In her latest article for Lonely Goat Running Club, Hannah Irwin looks at the opportunities offered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The current UK government guidelines allow us to enjoy an unlimited amount of time outdoors – following the stricter restrictions of the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown. We can make the most of the time we have to connect with nature and use some of it to work on those extra one per cents.
Usually, we all live such fast-paced, busy lives, so slowing down should be cherished. Whilst this is undoubtedly a very scary, uncertain moment in all our lives, the ability to go outside for a run and shut off from the outside whole world remains the same and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
However, you also shouldn’t worry if you aren’t feeling the same motivation to run that you believe everyone else feels. I can guarantee you we all have those days when our motivation is significantly lower, and it is a struggle to put our trainers on and get out of the door. These are all OK to feel.
Sometimes it is important to fill your spare time with productive activities, but at other times it is the perfect opportunity to slow down and give your body a break.
Why should we be slowing down and what could we use that time to do?
Take time for those extra one per cents
Having a little bit more time on our hands due to working from home, being furloughed, or simply due to the lighter evenings, means we can embrace being able to do the little things we usually neglect.
Many of us, even if we don’t admit it, are guilty of not paying attention to the extra one per cents that accompany running. Whether that be warming up properly before a session, doing drills or activation exercises, stretching, or core exercises, there is likely to be something that we never have enough time for.
Warm up well
Ensuring you warm up well before starting a session is so important to do – time restricted or not. This helps ease your muscles into the workout to come and loosen your body up to avoid muscle strains or sudden tears.
Without the usual mad rush to get it done before it gets dark, or your lunchbreak is up, setting time aside for a thorough warm up should be at the top of your list. All you need to do is a short warm up jog, followed by some drills (such as high knees, kickbacks, leg swings, etc.) and strides (short bursts of faster running), working up to your session speed.
Core: Of course!
I personally feel incorporating core exercises into your training is not something to be avoided! You may perceive it to be a boring chore, but if you stick something interesting on the TV or listen to a podcast, the time will fly by.
Having a strong core is one small step you can take towards becoming a more efficient runner. A solid, sturdy core will help your stability, preventing your torso from swaying when you run, expending unnecessary energy. Simply doing a daily plank, alongside a few other exercises such as clam shells and crunches, will be enough for you to start noticing some progression.
As runners, a lot of us are guilty of not stretching often enough or for longer than a few seconds post-run while we stand on the doorstep. In the end, it is a well-known fact that runners have tight calves and muscles isn’t it? Nope.
The best time to stretch is when your muscles are still warm; so as soon as you finish your run is perfect. I find, if I stretch as soon as I return home after my run, it is done and out of the way. That way I don’t have time to contemplate not doing it
This helps loosen and lengthen the muscles that have become tight from running. Avoiding doing so can lead to major problems further down the line and increase your risk of injury. For the sake of 10-20 minutes out of you day, it’s worth doing.
They all add up
Whilst you may not feel it makes much of a difference at the time, all these little extra one per cents add up to have a significant effect on either your performance, recovery, or risk of injury.
The latter is a significant one to avoid, as the majority of us do not currently have access to a physio. You may find that by getting into a routine of warming up, stretching and doing strength exercises now, you are still able to find time to do them when life gets busier.
Take in your surroundings
Something I am sure many of us neglect to appreciate is the beauty of where we run and what is on our doorstep.
When you usually have to cram runs in around a busy work schedule and run in whatever location you happen to be in, it can be difficult to recognise nature’s beauty when your mind is preoccupied.
However, thanks to coronavirus, you may now have the time to take in and explore what our local surroundings have to offer; especially since nature has been flourishing due to the lack of human activity.
With the newer, recent guidelines allowing you to venture out of the house more than once a day, the opportunities to explore local quiet areas are limitless. Whether it is on your doorstep or a short drive away, there will be somewhere to appreciate wherever you live.
Now is the perfect time to discover new routes you can return to frequently when busy life returns.
Don’t force training
For me, I believe this is the most important point to recognise.
In the current climate, when the future is uncertain, it can be easy to feel stressed, so you need to prioritise what makes you feel relaxed.
Some people are having to cope with home-schooling and having the children at home 24:7, or work starting to gradually increase. Of course, it is lovely to have your children around, but it is OK to admit that it means there is little time for yourself – which is also important.
If fitting training in is worrying you, don’t force it. Enjoy the time with your kids and appreciate whatever exercise you are able to get in.
Listen to your body – and your mind!
We all rely on exercise, particularly running, to clear our heads from all the madness of the world, but sometimes we really don’t want to run, or we physically can’t fit it in. That is OK! The most important thing is to do what your body and mind wants and needs you to do.
If you usually go for a harder run or do a session on a Tuesday, but you wake up feeling knackered, allow yourself to have a rest day or just go for an easy run. You will feel much better for it. Don’t be afraid to do what your body wants to do each day, rather than feeling pressurised to do something. If you aren’t feeling it, it won’t benefit your body or your mind.
Recuperate rather than race
We don’t know when racing will return, and this can also add to the stress. Therefore, this is another reason why there is no need to force training – as time is most definitely on our side.
There are no races in the diary, so there is little pressure to smash every training session to be fit for a deadline.
Whilst we would all love to have a race or a goal 5K time to work towards, there are benefits to this strange situation. Instead of waking up feeling drained and tired and forcing yourself to do the session on your plan, you can take the time to allow your body to recover properly before you push it again. This may in fact help you improve as your body will feel stronger at the start of each session, rather than feeling heavy and lethargic.
Take the positives
Ultimately, yes, this is a scary time, but it also a unique time.
Allow yourself to slow down, dedicate time to the little things, and don’t force training if it is causing you stress.
Racing will be back, the pace of life will increase, and old habits may undoubtedly resume, so cherish this time – even if it can feel frustrating!
This article was written by Hannah Irwin, a writer and international runner:
“I have been a passionate runner since I was six years old and I couldn’t imagine my life without the sport. My proudest achievements to date would have to be running for the England senior women’s team over 10K and cross country.
The year ahead is very uncertain so I am not currently sure of my goals, but I would like to remain injury free and get in some consistent training to prepare myself for when the race season does arrive. I would also love to wear the England vest again as soon as I can!”
Check out Hannah’s other articles for Lonely Goat Running Club and keep an eye out for more, coming soon.