Tips for Running & Staying Healthy in a Covid World

Is it safe to run outside right now? The short answer, even if you’re in a “Shelter in Place,” situation, is yes. It is even recommended by government officials and doctors to keep us moving.

“Well That Escalated quickly” – Ron Burgundy.

In the last week, the world has been flipped upside down. Hundreds of millions of people are (at least should be) home to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Now that gyms, fitness studios, cycling studios, etc, are all closed many have taken up running, making the best of a tough situation. Getting outside for a couple miles, or an hour of light jogging will help not only physically, but mentally. I am lucky enough that my home city of Philadelphia even closed streets to encourage people to get out run and ride while exhibiting social distancing.

Whether you’re a semi-experienced runner just getting back into a bit more, or a complete newbie to running, there’s a lot to consider when getting back into it.

In a world full of uncertainty here are 7 guidelines to following for running in a COVID-19 world.

PSA: FOLLOW THE CDC GUIDELINES – If you are older, have a compromised immune system, or if you have thought to have been exposed and need to truly self quarantine, DON’T GO OUT! The more we work together the faster we get through this. Also, if you are not running with someone you are quarantined with, run solo. Ok now that is out of the way, let’s have some fun.

1. Have a “General” Plan

This is what is going to set you up for a successful and healthy time running. The world is changing rapidly, but our bodies do not, so you have to have a general idea of not doing an all out sprint for 5 miles, the first time you attempt to go out. Then you get hurt, and then you’re really stuck.

Start small. Baby Steps! If it’s your first time running in a couple years, start with a mix of jogging and walking. Walk 5 minutes, jog 5 minutes, for 30-50 minutes total. You’ll spend more time outside with a slow and steady approach. Remember you want to be able to get out!

More experienced runners: Rule of 10: You should only increase your weekly mileage (or volume) in increments of 10 percent. So if you are running 30 miles this week, you should only run 3 more miles next week. The goal here is simple, STAY HEALTHY (You’ll hear this a lot)

Plan out your week. No need to hold yourself to a super fixed goal, but form an idea of what you would like your week to look like. I always take a look at the weather first, and I start to develop an idea of what my week will look like. Great weather on a Wednesday? Ok! I’ll move things around to get my long run in that day, and a slow super easy recovery run the day after.

The world is changing rapidly, so be flexible, but develop a loose weekly plan to keep you looking forward!

2. Warm Up and Cool Down

Before you Run

Wake up your Body and prepare it for what you are about to do. When cooking, you don’t throw your pasta in a pot of cold water (right? I mean if you do.. stop..) 

Why don’t we prepare and slowly warm up our bodies before we run? Before heading out the door, do some basic dynamic stretches and plyometrics. Then take your time and jog lightly for at least 5-10 minutes before going into your run that day.

After You Run

Cool Down – Right after you take your pizza out of the oven, you don’t just bite right into it (again, if you do.. stop..)! You let it cool down.

When you finish your run, gently jog or walk for at least 5 – 10 minutes to allow your heart and body to cool down. After your cool, down, should stretch large muscle groups for 30 seconds on each leg.

Two to three days a week take the time to really stretch for 10-15 minutes, or more. Taking these extra few minutes is one of the easiest ways to prevent injury.

Both of these steps are critical and equally important in building fitness is a steady manner keeping you healthy. If you download our workouts or work with a coach directly we build in warm-ups and cool downs almost everyday!

Josh wrote about some of the best stretches for runners here: Click Here to read more about Josh’s favorite running stretches.

3. Drink More Water! (And Wash Your Hands)

No one drinks enough water, ever, even without running. Other drinks like coffee and tea, actually dehydrate you throughout the day. Drinks like soda, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade (in excessive amounts) and energy drinks like Monster add unnecessary calories and sugar to our bodies. Keep it simple, drink more water.

If you are concerned about the safety of public water fountains, or you are heading out a on a remote trail run to socially distance, grab a handheld insulated water bottle. This one from Nathan is my favorite that I use on my long 20+ mile training runs. I usually fill it at least once mid-run to stay properly hydrated.

