaks, but you’re struggling to run continuously for 5 minutes — that’s okay. Now is not the time to set unrealistic goals. Start with manageable, bite-sized workouts like 10 x 1 minutes of easy running, 1 minute of brisk walking; and work your way up from there. Choose a route that inspires you.”
If you’re new to running or getting back into the swing of things, taking the time to adequately rest and recover is important. Gustafson recommends running only 2 to 3 days a week to start. She also recommends a basic at-home strength training program.
Zapotechne also recommends that you eat as healthy as possible and get plenty of sleep. She feels that running is helping to maintain a healthy immune response for her as she stays focused on her mindset, nutrition, and recovery.
There is also a thriving virtual community online along with virtual training programs, apps, tips, and helpful websites that you can easily tap into from the safety of your own home.
Practicing safe social distancing is still important
With spring bringing warmer weather across the US, expect to see even more runners outside. Paths and trails are becoming increasingly more crowded with the recent uptick in runners.
But don’t let that deter you, as you can still practice safe social distancing as long as you’re aware of your surroundings, and you choose the right path.
Stick to routes that are open where it is easy to maintain a safe physical distance from others, and be mindful of other people’s space, which may mean running in the street instead of a sidewalk.
“In terms of safety, here are a number of smart choices runners can make at any point, not just during a pandemic. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back; wear proper footwear; wear running appropriate gear (chafing is not your friend); share the road with others 6 feet in all directions); plan your route in advance; and wash your hands when you get home,” said Gustafson.
You may see groups of people running outside together. Don’t be one of those people.
“For now, everyone can run freely while practicing social distancing,” Gustafson said. “Every runner should be running solo at this point. Running is a lifestyle for so many people and a healthy method to cope with stress. My hope is that we can continue to run through the days and weeks ahead.
“A quick nod or wave of solidarity is about all we can offer each other right now on the roads.”
The US Centers for Disease Control recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” If you’re running solo and taking careful measures to avoid other people, the mask may not be necessary.
Gustafson does not run with a mask on and does not believe it to be necessary while running, but everyone’s situation may be different. If it’s harder for you to maintain a safe distance to others while out running, a mask may be necessary for you.
If all else fails, you can always run back and forth along your balcony if you have one.