We all know the importance of staying fit and healthy and this has never been more important than now. After having a couple of months off work and generally just hanging out at home, meanwhile, I have never felt so unfit and unhealthy. I was so used to just popping into the gym on my way home from work, I never realized how much I would miss it and how much good it was actually doing me.
Last month my local gym announced they were reopening, and I was so excited that I packed my gym bag right away.
But then I started thinking: after all this time being so careful with social distancing, disinfecting my groceries and constantly washing my hands, did I really want to go mixing with people and using shared equipment?
I realized the answer was no, not yet. But I really needed to do something before I became a real-life couch potato. When I go to the gym I mostly use the treadmill, so I decided to try running outside. (I know I could have tried this months ago, but times have been hard and I needed the nudge!)
Instead of jumping straight into running, I stopped to do some research first. I found a few great tips that I’m excited to share with you today. Some are coronavirus-specific, and some more generally apply to running safety, but they’re all important to remember if you’re thinking about getting out there!
I hope you find them useful and help get you moving towards a healthy and fit life again.
1. Ease yourself in gently. This for me came as quite a shock--I set off to run my usual 5km, never considering how quickly I had gotten out of practice. I ended up walking the last 2km back home, and could have hurt myself. So take it easy, build up slowly and don’t expect to be at the fitness level you were at before.
2. Choose your time carefully. I prefer to run during early morning or late evening, as there tends to be less people around at those times. It is important to keep a safe distance and it's not much fun dodging around dog-walkers and cyclists while trying to maintain a steady pace.
3. Keep your distance. Even if you choose your time carefully it's not always possible to avoid people, so when you do encounter others maintain your space. The CDC recommends 6ft, but while running I increase this to 12ft as I am breathing faster and harder. Also have a game plan in place and make it very clear who should move where when approaching on the same track.
4. Consider wearing a mask. If you, like me, find it difficult to find anywhere local to run where you won't be meeting people then it’s best to wear a mask. Make sure the material is breathable: I tend to use a buff, which is lightweight and if I am not in a crowded area I can remove it easily.
5. Engage in the virtual running community. Running by myself can get dull, so I’m staying connected digitally with other runners worldwide. I love virtual races, for which I sign up, pay an entry fee (most proceeds go to charity) and run the distance within a specified time. Some allow you to upload tracking data or might even give out medals or goodie bags to participants. I also use Strava and online communities like Facebook groups and Reddit to share runs and stories with other runners in my neighborhood.
6. Stay hydrated. Sounds obvious, right? Not quite! I made this mistake when I didn’t realize the usual outdoor drinking fountains were not operating. Carry water with you and make sure to replenish your electrolytes and sodium if you are running for over 60 mins.
Remember not every run will be perfect, accept this, and take pride in the fact that you got off your sofa, rescheduled your Zoom meeting and made a start back to a healthy life.