The world has completely changed in the span of three weeks. And while these changes aren’t permanent (I certainly hope), it seems like the world isn’t going to back to normal in the immediate future. It can feel silly and selfish to focus on something like running in a time where something like the coronavirus is happening. But if your races are cancelled, or you are missing your running buddies, I’m here to tell you those feelings are valid.
Do we all have enough perspective to realize that there are bigger travesties going on than not being able to run in a group? Of course. But it doesn’t mean that mourning missed races and Saturday group runs is wrong. And in a time where so many things are out of our control, I’m really relieved that while races might be cancelled, running is not. Because I think we need running right now more than ever. Here’s why.
Related Post: Staying Healthy & Sane During Social Distancing
Races Are Cancelled, Why We Still Need Running Now
Getting Out of the House
A vast majority of us are probably living in an area where we have been told to stay home and limit our contact with others. And that’s good, reasonable advice, but it can also be cumbersome. Everyone needs some amount of alone time. And if you’re as introverted as I am, you probably need a whole lot more than you’re currently getting if you don’t live alone.
For the past few weeks, running has been the only time I have been fully alone with my thoughts. And as much as I am loving the extra family time with my two great guys, I’m a person who needs a few moments of silence on a regular basis. Running has been pretty sacred to me as of late for this very reason. And even if you don’t need a little alone time, most of us aren’t exactly our best selves when we’re spending 23.5 hours indoors. So, if you can, getting outside on a regular basis can go a long way to restore a tiny bit of what little sanity you might have left.
If you’re hesitant to run right now, take a look at Runner’s Worlds’ recommendations for How to Run Safely Amid Coronavirus Concerns. For some great recommendations on Running & Parenting in a COVID-19 World, I highly recommend checking out The Mother Runners blogsite. If you feel more comfortable running indoors, take a peek at a recent guest post by Whitney of The Mother Runners, Treadmill Tips You Haven’t Heard Of.
Managing Stress & Anxiety
Aside from being a reprieve from being indoors, running has a significant positive impact on mood, stress, and anxiety. If you’re like most of us, having our daily routines completely disrupted invokes just a little bit of stress. If you’re like me, trying to work in the same space as a kindergartner trying to learn addition and sight words might make you want to jump out of your own skin a few times a day.
I’m a person who actually enjoys some amount of change from time to time, and I really like a challenge. What I’m not a huge fan of is change being thrust upon me and my entire (immaculately planned) routine being stomped all over like a burning bag of poo. I also really hate being told what to do or what I’m allowed to do. So all of this has definitely been a fantastic trigger for my anxiety. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Related Post: Exercise and Anxiety
Part of the reason that I have clung so tightly to running in this time is that it has helped me to maintain some sense of normalcy. I am normally a person who runs on a regular basis, and continuing to run has helped me to not feel like I am living in a fever dream 24/7. Which is nice. It has also given me the space to process all of the chaos that is taking place in my life and my home.
When I am frustrated with the fact that I cannot live my life with as much freedom and autonomy as I am fortunate to normally enjoy, being able to run gives me some small amount of control. I can control how far I choose to run, where I choose to go, and if I want to listen to music, a podcast, or just sort through the 6.7 billion thoughts that race through my anxious little mind on a minute to minute basis.
As a bonus, I usually return home to my family slightly more relaxed. Which means I am just a teensy bit better at being ok with the fact that my six year old managed to lovingly spread 3 years worth of collected Legos across my office floor, all before I could even pour my second cup of (much needed) coffee.
Maintaining & Celebrating Our Health
And while we’re on the subject of anxiety, I think most of us know that high levels of stress and anxiety takes a toll not just on our mental health, but our physical health as well. We are more likely to get sick when we are stressed and/or not sleeping well. Which is probably the last thing anyone really needs when the source of our stress is a freaking virus that is tearing through our globe faster you can say “that b*tch Carole Baskin.”
It is more crucial than ever before that we all do what we can to try and stay in good health. Getting in a good run a few times a week has more health benefits than I am legally qualified to explore at this point in time. But I think we all know that running positively impacts our physical health, and a healthy body has a better chance at fighting off infection than an unhealthy body. The same is generally true when it comes to recovering from illness.
Will running regularly prevent you from catching the coronavirus? Unfortunately, no. But if you do get sick, it’s better to start from a place of health than the alternative.
Running is also a celebration of the health that we do have. I have to be really honest that I’ve felt a huge sense of gratitude for my physical health during my recent runs. I know that there are people all over the planet who are unable to enjoy the gift of running, and I know there are people all over the world who are too sick to do anything physical.
So for me, running lately has been a personal celebration of my own physical abilities and health, and I’m grateful to have the presence of mind to recognize and utilize this gift.
I’m not going to take my health for granted by sitting on the couch, slowing down everyone’s internet while I binge stream 32 seasons of Friends. Well, I’m lying. I will do that, but I will wait until AFTER my run.
Repairing Our Relationship with Running
If you’ve been running and/or racing for a while, it’s not unlikely that your relationship with running has changed. And that’s ok. Relationships are meant to change, grow, and evolve over time. If they don’t, that usually means a break up is on the horizon. But while it’s normal and good for relationships to evolve over time, it’s also useful to have periods of time to be reminded of the reason you fell in love in the love in the first place.
And when it comes to running, it’s probably pretty likely that something about pushing yourself further or faster than you ever thought possible, and recognizing how strong you truly are probably had a lot to do with it. Then racing comes along, and the excitement and adrenaline naturally sweep you off your feet. But it’s a dangerous high to chase; one that can result in injury or disappointment pretty quickly.
So every once in a while, it’s a good thing to revisit why you love running. Not racing, but running. The feeling of freedom. The empowerment of knowing you can keep moving when you don’t feel like it. The way a burger tastes after a long run.
As much as we all miss racing, this time shouldn’t be wasted sitting in a puddle of frustration. Use this time to reacquaint yourself with all the joys of running that are intrinsic to the sport itself, without the pressure of a race looming. And focus on getting stronger. Spend a little extra time on core work or mobility. Enjoy feeling strong, without relying on the experience of a race to prove what you already know.
Prepare for the Come Back
And since you won’t be wasting this precious time digging to the bottom of the 43rd bag of Reese’s that you panic bought (well, maybe you will, but you’ll still be running too), your body and your mind will be all sorts of ready for when racing is back on. Because it’s coming back.
And when it does, you’ll be ready to start training from a place of mental and physical strength. You’ll be able to enjoy running for the sake of running, AND look forward to the excitement of chasing a goal with everything in you. You’ll be stronger and better rested and just ready AF to get going.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to approach your next season of racing with a much greater sense of appreciation. Because as trite as it sounds, it is really hard not to take things for granted when they’re always around. And absence really can make the heart grow fonder.
So in the mean time, while racing might be postponed, remember that running is not cancelled. And this time is a true opportunity. Stay motivated. Run strong. Run far. Run happy. And run often.