Running during a pandemic

This is a good time to go for a solo run

Before I begin, I understand that running should be one of the least of our worries right now. We have bigger concerns to think about.

That said, I’m not an expert in pandemic response so I have very little to say about it. Seek out other sources for that topic. I recommend starting with the CDC.

What I do know is that many of us rely on running or working out in some form to calm our nerves and relieve stress. In these times, calming nerves and relieving stress seem very important. So what is a runner to do?

To be honest, I won’t pretend to have all the answers. Nobody has all the answers. Almost nobody who is alive right now has experienced anything like this and the world was far different 102 years ago when it last experienced anything like this.

As I already mentioned, I am not an expert on pandemic response. I am also not a medical expert. If you want medical advice, you’re reading the wrong blog. For the most part, I’m simply going to offer some reminders of good practices that you’ve heard non-stop for a while and then mention a few things that might be a little more runner specific.

First, some good news for most of us personally. This specific virus seems to be relatively minor for most relatively young, healthy individuals. For most of us, that means it’s not a huge risk personally.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously, though. Not a huge risk doesn’t mean no risk. More importantly, we have a responsibility to the people around us. The more we can do to prevent or at least slow the spread of this virus, the better off the people around us are, from our own families to our communities at large.

So what should we do to slow the spread? Mostly, this means doing what everyone is being told to do. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Stay away from large gatherings. Try not to touch your face or at least reduce the amount of times you touch your face. All the things you’ve been getting told to do over and over.

What about runner specific things? Well, it greatly depends on your circumstances.

Do you use a fitness center? If so and especially if it’s a busy one, you might want to consider whether you can get a similar workout at home. At the very least, be very conscious to wipe down your equipment well after you use it. You also may want to consider wiping it down before you use it in case the last person to use it didn’t wipe it down well.

Do you run outdoors? Well, there’s some good news there. If you’re like me and run in relatively light trafficked places, you’re probably already practicing social distancing, another catch phrase you’ve probably been hearing a lot of recently. Also, I was watching something over the weekend where a medical expert encouraged people to get outside. Fresh air and sunshine are good for body and soul.

If you’re running through a heavily trafficked place, you might want to consider what other options are available. While you’re less likely to catch or spread something in the outdoors than in an indoor atmosphere, if you’re in close contact with many people, you’re not off the hook.

Obviously, if you’re in a “hot spot” and public officials are telling you to self quarantine or stay in your own home as much as possible, then you might need to consider what you can do in your own home. If you have a treadmill, great. If not, get creative to do what you can. Body weight strength training is better than nothing. I’ve heard from one person who is walking laps through the house to at least do something. Remember, something is better than nothing.

Finally, indoors or out, keep in mind the intensity of your training. Some exercise actually strengthens the immune system, another good reason to keep doing some training. However, pushing yourself hard can weaken the immune system and make you more open to infection. Consider backing off the hard days and make them more moderate if you want to minimize your risk of catching and spreading this virus.

The bottom line is we all need to be willing to have some flexibility during this challenging time. Be willing to let the plan go if circumstances force your hand. Your safety and the safety of the people around you are worth missing a few runs or backing off the hard days a bit.

4 Replies to “Running during a pandemic”

  1. Hey Ryan, I hope you are well during these tough times!! Take advantage of the opportunity to run. I am living in Spain right now and from March 15th to the end of April ( it could take longer) we are not able to run outside, its forbidden. If the pólice sees you running outside you get charged or in the worst case arrested, so even running which can help combat all this negativity is forbidden. Its tough when the only hobby you have and something you truly love cant be done. Its is what it is! this Will pass and eventually I Will be back to training. How are things there? Are you allowed to run outside legally there in the USA given this thing getting worse everytime? Hope everything improve and we can continue ready your interesting race reports 🙂 Take care man!

    1. Cesar, I’ve heard things are pretty bad there in Spain and I’ve heard restrictions there are getting quite strict. I hope you can at least do some things indoors. I’ve actually been thinking of writing about some things you can do right at home and maybe even share something that is normally only available to club members, I think you’re giving me a little more motivation to do so.

      Right now, at least here in Wisconsin, we are still allowed to exercise outdoors as long as we properly distance from anyone we don’t live with. In fact, some people are up in arms because Wisconsin’s “safer at home” order explicitly left state parks open. Personally, I think that was a great move as long as people can properly distance because we need to get out for our physical and mental health. I think most states have taken a similar stance as Wisconsin, where you can still go out to exercise as long as you’re keeping proper distance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some local areas like New York City, Seattle, or New Orleans would enact more restrictive limits.

      Most important, stay safe. We’ll get through this but it’s going to take patience and persistence. Fortunately, those are two things runners practice on a regular basis.

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