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Mental Health Miles – Running in Lockdown by Will

This is an unprecedented and incredibly difficult time, but one of the things getting me through lockdown is my daily exercise. We’re so lucky that we have that opportunity still. If the last five weeks of lockdown have taught me anything it’s that exercise (and running in particular) is incredibly helpful for both my physical but more importantly my mental health.

I count myself as being incredibly lucky: I have a job where I can work from home; Katie and I are fit and healthy (touch wood); and generally we have everything we need. I know this isn’t the case for everyone and I can understand this will have been an incredibly difficult situation for some, both emotionally and financially. Plus I can’t even imagine what those who have lost loved ones must be going through.

Of course it goes without saying that following current Government guidance is absolutely crucial right now. The work that key workers and especially front line NHS staff are doing is incredible and the absolute bare minimum we should be doing to support them is following the very simple guidance laid out.

I’m finding I’m managing to get out four or five times a week, and really just running to clear my head. Not thinking about anything, just relaxing and running easy miles. We’re fairly lucky where we live that I can be out in quiet country lanes within a mile or so, meaning social distancing isn’t too hard. I do sympathise with those who are struggling with social distancing, sometimes it’s not easy on tight paths, or where others aren’t as considerate as they should be.

If you’re struggling to get out and run please don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s absolutely fine to be doing as much or little as you’re comfortable with at the moment. If you’re a runner that relies on club nights or Parkrun for your weekly running structure then it’s completely understandable that you might be feeling like you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you. Maybe talking about it to someone might help?

If lockdown restrictions were tighter and we weren’t allowed to run I know I would start to struggle mentally. Running for me is a complete release from the stresses of the  current situation and it’s something that I definitely rely upon for my wellbeing.

Goals are very much out of the window right now. Like everyone else I’ve had my planned spring races postponed which is 100% the right thing to have happened. So what have I been doing to keep my running mojo ticking along?

Rainbow Running

This is something I saw a few people on Twitter doing, so thought I’d play along. #Rainbowrunning is just a really nice way to show support for the amazing key workers. Plus you get to raid the bottom of your running drawer and dust off some tops which probably haven’t been seen out for a while. I made a couple of donations to good causes when I completed my rainbow but there’s absolutely no obligation to do that. Let me know if you run a rainbow too.

Taylor’s Run Club

As club isn’t currently allowed to happen we’re running our own. Katie goes to club most weeks (way more than me) and likes the group run structure to get some of her weekly miles in. She’s a relatively new runner and is working her way towards her first ten mile race.

We don’t run together much and it’s been awesome seeing her push to complete distances she hasn’t run before (nine non-stop miles smashed this week). I think my slow it down mantra is sinking in, but as she referred to my chit-chat as shit-chat this week there’s still refinements to work on as defacto group leader.

Chasing Strava Segments

I’m not usually one for these (with one exception the PJC crew know all about), but they’re a way to keep some of the competitive juices flowing. I’m not saying smash yourself to bits for an entire run but an effort for just a few minutes is completely fine.

The quiet country lanes I previously mentioned are my current playground and in particular the lanes which run down the back of Portsdown Hill. There are three punchy climbs of just over a kilometre (Widley, Mill and Pigeon House) and I’ve been using one a week as a little challenge to see how I rank. Turns out quite well, I’ve claimed the crown on each, means absolutely nothing to anyone else I know (except maybe the previous holders) but it’s a fun little challenge and if nothing else is hill training in disguise!

If you’re on Strava maybe check out a segment or two near you, there are certainly plenty around to try.

Tony’s Speedwork

Tony, who leads the group that I run with at Joggers has been doing a wonderful job of motivating lots of runners by posting almost daily updates in one of the Facebook groups. As well as reminding us to appreciate our surroundings and run for fun, he’s using a bit of speedwork to chip away at peoples 5k times.

At the moment this is 1k & 2k reps which I’m sure will be building as the weeks go on. I really like the fact that this is inclusive no matter a person’s base 5k time. Speedwork hasn’t been much of a focus all year for me, so it’s been nice to mix a bit in and see where my legs are.

Sticking to the Roads

I haven’t really been running off-road since lockdown began. Katie has instilled in me that I don’t want to be that guy who falls over in the middle of nowhere, breaks something and takes away urgent medical care from where it’s really needed right now. She’s absolutely right. I’m not by any means preaching here it’s just a decision that I’ve made for me. I love the trails, it’s absolutely where I’ll be racing for the foreseeable future, but they can wait for now.

The guilt of not doing more …

I’m definitely feeling this, more some days than others. Should I be making more of this lockdown period doing more stretching? or more strength and conditioning? or trying out one of the plethora of free HIIT sessions that seem to clog up my social feeds? (I have actually done a couple of the Running Channels home workout routines on YouTube which I’d recommend).

 

I know that it’s okay to not do everything, but it is one of those things that does stress me out a bit sometimes, until I snap back into reality and decide that yes it’s actually okay to relax and read a book for once.

So, what next?

Until lockdown is lifted it’s more of the same really. My running will continue to be fairly easy, with hills and a bit of speedwork added into the mix for variety. Nothing crazy mileage wise though. I’m hoping there might be a few more running community virtual events that I can join in with too. I’ve signed up for Miles for Mind which runs for the month of May, so that should be fun.

Will I stretch more or do more strength and conditioning sessions? Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it.

In theory I actually have a 50 mile race in nine weeks’ time. The North Downs Way 50 was postponed from mid-May to its current 4th of July date and as of today is still on the calendar. It’s a small event (250ish runners) so potentially could go ahead if current restrictions are eased. The Centurion Running race director has been excellent in communicating about a slightly amended event, where rolling starts and managed checkpoints could be implemented to ensure social distancing. Developments over the next few weeks will determine whether this actually possible or not.

If this ends up getting postponed again (which is likely) then it’ll probably be autumn or beyond before any races are possible. I’m not convinced any large scale events will be authorised at all this year, but the types of races I would be signed up for are small scale so there’s a possibly some might go ahead.

Of course races are absolutely not a priority at present, if they happen that’s a complete bonus. The most important thing right now is the health of the nation as a whole.

Keep fighting this together folks. Follow the Government guidance: Stay at home; protect the NHS; save lives (but also get that daily exercise in). Keep checking in with those who are more vulnerable. Above all else stay safe!

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