Quarantine seems to have transformed almost everyone into a runner. And why not? It’s one of the few forms of exercise we’re allowed under lockdown, and easy to do in a way that maintains proper social distancing.
This is one of the positive things quarantine has gifted us: it’s forced us to learn how to run. We need it for mental health reasons, for physical health reasons, and also because there’s only so many workouts you can do in your living-room before you start going a little bananas.
Funnily enough, learning to run was actually one of our pre-COVID goals. Back in February, Gaurav casually mentioned that training to run a half-marathon might be a good 2020 target. As someone who has the stamina of an asthmatic rhino shuffling its way off the mortal coil, to say I was reluctant would be an understatement.
But hey, who doesn’t love a challenge, right?
So we went and had an expert watch our gaits on a treadmill (back in that strange time of yesteryear when you could still do that sort of thing) and fit us with appropriate running shoes. Then, at the register we had a conversation with a man in his 60s who was getting a new pair of shoes, too. He was planning on running an entire marathon later this year. And it wasn’t his first. To say he left us feeling a bit like slackers would also be an understatement.
There we were, come March, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to run. Or Gaurav was, at least. He’s run marathons and half-marathons before, and is one of those annoying people who claims to enjoy running. I, on the other hand, looked at our projected training with the sort of bleak dread I generally reserve for dental appointments.
But, in those final three weeks leading up to a total lockdown here in the UK, we got in just two, 10-minute runs. I was dragging my feet, both at the prospect of doing it more than once a week, and while actually doing it.
Now I know that it’s because we didn’t need running. Not yet, anyway. Not until we found ourselves stuck inside with only trips to the grocery store to look forward to.
Suddenly, under quarantine, learning how to run seemed vital.
So we did.
I’m not going to say we’re officially runners now. It’s still a novelty when we hit the 25 minute mark of steady running, and some days I just want to collapse at 10 (Gaurav remains, as always, annoyingly chipper), but it’s become—dare I say—something new we enjoy doing together.
And isn’t that what surviving quarantine is all about?
Here are 5 helpful tips we’ve picked up on running, courtesy of a few Instagram friends:
1. It’s not about time, it’s about distance
When we first started running regularly I had a tendency to check my watch when we started, then take a look again right around the point when I began to get tired. Bad idea, let me tell you, because running has the perverse ability of stretching a single minute into an eternity.
There’s nothing worse than checking your watch while you shuffle along gasping for breath only to discover you’ve been running for a mere three minutes. It makes the goal of running for 30 minutes, or an hour, feel utterly impossible.
So instead, we started focusing on distance. Could we make it five blocks without slowing down? What about one block more? What about a circular 3km run leading back to our favorite coffee shop? These goals are much more tangible and easy to focus on.
2. Slow and steady really does win the race
When you’re trying to train your body to run longer and longer distances, the worst thing you can do is to start out by running too fast. Pacing is incredibly important because you need to shore up and dole out energy at a rate that ensures you’ll make it to the end of your run.
If you use up a high amount of energy right out of the gate by setting off at a near sprint, you’ll be tired in no time and won’t have the gas to take you the distance you need to go.
While it does feel a little weird to trot at the pace of a stoned koala, what we’ve discovered is that maintaining this sort of steady pace keeps us going longer. Remember: you can always pick up speed toward the end if you feel like you’ve saved up a little too much energy. And the best thing about an even, slow pace is that it helps you to fall into the sort of meditative trance required to run well.
3. A running buddy keeps you motivated
I might make it sound as if I run like a zombie with two loose kneecaps while Gaurav prances alongside with the verve of a perky deer, but the truth is we both have good days and bad days. One of us might feel lazy that day, or get tired a few minutes into the run, or want to stop running altogether.
This is where a running buddy comes in handy. Weirdly—and this may just be us, but God I hope not—whenever Gaurav starts to notice that I’m getting tired or complaining that I need to stop, it gives him an extra burst of energy, and vice versa. When this occurs he, or I (though this happens less often) can offer motivation to keep one another going.
Because of social distancing, you might not be able to have an in person running buddy, but you can definitely have a virtual one! I’ve done virtual jogs with a friend who lives across the pond. We set out together and check in every 10 minutes on WhatsApp to motivate and offer support. It’s a fun way to mix things up if running alone doesn’t sound at all appealing.
4. And finally, it really does get easier
The first time I managed to run non-stop for 15 minutes, it felt as if I was going to collapse. For days after, I dreaded running because I couldn’t help but wonder if misery was going to be a constant throughout it all.
The good news is, it does get easier. You might not notice it right away, but you’re slowly building strength and stamina and you just need to find that threshold where running becomes more effortless. For me it’s somewhere after the first 10-15 minutes. In the beginning, I’ll be achey and out of breathe, and usually wondering why I chose to torture myself like this, but that’s because it’s my warm-up period!
Eventually my body finds its rhythm and, believe it or not, running does actually get easier. So stick with it, you’ll find your threshold, too.
5. Try an app
Technology is pretty much the only thing keeping us going these days, and it’s truly amazing all the new hobbies and skills you can pick up online! Running is no exception, and one of the apps we’ve heard good things about is the NHS’s Couch to 5K. This is a useful app for beginner runners and will take you through a training program on a week-to-week basis. The entire program lasts 9 weeks, and makes for a great activity while you wait for lockdown to end!
Have you started learning to run, too? Or are you already a long-term runner? Share what you’ve learned about running in the comments below!