A version of this article was first published by Road Runner Sports
"Running provides relief from stress, boosts the immune system and, thankfully, is something you can safely enjoy during the COVID-19 outbreak."
The quote in the headline is borrowed from a New York Times article titled, Jogging Was Made For Social Distancing. The author, Matthew Futterman, painted a different picture of Manhattan than what you’d usually imagine a typical Saturday in the bustling city would look like. On Saturday, March 14th, the streets were largely empty. But the runners – ah the runners! – the ever-faithful mile-loggers were absent from their running groups that train for the now either delayed or canceled spring marathons. But they were still running.
So what does that mean for you? Is running during this pandemic truly the perfect sport for ‘social distancing’ or is it still risky? Use the links below to skip ahead if need be:
The Center For Disease Control currently suggests people avoid mass gatherings of more than 50 people. The organization also encourages frequent hand washing and social distancing (maintaining a distance of six feet from others when possible). Thankfully, running outside by yourself means you are in full compliance with the CDC’s recommendations.
While public gatherings, group events and even heading out to bars and restaurants aren’t suggested in many high-risk areas, enjoying a morning run to relieve pandemic-oriented stress is 100% green-lighted. But there are important safety precautions to take into consideration when running:
Running outside is an almost ideal activity right now. But it’s essential to remember the following for a truly safe run:
What Should I Avoid Touching? You likely touch the crosswalk button when you run (we hope!). And perhaps you stop at a bench after your run and stretch (good job!). Is it okay to touch the button or rest your hand on a park bench when stretching? Think of it this way: If someone else recently coughed into their hands and touched the crosswalk button, it could be contaminated. Best to either touch it with a glove or avoid touching your face after touching it. The same goes for touching benches. And make sure to wash your hands thoroughly when returning from a run.
Should I Drink Out of Public Water Fountains? Because the Coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets (spit), it’s best to BYOW (Bring Your Own Water) on your next run and avoid public drinking fountains.
Should I Use Public Restrooms? Public restrooms contain frequently-touched surfaces like door handles, stall handles, toilet handles and faucets. The CDC recommends that all frequently-touched surfaces be washed regularly and because you don’t know for sure if these surfaces are, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Try to avoid pit stops as best you can.
Should I Avoid Group Runs? The CDC’s current recommendation is to avoid mass gatherings of 50 or more. And President Trump made an announcement recommending that people avoid gatherings of 10 or more. So what does that mean for you? Exercise caution. Limit the number of people you run with and, as the CDC has urged, try to keep distance (at least six feet) between you and your running buddies.
Do I Need to Be Six Feet Apart from Other Runners? The CDC has urged people to maintain a distance of six feet apart to prevent the spreading of the virus. No high fives after a great run, okay?
Should I Spit When Running? If you’re running (responsibly) with others, avoid spitting. The Coronavirus can spread through respiratory droplets, so as a preventative measure, try not to spit (as gross as that sounds).
Should I Leave My Running Shoes Outside? There’s no need to leave your shoes outside. But it’s a good idea to take them off when you return home and leave them by the door (or your designated shoe area) so you don’t track germs around your home.
If running isn’t high on your list during self-isolation as you try to navigate the stressors of managing kids at home, remote work or whether or not you’ll be able to work from home, consider the following:
1. Running Improves Your Cardiovascular Health
Good cardiorespiratory health can prevent heart disease, lower your cholesterol, prevent type 2 diabetes, increase lung capacity, and boost your overall immune system. Now’s a good time to strengthen your immune system.
2. Running Helps With Depression and Anxiety
Being cooped up at home worrying about what’s going to happen next does nothing to help with anxiety. You know what does? You guessed it – a good run. If stress is bogging you down, rather than turning on the news and succumbing to it all, go for a run. Exercising releases hormones in your brain called endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals proven to increase your mood and lower your perception of pain.
3. Running Can Help You Become Smarter and More Alert
Aerobic activity increases the levels of cortisol in your body, which boosts information retention and memorization capabilities. Okay, so this doesn’t directly apply to alleviating COVID-19 related stressors, but what a bonus, right? Many are using the time away from work and social obligations to take a step back and enrich their lives. Isn’t it great that running can exercise both your mind and your body all at once? How’s that for efficiency?
So you’re into the above benefits but you don’t like to work out by yourself? I get it, it’s not easy – especially if you prefer to run with groups or take group workout classes. If you’re struggling with how to get comfortable (or motivated) enough to run by yourself. Consider the following tips:
FaceTime with one of your group running buddies to get a pre-run warm up in: This’ll help you and your friend stay on track and running won’t feel so isolating. Add a post-run check-up in for additional social connection.
Listen to great music or a podcast: Use your run as ‘me time’ to catch up on that podcast you’ve been putting off or that album you’ve been wanting to listen to.
Use a social running app: Running apps like Strava and Nike Running Club can help you feel connected to your running community even when you’re not running with them thanks to the social feed. And there’s the bonus of a little friendly competition if that’s what you’re into.