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Run Easy: How to Adjust Your Fitness Goals for COVID-19

Have your fitness goals gone out the window with the COVID-19 shutdown? Are you hitting it harder than ever? Even with some areas re-opening, life looks different than anyone planned a few months ago.

Running solo on a path during Covid-19
Competitive runner Cynthia O'Halloran shares tips on how to stay safe and stay fit during Covid-19

By MMF Ambassador Cynthia O'Halloran

This spring, we were told to stay home and to distance ourselves from others. Unless you live under the same roof, our leaders said, do not socialize with others. We saw the cancellation of hundreds of spring races, including major marathons all over the globe. Group runs were forbidden and solo running became the new standard.

As we move into summer, we continue to face another uncertain racing season, perhaps two. Berlin has already cancelled its marathon and thousands of eyes are waiting for the Boston Athletic Association to make a decision on whether or not to hold its iconic event.

As a runner, the disappointment is overwhelming. But runners everywhere are changing their goals from a local race or bucket list event to helping flatten the curve and slowing COVID-19.

For some, the wind has been knocked out of their sails and all fitness goals have been discarded. For others, the desire is still there to push and train as hard as possible regardless. Let me offer a third option: run easy.

A Third Option: Run Easy

Now is not the time to give up and abandon our healthy habits. But now is also not the time to push ourselves in long runs or speed work. We need to be strong if we should come into contact with the virus.

Long runs and intense workouts beat up our bodies: they weaken us temporarily so we can recover stronger. But even that temporary weakening might not be wise right now. In the same way that we adapt our strategy mid-race, we need to adapt the way we are currently training so that we can finish strong.

Runner on a lone path.
Staying fit while also being extra careful to prevent injury or over exertion, is a tricky balance right now.

The spread of coronavirus has changed me as a runner. First, I now always run solo: it’s the right thing to do; it

’s the safe thing to do. I also focus on more slower running because I know that I can’t turn to any of my specialists if I end up with an injury.

Having no races planned means that if I don’t feel up to running or cycling one day, I can just take the day off and not worry about it. I can add extra active rest into my schedule. I can walk. I can play with my dogs. I don’t need to strain my immune system. I need to be healthy for myself and for my family.

So right now, I am running because I love to run! Meeting a speed or distance goal isn't what's important right now. What matters is that I am outside, getting fresh air and staying physically and mentally strong. I’m back to the “training to train” mentality and I am loving it!

No pressure. Just run.

If you are struggling with the new normal, try these tips to help you find a good balance and exercise because you love it!

Running for the love of it during Covid-19 shutdown.
Now is a great time to focus on exercising just for the love of it!

Five Tips for Healthy Running in COVID-19

  1. Run with your heart. Do what you want, not what you “need” to meet a fitness goal.

  2. Run like a child. Have fun with it. If something feels too hard one day, then, ease back.

  3. Plan your run. Block off time so that you do get outdoors and move!

  4. Explore! Create new routes and run somewhere different to keep it fresh and fun.

  5. Focus on the prize. If you are staying fit and healthy, you’re winning!

MMF Ambassador Cynthia O'Halloran is 50+ year-old mother of two boys, a wife, a dog owner, and teacher. She also trains to stay competitive as a Masters Runner in the Canadian racing scene. A version of this article was originally published on her blog and is used with her permission.

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