Lockdown has brought on a lot of changes to our routines. My commute to work now consists of walking downstairs to the dining room instead of wrestling with traffic. The pre-school run, once a stressful military-style exercise, trying to shoehorn a wriggling toddler into her car seat, has now become an enjoyable experience (most days!). And, when I want to have my porridge for breakfast, I no longer have to queue for the communal microwave in the office kitchen that smells like my colleagues fish lunch from the day before. While it would be just as easy to highlight the countless negatives of the situation we’re in, I think the news does enough of that so I’ll steer clear.
As we sadly dive deeper into a global pandemic, it’s becoming clear life needs to be less about yearning for what we want to do, and more about focusing on the things we can do. Of course, I want to go for a meal with my family at my favourite restaurant, and not have to be chaperoned to the toilet while wearing a mask. But I know I can’t. So, what I can do is have a drink on zoom and try and connect the best way we can. For now.
When it was announced gyms would close to reduce the spread of the virus, it was a big shock to my routine. For non-gym-goers, I’m sure you just gagged at that sentence. But the gym has always factored into my daily routine both for the physical and mental benefit, and once taken away was a big shock to the system. So a replacement for my sanity’s sake was important. One thing that has stuck for me, is running. In fact, with every announcement of tighter restrictions, my usual reaction is to go out and try and shake off the negative news with a run. Quite literally running from the problem!
Running has a bit of a reputation for being this horrendous experience, a punishment almost, of lugging yourself out on the road in the hope that one day you’ll see a lower figure on the scales or fit into a smaller jean size (sweatpants is probably more fitting now). And, in many cases, that’s how people look, like they’re being dragged around the streets against their will in a high viz vest, like some kind of exercise fuelled hostage situation. It isn’t for everyone, just like not everyone enjoys rugby, or shopping or apparently wearing a mask (please wear a mask people!).
There’s something I’ve always loved about running and it’s taught me a lot in lockdown. Here are a few reasons why:
Right now more than ever this is a huge factor. When all other options have quite literally been closed, fortunately (for now) the ability to step out the front door and move is still an option. Whether you live in a city or a small village, you’re able to step out your front door and run.
While your gym membership is on hold and as the world fights for barbells, dumbbells, and resistance bands on the internet, the start-up costs for running are next to nothing. Ok, you might need yourself a good pair of trainers if you don’t own them already (it’s worth the investment). But if you’re like me you can justify a purchase like that right now because ‘times are shit and I need a pick me up’. With no membership costs and not being tied into a contract, it’s the cheapest way to get moving.
For me personally, this outweighs all benefits of running. Pissed off? Run, Good mood? Run, Feeling low? Run, sat on five hours of work calls all day from within the four walls of your own home and losing the will to live? RUN! Multiple studies have concluded that regular aerobic exercise—and primarily jogging or brisk walking— reduces the symptoms of clinical depression. When it’s very easy to struggle mentally with everything that’s going on, using accessible methods to cope, like running, is really important.
Running doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and I’ve read many times that as exercise goes it has the ability to put some serious force through your joints. So, like any recommendation, this is take it or leave it. But if you are considering moving some more while the world corrects itself from being upside down, there are a few things to consider.
Walk before you run. Literally
On new year’s day, I went for a run to shake the hangover. I must have counted 30+ other runners out on my route, something I was glad to see. Some I’ve seen before, some who clearly got all the gear for Christmas and were forcing their way around a four-mile route. A sure way to put yourself off running is to leg it out the door like a labrador off the lead and expect to conquer a 5k in less than 25 minutes. Just focus on moving first, walk for a bit, run for a bit, and slowly increase the time you are running and decrease the time you’re walking. You’ll soon start to find a rhythm.
What are you doing it for?
When your legs are burning, you’re breathless, and cursing the world for even stepping out of the house, you might ask this question in a negative light. But try and focus on it in a positive way. There are countless times I’ve weighed up a decision in my mind on a run and come to a conclusion by the time I’ve come home, or calmed my nerves, or shaken the anxiety I’d been feeling all day. If you go running with the sole purpose of immediate weight loss, or sudden marathon running capability, you might be disappointed, and will absolutely start and stop running the very same day.
Staying on track
Everyone’s obsessed with numbers; days in lockdown, step count, hours of Netflix binged. With running it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on your activity and the progress you’re making. Progress leads to motivation and helps to give you a kick when you need it. Apps like Strava are great for saving your routes and tracking your improvements.
Ultimately, running isn’t for everyone, but before you write it off, give it a go. Try different routes, different times of day (don’t force yourself to do 5 miles at 5am) and if you find it isn’t for you. There’s hundreds of alternatives, just make sure you’re doing something.
Need some extra motivation after my waffling? I got you:
Billy Yang makes incredible films about ultramarathon runners – https://www.youtube.com/user/BillyYangFilms
Nick Bare is a fitness YouTuber about to crack is first iron man and attempt a sub 3 hour marathon – https://www.youtube.com/user/barelifenutrition
The Run Experience for basic tips and tricks –https://www.youtube.com/user/TREtherunexperience