Training during a pandemic: remember, COVID-19 can’t cancel running!

Well, what a week it’s been.

Since my last post, the coronavirus pandemic has hit Canada, and my own city of Toronto, in a big way. Not in terms of numbers of cases (thankfully!) but in terms of measures taken to stop the spread.

Many businesses have voluntarily shut their doors.

The Ontario government has declared a state of emergency.

Non-essential government-run services like libraries, daycares, recreation centres, museums, parks, and so on are closed for now.

The Candian government has closed the borders to most travellers.

And for we runners… many races have been cancelled.

Before I continue, a little PSA: At this point in time, Ottawa Race Weekend is still scheduled for May 23/24! They have paused registrations until things are more clear, but they are still working on getting things ready for race day. Given the race is over two months away, it is still too early to know if it will need to be cancelled or postponed.

Given how uncertain everything is, it’s been very hard to get out and train! There are a lot of reasons for this, including:

  • As of this morning, my gym, like most others in Toronto, is closed until after the pandemic issues subside.
  • We are being advised to stay at home as much as possible to help stop community spread of the virus.
  • My race in April (Spring Runoff) has been postponed.
  • My work is at a complete standstill because the people I serve – health and wellness practitioners like massage therapists or yoga teachers – are also out of work.
  • I am feeling a lot of stress and anxiety right now!

I know I’m not alone in this. Many of us are feeling frustrated and stressed. Most of us are unsure if we should keep training, especially since most running groups have also temporarily suspended their runs.

I saw this image go by in a few places, including from Run Ottawa.

Running will not be canceled. Running to clear your mind will not be canceled. Running for your health will not be canceled. Running for yourself will not be canceled. Virtual Races will not be canceled. The Joy of running will not be canceled.

And they’re totally right.

Unless you’re under strict quarantine or ill yourself, you can get outside for a solo run. That’s safe.

There are exercises you can do at home to keep healthy and strong. You don’t need a gym to work out. There are YouTube videos and online workout guides.

Walking is totally legitimate cross-training, plus it has major benefits for your mental health. Which, given the stress and anxiety factor, is really important right now! Solo or family walks are safe.

And probably most importantly: the community has rallied. Fitness instructors of all kinds are offering free programs by Instagram Live or as a download from their websites. Runners are posting what workouts they are doing to social media so you can join in on your own run if you want. A friend of mine has been doing a ‘social distancing’ run where he runs by houses of his friends and waves as he goes by. Some are even getting creative and running with a friend ‘by phone’ so they can still chat while they do their run solo. Solo, but not really solo.

As for my own training? For now, I’m just going to do relaxed runs without worrying much about distance or pace. That’s what I need right now for my own mental wellbeing. Things will turn out however they will – there’s no use in my stressing about if my half marathon will take place in May or not. I’ve just got to roll with it, just like all my fellow runners who were scheduled to run London or Boston or Mississauga or Vancouver (or many other races I haven’t listed).

Times are super weird, but we’re all in this together.