In March 2020, COVID-19 forced all of us apart. Besides the emotional, financial, and health-related stresses, being forced apart also impacted our fitness routines. Whether you relied on group classes, team sports, or your gym, lockdown measures inevitably impacted the ways in which we kept healthy. For some, the pivot was a bit easier, like going from in-person spin to online spin classes. For others, their pre-COVID exercises didn’t adapt well to the new way of living. The outlawing of my regular tennis and basketball sessions forced me to turn to something new: running.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I bemoaned running. I thought it boring, difficult and much more preferred to burn my calories elsewhere. However, as the list of illegal activities grew and those that were permitted shrunk, I was left with little choice. To be honest, at the beginning what got me out the door was just being able to escape my small student flat. The freedom that running provided far exceeded the breathlessness that I felt after the first few kilometres. Eventually, running became my catharsis and an oasis in a desert of uncertainty. The simple repetition of putting one foot in front of the other made me feel free, and carried me to new parts of town that I had not and would never have seen before. Over the next few months, the internal competition took over as my main motivator. The challenge of beating my best time and the satisfaction in seeing my average pace improve kept me going until one day it just became a routine. Thankfully, I started running when the weather was getting warmer but by the time winter was settling in, the power of the routine prevented me from skipping even the harshest days. Rather than being forced to go out, I now knew I would feel bad if I missed a day.
Besides the obvious physical health benefits of running, I also know it helped me with my mental health. It truly got me through the worst of the pandemic. I always felt better after a run, the anxiety and restlessness of being cooped up at home alleviated. With a low barrier to entry – all you really need are some running shoes and sports clothes – I encourage all of you to try it out and see if it is for you. As our societies emerge from the pandemic and we can start to come together to heal, running can be one of the best, COVID-safe ways to get together again.
So now you’ve heard my spiel about running, here are some of the things I did (and I should have done) to get started:
Make running a routine
Add your runs to your calendar and treat it like a meeting or a lecture that you can’t miss. I set my runs up as recurring events to avoid the friction of having to manually add them to my calendar. Personally, I prefer running in the morning when it is cooler. It is also less likely that things can get in the way and force you to change your plans. You can even plan your runs with friends to create some accountability; you’re less likely to skip a run if you’ve got a friend waiting on you. Eventually, you will establish a habit, and getting out for your runs will just be something you do.
Start small & build
Be realistic with your starting distance and pace. Everyone will start differently based on their fitness but going too big, too soon will only turn you off running. Not only could it lead to injuries, but the difficulty will make you dread your runs. Instead, starting smaller will allow you to chalk up small wins and keep you motivated. It will also reduce the time you need to recover so that you’re ready to go when the next run comes. As you start to get fitter, increase your distance and pace accordingly. But again, do this prudently and rest when your body is telling you to.
Track your progress
I found tracking my progress was not only a vital component to sticking to my plan, but also a healthy motivator. Seeing progress expressed in numbers, as opposed to just what I was feeling, was important for me. There are a plethora of smartwatches and running accessories available on the market now so find what works for you and your budget.
Find ways to motivate yourself
When the routine gets a bit tough to stick to, which it inevitably will, find external ways to motivate yourself. One way could be to set goals and stick to them, whether that be a weekly mileage or calories burnt. Another thing that really worked for me was chaining rewards to my runs. For example, on days that I ran, I permitted myself to have a bit more of an indulgent meal.
Warm up and cool down properly
Always, always do a proper warm-up and cool down. You should treat these as part of your run and see them as a non-negotiable. Skipping these will negatively impact your running and increase your risk of injuries.
Get proper running shoes
Avoiding injuries also means using the proper gear. For running, that means proper shoes. There are many different types of shoes available in a range of price points so do your research and find ones that work for your running style and budget. Remember that these will eventually degrade and the cushioning provided reduces over time, so keep track of your shoes and change them before injuries start to creep in.
All illustrations by Storyset
Rene Himpe is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
Register at headliner.newswav.com to become one of our content writers now!
*The views expressed are those of the author. If you have any questions about the content, copyright or other issues of the work, please contact Newswav.