Also with today’s current environment, please wash your hands, when you get home.

4. Speed UP! (Sorta)

Wouldn’t it be great to go faster, without working harder? I’m not crazy I promise.

So I am going to summarize what Josh explained so well in his blog post: How to Immedaitely Start Running and Cycling Faster (Without Working Harder)

Here are the basics:

“Use less effort, more often”

What the heck does that mean? Simple, adjust your cadence.

WTF is cadence? – Cadence refers to steps per minute while running. (For Cycling it refers to the amount of times a pedal does one complete revolution, or RPM)

Some funny stuff happens when you start to increase your cadence to those milestones:

  1. Breathing becomes a little easier
  2. Your effort each step/pedal dramatically decreases
  3. Pain & soreness in “weird places” starts to dissipate

Those things, and more, help contribute to faster speed, with (in some cases) less physical effort. Runners with quicker cadence typically impact the ground with slightly less force, putting less strain and shock on joints and muscles.

With quicker feet this naturally forces you to shorten your stride and have your foot land under your body. This makes it easier for your hip to drive your foot back putting less stress on your hamstrings. When you have a longer slower stride your food lands out in front of you both putting the brakes on and it sends shockwaves through your body. This also forces you to pull more with your hamstrings putting tremendous stress on them.

How to Transition to Quicker Stride: Keep it simple, focus on just taking smaller quicker steps while running at a conversational pace for 5 minute stretches, 2-5 times a run, twice a week, on easy runs. Then at the same conversational pace go back to your usual stride for 5 minutes.

Each week time slowly add 30 seconds to your quicker step sessions while reducing your usual stride sessions by the same time. Slowly over time you’ll naturally develop a faster healthy stride, while using the same amount of effort!

This is how you: Use Less Effort, More Often. This all seems counterintuitive but it works!

Josh and I do a deep dive into cadence and a lot more in our podcast: Here!

5. Drink Water Again!

Go ahead, take another sip. I’ll wait.

Ok, now go wash your hands..

6. Be Patient

This might be the toughest lesson to pass along. Running is an inherently simple activity that some of us have been doing since we were kids. That is why runners, experienced or beginners, tend to start off way too fast and too furious without enough rest in between stressful efforts. Similarly, jumping back into running due to your gym closing, can be a shock to your system.

During my junior year cross country, I finished an early season 5k with a stress fracture in my lower tibia. (Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone. They’re caused by repetitive force, often from overuse such as repeatedly running long distances with out enough rest..)

I had to sit the rest of the season on the sideline. In an odd bit of timing, I was told that I could start back running, as soon as the season is over. Although I was used to running 40+ miles a week and a 17 minute 5k, for my health I had to start back from square one.

I began my physical rehab by jogging a half mile a day on a soft grass loop behind the school 5 days a week. (Running on pavement when I started back up could have reaggravated the fracture.)

I would add a half mile loop at a time slowly building back up. It took three months to make a full come back and I could really see that the patience paid off. I later had the best track season of my high school career, in large part to the slow steady build up from the low of stress fracture.

Running ten miles off the bat tomorrow for most is a terrible, awful idea that is going to cause some serious pain for a couple days. Attempting a marathon after 5-6 months of steady day by day, careful training, is going to set you up for, hopefully, a very successful race. Just like rings on a tree it takes time to add those small steady layers, that build to successfully fulfilled goals.

7. You Do You

What makes running special is the independence, freedom and adventure that you can experience at your own pace. I personally don’t run with music, but you sure can! Want to go run with your dog? Go for it! I personally enjoy the quiet, getting lost in my own thoughts when I got out running. For me it’s my time to disconnect from the world.

Need some guidance in your new running adventure? Did your race get moved and now you are not sure how to attack your now fall race? Reach out!

For a limited time we are offering a FREE 45 minute coaching consultation, a $75 Value to anyone interested. We provide a far more detailed and personalized plan on how to adjust in this time. All while keeping you healthy to achieve your long term goals!