As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, causing our lives to put on hold, there is one thing that helps me keep my sanity. Running. Our spring races are canceled, we work from home, group runs are canceled, weddings, vacations, large events, and birthday parties are canceled. Gyms are closed, as well as restaurants, bars, I mean you know the drill.
I’m here to share how running is helping me to find my calm during times of stress and anxiety and what I practice for my own personal health during the coronavirus crisis.
Coping with the disappointment
After the NYC Half was canceled I teared up over Facebook comments from runners dealing with the fact that their goal race was canceled. I felt for those runners who worked so hard last summer to qualify for Boston when that race got hit next. London was off the table as well. I was supposed to go to Rio De Janerio in June for the marathon, but that race was canceled too. Obviously, I’m 100% with the decisions being made and those race directors trying to keep us safe, but it leaves many of us with disappointment. So how do you cope with that?
First of all, it is okay to feel that way. Even though there are way worse things to be upset about right now, we did train for these races and feeling disappointed is a normal reaction. After my race was called off it just wasn’t the same anymore when I headed outside to run. My goal of running a PR in Rio was gone and as expected I ditched my next long run.
It’s important to shift the focus to maintaining fitness and figuring out a new goal. Take care of the travel plans (plane tickets, hotels) involved in your agenda and then find out what else excites you. If your goal race was only postponed like most of the larger marathons were, you still have something to look forward too. Most importantly, maintain your excitement for running. Stay consistent with your training and whenever you feel down, picture the finish line of your goal race.
At the end of the day, it affects so many of us, which made it a bit easier for me. My plan is to still travel to Rio, IF it is safe by then and run at least parts of the race. In your case, maybe you can plan something special for you on race day? Or run the miles you trained for regardless.
Is it safe to run outside?
As mentioned, I still run outside and I know many people are wondering if it is safe to run outside during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, it is, as long as you are running alone and keep distance to fellow runners around you. Right now solo running is the new thing. I know, it’s not that we’re not already isolated enough, but it’s the safest way to continue running outside right now.
Time your runs, when it’s not too crowded outside. That way, you can practice social distancing much easier even when you’re running. If you find yourself on a crowded route, you should protect yourself by spreading out and maintaining distance 6 feet apart from other runners. Also, getting in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to brisk activity supports your immune system and can keep viruses away. Obviously, no High-Five’s to anyone and make sure to shower and wash your hand immediately after you get back from your run.
Can you run outside during a shelter-in-place mandate?
This depends on the regulations of the state you live in. Overall, always check your local public health recommendations. There are current health mandates in your area that you can find on your state and local government websites.
Generally speaking, most shelter-in-place mandates allow us to go outside, run and physically active such as running, hiking as long as you practice social distancing and are not gathering in any form of groups. If you feel sick, stay home.
How to utilize running in times of fear and anxiety
There is no sugar coating, what happens in this world right now is absolutely scary. I’m terrified. New York City has transformed into the center of this crisis in the United States as the state scrambled to find more hospital space for expected patients in the coming weeks. People are getting laid off and most of us experiencing pay cuts. It’s causing a lot of anxiety about what’s to come and what will happen to us, our jobs and or future. The United States now has the most diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the world. According to a tracker by Johns Hopkins
The first days after the shutdown here in NYC / NJ I found myself in a very dark place. I not only got very sick for a few days but also felt mentally drained. Overwhelmed by the news, my job, and responsibilities, little things like my daily routines were too much for me. I knew I had to force myself to run again.
There’s a reason why there are so many new runners outside lately. Running reliefs stress and it sets your mind free. Running increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress. The fact, you’re outside exercising tends to expose you to sunshine which helps to increase your vitamin D3 levels, which we all need in order to feel good and avoid depression and anxiety.
Running has always been therapeutic to me. Just this morning, I soaked it all in. The empty Jersey City streets, the tired nurses walking home from their shift from the Jersey City Medical Center, ambulances, but also the cherry blossom, warmer temperatures and all the cute puppies outside. Just be present. When I returned home, I sat down and wrote this article.
No one knows how long this time will last. Let’s remain calm and strong. We’re in this together and one day it will be over. Probably we will cherish everything in life so much more than ever before. Stay Healthy!