How to Keep Running During the Pandemic
And what I have learned as a runner
Following my first 3K run in 2018, I’ve finished another 5K run last December as planned.
I thought the excitement would be less compared to my first run, but it wasn’t. Because the crowd was bigger, and the venue was also larger. The thrills of waiting at the starting line and crossing the finishing line were still breathtaking to me.
After finishing the 5K run, I had my eyes on the 9K run this October. I was planning to start training in March, and then the pandemic hit.
Entering the pandemic
Starting in March, all the parks were closed in my hometown. Plus, people had to follow the strict guidelines of social distancing and face masks wearing when going out.
I was a bit frustrated at first. Because I had to throw my original training plan out the window. But then, I realized the pandemic was not going to be over any time soon. I knew I had to learn training in the new normal mode.
I lived in an apartment. So any outdoor training involving a backyard was out of the question. I went online to find out how other runners keeping their training indoor. And I felt so fortunate when I came across the HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) training for runners.
High-Intensity Interval Training
For me, there are a couple of good things about HIIT.
Firstly, it requires very little space. While other training might need the space of a sitting room, I can practically do HIIT inside my study room. Secondly, it requires no extra equipment — except perhaps for a yoga mat if you prefer.
And lastly, HIIT is quick and effective. Just after 15 minutes, I am already sweating and breathing heavily.
HIIT was a big help to keep my muscle's strength and flexibility. In the following months after March when the pandemic was at its peak, I was able to keep myself in shape using HIIT at home.
Going back outdoors
Fast forwarded to August. It was safer to go out and the parks were reopened, finally.
I couldn’t wait to do my training outside my apartment — for a change of scenery. To me, nothing was better than just an hour run in the park, getting fresh air, and stretching my legs in the open space.
However, my training routine had to be adapted for the social distancing requirements. When I went out running in the park, I would walk down there with my face mask on.
Yet I would put down my mask when I started running. I had tried to keep my mask on. I really did. But I had to confess, running with the feeling of being suffocated didn’t work for me.
I would put my mask back on when I was slowing down or taking a break. And when my break was over, I put down my mask again to resume running. And so the cycle continued.
In fact, the whole routine worked less tediously than it sounded. And as long as I could keep my training outdoor, I was fine with the “mask shuffling”.
Sharing the outdoors
Besides the mask problem, another one was I couldn’t use my usual training program in the park anymore. Because there were a lot more people using the park these days.
I used an app on my App Watch to do my training. The app would tell me when to start running, and when to slow down or to stop. For instance, after running for every ten minutes, the app would ask me to slow down for one minute.
But since we were still in the middle of the pandemic, the last thing I wanted was slowing down or even stopping my run into a crowd of people. The crowd might be a group of teenagers waiting for their friends to join their exercise. Or it might be a couple of parents teaching their kids to bike.
Before the pandemic, these scenarios usually happened only on the weekends. Nowadays, not all schools and offices were operating in their full capacity. People had more free time to exercise or to spend with friends and family.
So it was understandable people would go to the park more than before. And I was not complaining. We all naturally desired fresh air and open space — even without a pandemic.
To solve my problem, I adjusted my training program manually on the fly. Sometimes it wasn’t an easy thing to do. When the park was crowded with people in every corner, there was really no good spot to slow down or to stop.
But most of the time, the manual adjustment worked. And I was happy with that.
In retrospect, going out training in the last 6 months have been difficult — if not impossible. Yet to me, it is still feasible to keep my training going.
Even though people in my hometown are not locked down at home anymore, we can’t avoid having days of heavy raining or even typhoons. So, I am still keeping the HIIT videos in my toolbox when I can’t go out due to weather conditions.
My goal is to finish a 10K run locally. And then I am going to run overseas, probably in Japan or South Korea. After that, marathons in the US or France will be an option. I am especially looking forward to the Cherry Marathon in South Korea or the Marathon du Médoc in France.
Because I can’t wait to experience running a course blanketed with a pink canvas of cherry blossom trees. Or running between vineyards and performing wine tasting along the way. Just thinking about the fun of these courses — keeps me motivated in my training.
I understand right now everyone has stopped thinking of traveling due to the pandemic. However, I have no doubt the pandemic will pass. And I am not stopping my future plans with things happening now but will end in the near future.
Yes, my 9K run this October has been canceled. And yes, the Cherry Marathon next April might be canceled as well. Yet the world doesn’t end in the next year.
The world may have entered a new normal mode, but the world will go on.
Thus, I am not suspending the training or any other plans to get myself ready. For the upcoming future — the marathons or any other goals of mine.