Fiona McMahon PT, DPT
We in NYC are closing in on completing our very first six weeks and counting, of social distancing. It has been tough. Many of us have had to drastically uproot our lives and routine to help keep our communities as safe as possible. For many of us, our daily escape of a yoga class in a studio or a lifting session at the gym is on pause. As a result, we are turning en masse to running, many for the very first time. As with any time you add a new exercise, one must proceed with caution as your body begins to adjust to the new exercise, throw in a global pandemic, and things get a lot more complicated. To guide you through this transition, we have compiled practical tips to start your running journey.
Socially Distant (and Responsible) Running
You want to protect yourself while running, but if you are feeling laissez faire about your own health, (maybe you’re young and healthy), you must remember that as a runner, you are a much larger threat to other people than they are to you. Anytime you are working out, you are exhaling more breath in volume, than someone walking at a moderate pace. That increase in breath volume, and thus respiratory droplets makes you far more likely to pass anything on if you are carrying a covid infection. You must do what is in your power to avoid getting others sick. No exercise is worth harming others.
In NYC, you are required to wear a face mask if you cannot avoid being within 6 feet of another person. For most running areas in NYC, it is nearly impossible to maintain 6 feet, so opt for a moisture wicking gaiter, to prevent any chapping of your lips. Keep in mind that running with a face mask can be more difficult, so go easy on yourself. You are running to get your ya-ya’s out, not to break a world record, so take plenty of walk breaks if you need them.
For those of you who do not live in a densely populated area, continue to try and maintain 6 feet. Take back roads, rather than main drags and run on off hours to avoid large crowds. Run against the flow of vehicular traffic so you can easily determine if it is safe to dart into the road safely (maintaining 6 feet) to overtake a fellow runner or walker. When it is not possible to avoid coming within 6 feet of someone else on your path, be prepared to stop altogether, or dart up onto someone’s lawn or driveway.
How to Start
If you aren’t a seasoned runner a run/walk program can be a really nice place to start. Starting by alternating walking 2 minutes and running for 30 seconds for 20 minutes is a good way to dip your running toes into the water. Also there are scads of really lovely couch to 5k programs out there to build you up from a novice jogger to a confident runner.
Volume of Training
With all this time on our hands, it can be really easy to up your weekly mileage. Your agenda is practically clear, why not bust out a 16 miler everyday? In general, bumping up your mileage by more than 10% a week is a fast-track way to invite injury. So if you are typically running 20 miles a week, bumping up to 22 miles a week is fine, but more than that can invite injury.
Stretch and Strengthen
Most runners will happily trade 10 minutes of stretching for an extra mile on the road. Don’t do it. Stretching after a run, when your muscles are still nice and warm can help prevent injury and keep you up and running. Stretching through your quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, and calves are all great places to start.
To run well, our bodies require lots of strength to stabilize our joints and provide us the power to gain speed. Core strength is essential as well as learning to perform core strength exercises properly. Did you know that your pelvic floor is part of the core too? Amy Stein, founder of Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, writes about it here. Even on lock down, virtually meeting with your physical therapist will help you to review stretches and stability exercises specific to your body.
Beyond Basics is still open and taking patients, as well as providing virtual appointments. If you require treatment at this time, please call 212-354-2622