How has lockdown changed me?

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England international runner, and Lonely Goat Running Club guest blogger, Hannah Irwin, looks at how lockdown has changed her and how she views running.

For a lot of people, in many different ways, lockdown has been a struggle and caused a lot of stress. Whilst coronavirus hasn’t disappeared, the recent, gradual return of some aspects of normality has been a welcome relief.

Prior to lockdown, we may have taken things such as seeing friends and family, going to the gym, or training with other people for granted, but now we truly appreciate their importance. Alongside the gratitude I have rediscovered for these things, lockdown caused me to question the way I look at running, and see it in a brighter, more beneficial light.

Change in perspective.

At a time when life was stripped to basics, exercise was prioritised by the whole country. It was no longer just ‘going for a run’. It was, and still is, so much more than that. It was a time to clear your head, take in nature’s beauty, and appreciate being outside of the house.

For me, and I’m sure for a lot of you, this showed me how valuable running is. It has such a positive impact on both our physical and mental health, and throughout lockdown the entire country began to see that. Us runners aren’t just mad about running for no reason! This made me think about the role running plays in my life as well as how I perceive it. 

Importance of enjoying running

When lockdown hit, we were confronted with the prospect of having to train at home. As a result, we were faced with the real question of ‘why do we run?’

Without other people to boost you along when running feels tough, the only thing to get us through was our own passion and pure enjoyment for the sport. I am used to training on my own as I have been doing it for a long time, so I thought I would find the solitary nature of lockdown manageable, but I found myself becoming desperate to train with other people.

I now realise how important it is to make running an enjoyable part of my life. Otherwise, it can become laborious, taking the joy away. Being able to see training as part of my daily routine, just like getting dressed in the morning (because some days it is nice to stay in your pyjamas and not run!), has allowed me to focus on ticking each run or session off without overthinking it.

It’s a lifestyle

Coming out of lockdown and looking forward to returning to racing has taught me the importance of enjoying training, as ultimately, it takes up a lot more of my life than racing. 

The past few months showed me that running isn’t just about getting out the door and going for a run; it is so much more than that. It is, more than we realise, a complete lifestyle. It is the pure enjoyment I get from the sport which means I embrace it as a major part of my daily life. By lifestyle, I mean allowing running to simply blend into my day, not living in a specific way because I am a ‘runner’.

I now treasure each run, because I enjoy a life that involves running and each run is positively impacting my mindset. 

Changed my outlook

While I have always had a huge love for running, prior to lockdown, it had started to cause me a lot of stress and worry. This wasn’t for any reason outside of my own making. Predominantly, this stress was caused by the pressure I was putting on myself. It got to the point where I was nervous all day ahead of an afternoon or evening session.

Yes, for big sessions, a little bit of nerves is a good thing, but on a daily basis it can become quite exhausting. It also takes away from the release and escapism running was supposed to give me.

So, how did lockdown help this?

Lockdown showed me, that racing isn’t something to be taken for granted or stressed about. Not just as a nation, but as a whole planet, we have experienced what it feels like to have racing taken away from us.

Though I have experienced this through injury and illness in the past, when I was injured I was broken and in severe pain, therefore I couldn’t race even if I wanted to. However, during lockdown, many of us were physically in a position to take part in events, but we couldn’t. It was something completely out of our control that removed racing from our lives. 

All of a sudden, racing becomes so precious, because it isn’t a given. It could be taken away from us at any point. I now truly appreciate how magical competing in races and events is. It hurts sometimes, but it’s what we put ourselves through months of training for!

Hannah Irwin running for England
Hannah (no. 18) running for England

Unexpected benefits

This extended period of uninterrupted training has allowed me to make gains in my performance that perhaps the interruptions of racing hasn’t allowed previously. It has also mentally refreshed me.

Whether the gains I have made are due to training, increased recovery, or both, I don’t know. But either way, lockdown helped. 

Overarching goals

As a consequence of all these changes, I feel my overall goals have also changed. While the things I want to achieve have actually got more ambitious, my main goal is to love what I do.

I want to enjoy running and treasure the journey I am on, not stress about achieving my targets so much that I lose the love for it. I regained the love over lockdown, now I want to keep it.

What can you do now?

Perhaps your motivation dipped over lockdown too and now you need a goal to work towards. Fortunately, there is now something you can do! If it’s racing you have missed, do some research into local races. Covid friendly races are beginning to surface, so find some near you.

However, if the thought of attending an event in the current climate still concerns you there are plenty of virtual challenges you can do. Lonely Goat Running Club have their own virtual challenges, so join your fellow club-mates and get your trainers on!

You could drag your partner, or friend along, or perhaps get the whole family out! Now is a great time to put your post-lockdown fitness to the test or just enjoy moving your body, whatever shape you are in.

Looking back, while thinking about the future 

Reflecting on lockdown, there are a lot of lessons I have learnt, and maybe you have too. Whatever those lessons may be, we now have an opportunity to use them to help move forward in a more positive way.

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