As I went out for my normal run the other day I marveled at the amount of folks out on the roads, all keeping six feet apart, but also as to how many less cars there were. A few days before that up in Forest Park, I marveled at how empty the routes were. Trails that typically flourished with humanity were falling back to nature even after only a few days and the reality of the current situation sank in more and more with every mile. The bottom line is COVAD-19, Coronaviris, SARS-CoV-2, or whatever you want to call it is here and it’s very real and you need to stay safe and take care of yourself. It is that simple and we need a way to manage through it.
I will be real and say what went through my brain was a mix of the panic, fear, and desperation we are all feeling so deeply right now and to some extent what many people deal with every day even before this. I started to wonder how I would get through this and how could I find some sense of mental clarity and resiliency because I do fall into that high risk group category (given my own recent surgery which is another story for another time). I was freaking myself out to say the least, but then I realized the very thing I needed was right there under my feet and I just needed to put one foot in front of the other.
Maintaining Some Sense of Sanity
Sometimes it makes sense to start at the beginning and what I am suggesting now is entirely my personal journey into dealing with the current situation and some of the anxiety I deal with on an everyday basis.
Build a schedule
This sounds crazy, but it is about organizing all of the jumble of “things” in your head that are creating the turmoil. Start off by just dumping it all out even if it is just a mess of thoughts. Next you can start organizing that into tangible blocks of workable goals. My wife actually got me into bullet journaling which can be as crazy or a simple as you want, but more than anything it became a way to consciously organize my day into achievable goals… no matter how small.
In terms of what goes in your list, the answer is really everything from the smallest minutia to the heavier things. Do the laundry, walk the dog, plan dinner, etc and then to the workout; what shoes will I wear, where will I run, how long will I run and what at pace, etc. Those tasks either then become finalized or get pushed to another day or even if they are half achieved, what was remaining becomes a new task.
For example, we are currently working to relaunch the site and have an all-new logo coming. As we work on the redesign, I don’t have a task that says “make the website”, but instead have a number of tasks that contribute to that final goal, each one achievable within a given time period. Those add up to the inevitable goal and I build toward a goal date.
This is exactly how you train for races right now, so just apply that everywhere.
Make the schedule physical
I am a 100% digital person in almost every aspect of my life, but when it came to this I realized I had to make it physical. As you stare at your screen every day, you simply have too many windows open at a given time to make yet another task application a reliable tool.
To that end, get a nice looking journal for yourself and a nice pen or pencil so you WANT to use it. Again, not kidding here… many times I find when I buy something to use it actually makes me more accountable to the use of that item. There are a ton out there so just find something that suits your style. I’m a Moleskin or Leuchtturm guy myself.
Follow that schedule
No joke here, you need to make constructing this a weekly activity and then ensure you have it out daily and you are tracking to it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need to keep yourself accountable to your goals. It might seem like a silly comment to just say follow it, but it truly is that simple.
Training Can Be a Life Saver
I have always been able to run solo effectively, but others find they need to the camaraderie of a team in order to motivate themselves. In this current climate, learning to run solo could possibly be the thing that allows you to mentally overcome a lot of this stress, so what’s the best way to handle your running loneliness?
Podcasts, Audiobooks, etc
I don’t mean music, but for me, Podcasts are the best companion on a long run. It is like having someone to run with who will talk the entire time and require no responses. There is something out there for everyone and I won’t even bother trying to list some here. Open your favorite Podcast app, search for your favorite hobby (running or otherwise), and you are off to the races.
Check out a great article Strava put together on podcasts for runners
Update your routine
At this point, your old training schedule is probably already being disrupted so there is nothing like switching things up and adding some new elements to your workout. Maybe add some plyometric training, a bit of yoga, definitely some stretching, and if you have any weights at home a little bit of strength work can’t hurt. Also, think about new run schedules and routes to get a broader look around you. Build-in some speed days along with your tempo days and then a nice slow long run where you can really clear your head. These will all help.
Turn Off The Devices and Take a Breath
The world is a bit of a mess and you know what, the media and social platforms, and all the other stimuli you run into over a given day really don’t help everyone’s well being. So turn it off. Find time to check-in, but don’t spend your day staring at it all. It will not do you any good.
Instead, make some time for yourself and for meditation. Try a new app like Headspace, Calm, Buddhify or others. Get to sleep earlier and get more rest because all of this will inevitably make you more relax, a better runner, and inevitably a more tolerable person.
Headspace has an amazing article here targeted directly at runners
We Will Persevere, but Life Will Be Forever Changed
Remember that what is happening now is not directed at YOU and that while I am sorry it has affected your race schedule, this is a worldwide pandemic and you even reading this probably means you are in a privileged position compared to so many others. So right now you just need to take care of yourself, stay in touch with family and friends (virtually), take some time away from devices every day, and get out and hit the pavement or trails or whatever you have close by… just move. When this is over, it will be the biggest party ever and there will be plenty of races to run, but we are going to be stuck here for a bit. Just remember…