The Lockdown Runner

With grateful thanks to Bronwyn Cottrell – B.Sc.  Physiotherapist

COVID-19 has certainly made an impact. It has affected all our lives on every level. People have been sick, very sick and the heroes on the front line put their lives in danger every single day ensuring that those that need the care are getting the best medical care that is out there. People have lost jobs; businesses have closed, and our fragile economy is taking a massive hit we may not fully recover from. Over the last three months or more I have ridden the Covid storm. The highs and the lows. One thing that has kept me from tipping into ‘Corona Crazy’ has been my running. It has kept my head above the water and whenever it all feels a bit much or I need a social media break away the best way to clear my head has been to run.

I have always been a goal driven runner; I need something to work towards or it simply would never happen. My OCD personality also like results and I like results on every run. I therefore found it incredibly difficult to come out of lock-down goal-less and ambling. I was left with two choices stop running or change my mind set. Due to the amount of chocolate I eat I had no choice but to go with the latter, and what a rewarding choice it has been. I now use my lock down runs to bond with my running, it’s time to become a better more efficient runner without the pressure of training.

I see many runners running kilometre after kilometre, simply because they can. Let us be real we do not know when the next race is going to be, do we even know if it will happen this year and if it does will it ever be the same? So why dear runners why are we trying to run loooooong distances, what for? Do you really want to be nursing a nasty overuse injury when that goal is finally presented to you? Rather use this time to explore other avenues which will compliment your running and therefore make that goal that much more attainable when that time comes.

Runners like to run and often feel that unless they running they not improving or training. Well here is a little secret. There are many things that are not running which one can do to improve your running. And now may be the best time to introduce these strategies pressure free.

So, decide what it is about your running that you want to improve and let us give you strategies to do this.

For me it is speed, it’s always speed. I am not a racing snake by any means, however thanks to my genes there is potential to do a decent marathon. I however have struggled to unlock this. I guess this is largely due to the fact that when I train, I just run. But, as I have learnt in lock down, to get faster you have to get stronger. I started skipping and doing circuit training during lock down and have finally brought my pace down to a comfortable 5min/km. For an uninjured runner I would recommend adding two strength sessions which include plyometrics per week to your training programme. If you don’t want to cut back on the training runs that’s okay, there is nothing wrong running and strength training on the same day as long as you not injured and that your day you do your long run, you just run.

For the runner wanting to build endurance, do not go out and run for hours on end rather increase the amount of runs you do in the week. You will need a long run, absolutely. But right now is not the time to be pushing that run to marathon distance, as this is not sustainable for the long term and who knows how long we in this for. When working on endurance you may need to slow your runs down. Think slower for longer instead of fast and short. This will help you build the slow twitch muscle fibres, needed to carry you through the distance. This is a perfect time to explore a bit of cross training. Cycling is a wonderful way to improve endurance performance without the load and force that running will give.  Swimming is a great way work on your cardiovascular fitness and improving lung capacity. Sadly, however at this time, swimming may be a little impossible.

Now is a great time to work on your weaknesses and fears. For those of you who hate to climb, bring in a session a week of hill reps, find that hill and go climb. Before you know it, you will be approaching the hills with confidence not dread. If you tend to be constantly injured and feel like you always have a niggle. Address that problem now, one or two strength sessions a week are critical in minimising overuse injuries. IF you constantly feel tired and sluggish on your runs, rest! Sleep in. there is nothing to run to yet, be kind to yourself.

For the new runner, welcome to the club. How lucky are you to just settle in and learn to love the sport without anyone asking you when you are running your first race, Enjoy this time.

So basically, dear runner, what I would like you to do now is settled down, take off the pressure. Use this time to bond with your running, bond with your body and just enjoy the ride. And go do your strength work!