The New Rules of Running

A woman runs alone on a street

Whether you are used to running indoors, outdoors or marathon training, COVID-19 has probably changed your definition of a “normal” running routine. There is no doubt that it’s been difficult to stay motivated during the pandemic but, a year later, it’s time for us to adapt our running lifestyles in order to keep running.

“Small group running can be done safely, but mask-wearing and distancing are still highly encouraged,” says Stephani Franklin, RUNGRL co-founder and run captain with District Running Collective in Washington, D.C. “Though many people nationwide are being vaccinated, the virus is still spreading at high rates. By masking up, spacing out from each other on the run and stepping away when you need to remove your mask for a quick breather or sip of water, runners can both maintain community and keep each safe at the same time.”

As we look hopefully toward an improved pandemic situation and more relaxed restrictions in the coming months, here are some tips on how to run safely while navigating in our new normal.

Running Solo

For those who were used to running in groups or taking workout classes as a way to stay motivated and encouraged, some may find running solo to be daunting. As we continue to social distance, group runs and workouts aren’t as feasible, so what should you do to keep motivated?

Tip #1: Find a new playlist.

Switch up that tired old playlist for a new artist or genre to make the running vibes feel fresh. If you aren’t used to setting your miles to music, listening to a podcast or an audio book is another option to keep your mind engaged while getting those miles in.

Tip #2: Discover a new outdoor running route.

Whether at a park, beach or trail, exploring a new area can be another great motivator to break up the monotony of that same old route. WebMD has reported that those who engage in outdoor running and walking in nature areas reduce their levels of stress and have an increased sense of well-being. A change of scenery, then, can literally improve your health.

Tip # 3: Compete with yourself.

Are you the competitive type? Running alone can be a good time to race against yourself. Use a fitness app or your preferred fitness watch to help track your progress and time your pace. Note any improvements from previous weeks and see where you’re able to make small improvements. Any amount of progress counts as a win.

A woman runs across a crosswalk alone

Staying Safe

Even though we’re still social distancing per CDC guidelines, it is inevitable we will pass others on an outdoor running trail or sidewalk. This means staying safe and bringing a mask along for a run is still important.

Those who've tried running with a mask can attest that you’ll immediately feel the difference in your breathing. Although it may feel uncomfortable and difficult to breathe, running with a mask can have an upside by helping take your workout to a whole new level.

Last year, Runner’s World spoke to Timothy Lyman, certified personal trainer and director of training programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh, who said he believed that running with a mask could improve a runner’s breathing performance when they return to running mask-free. “If a runner were to wear the mask or face covering for several weeks or months, the lungs could continue to build strength,” said Lyman.

Virtual Races

Sadly, in-person races across the world were cancelled in 2020 and most still remain paused in 2021. In some situations, this has been an opportunity for people to reset and recover, but others may feel discouraged from race cancellations after months of rigorous training.

While we’ve learned to navigate virtual races, we’ve also learned that training doesn’t have to stop. Depending on your body and goals, you can still use this time to train, set personal records and race against yourself or others virtually.

As we figure out what traditional racing will look like going forward, many have turned to the trail and ultra running scene. Usually held in less populated areas or outside of big cities where numbers can be kept low and runners can spread out, many races are already planned for 2021.

However you intend to run this year, it’s important to plan your comeback thoughtfully.

Two women in masks get ready to run

Running after a break

Have you taken a hiatus from running recently? That’s perfectly okay. Now, with spring in full swing and the weather starting to warm up, this is a great time to rediscover your running routine. If you took some time off, there are a few things you should consider as you prepare to make your comeback:

Tip #1: Walking is key.

It may be tempting to jump right back into the speed and tempo workouts you did before, but it’s important to build a strong foundation first. Whether with a leisurely stroll, or by incorporating walking into your running and jogging workouts, “walking will help to prime your muscles and body for the miles you’ll soon be taking on,” says Ashlee Green, RUNGRL co-founder and RRCA-certified running coach. “This will help you re-establish a solid foundation to build longer distances onto.” After a few weeks of adjusting your body to your new pace and time, you’ll be ready to take on the hills and sprints and other challenging runs.

Tip #2: Patience and consistency help.

Once you’re back to running, you may find yourself struggling more than anticipated. It’s going to take time and consistency to get back to your normal pace. Focus on gradual increases in both pace and distance over time as well as mixing up your workouts. “Cross- and strength training workouts are also great if you’re jumping back into running. They offer a diversity of work that ultimately will help you feel like your old runner self again,” says Green. “Swimming and body weight training are a couple I recommend, too.”

Tip #3: Accountability counts.

Having an accountability partner is a great way to keep on top of your running schedule during the week, but it’s also good to have someone to train with for marathons and races (virtual or otherwise). If you don’t have a person in your home or nearby with which to partner, a virtual running buddy can provide the motivation you need to get moving, especially on those days where you need an extra push.

Beating Pandemic Fatigue

Some of us may struggle to keep running interesting over time, especially during the current pandemic climate. Challenge yourself during your runs to stay productive.

Speed vs. Miles

Distance runners tend to focus on distance rather than speed. However, speed workouts can really help build strength and endurance to keep up your stamina when running the distance. There are a variety of speed workouts you can do, from hill sprints to tempo runs, that will diversify your running routine. Add a sprint day into your running routine to create a healthy balance of distance and speed and improve your running for the long term.

Cross Training

Since many of us have been staying at home, our workouts have also been modified to prioritize home workouts such as, strength, yoga, HIIT, etc. Using fitness apps is a great way to help guide your cross training at home. Sneak in a lunchtime workout, or get in a sweat once the kids are asleep. Implementing other high intensity interval training or strength workouts is a great way to cross train your body and strengthen yourself for your next run run.

By RUNGRL. RUNGRL is a digital media and event platform for Black women that uses running as a vehicle to impact wellness in our communities. As RUNGRL creates and curates content and experiences that share Black voices and stories, they are changing the narrative on what it means to be a runner.

Keep Reading