The New Rules of Running Now


Welcome to the Running newsletter! Every Saturday morning, we email runners with news, advice and some motivation to help you get up and running. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

Dear Readers,

Here we are, another Saturday into our new, unsettled world. Are you hanging in there? I am, and doing better with the anxiety I wrote about last week (thanks in part to teletherapy). Running with my dog helps — I hope running is helping you, too.

As Jodi Kantor writes in the new “Dilemmas” column, it’s difficult to balance the risks of going outside against the benefits of going outside. A study published this week suggests that the virus can linger in the air for as long as half an hour, raising concerns about exposure even when nobody is around. In France, going out to exercise is now allowed only once a day, for one hour.

In the constant flow of distressing news this week, something that ordinarily would be a huge story may have almost gotten lost: the 2020 Olympics have been postponed to 2021. We have full analysis of that decision, and the monumental task ahead in making this shift happen. Want to know more about what’s happening with canceled sports? You can sign up for our Sports newsletter too.

Despite all that we know (and don’t know) about Covid-19, we know that with gyms closed, running is becoming increasingly popular right now.

For all you new runners out there, welcome! Here’s some advice on how to get started:

Whatever shoes and clothes you have are fine. Normally I’d tell you to go out and get fitted for a new pair of running shoes, and to try to find clothes that are not made of cotton (because cotton gets wet with sweat and then flops around). But right now? Pick a comfortable pair of sneakers and whatever feels good on your body. Remember, Rocky became a legend in a gray sweatsuit. Your work-in-the-yard shorts or high school reunion T-shirt will do just fine.

Pick an easy goal. You don’t need to run five miles or even a mile on your first go. How about around the block? Or to the mailbox and back? Or walk to that light pole, run to the corner, then walk to the next intersection? There’s nothing wrong with walk breaks. I still sometimes take them, and my running habit is old enough to be in high school.

Also record your workout: how far you ran, and in what time. You don’t need a GPS watch to do this. Your smartphone’s health tracker works, or you can use a free running app. You can also go back and trace your path with this pedometer. Writing things down allows you to chart your progress, which can provide a psychological boost.

Leave the headphones at home. If you’ve never run, or haven’t run in a while, it’s easy to forget that it is a very strange feeling. You’re hurtling your body through space, then crash stopping it every time your foot hits the ground. Anything not strapped down is going to hurtle and crash with you. At the same time, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings, so that if you are about to cross paths with another person, you can make sure to maintain a six-foot distance. Running feels a bit like a game of Frogger right now. You need to use all of your available senses to make sure you don’t accidentally run into someone. So headphones can stay home for now.

Run again. That’s it! If you’re looking for guidance, our “How to Start Running” guide has an easy schedule. Consistency might be difficult, especially if you’re still heading into work and your schedule is all over the place, or you’re trying to work from home, or you’re trying to work from home and manage your kids’ schooling at the same time while also dealing with the crushing anxiety and stress of living through a global pandemic.

As with many things right now, be kind to yourself and your new running habit. A lot is going on. Running can help, but it shouldn’t be an additional stressor.

And for everyone who is running in these difficult times:

Most of us are running responsibly, but some are not. Crowds of people disregarding social distancing rules have been so bad in places like the 606 Trail in Chicago, Runyon Canyon Park in California and my beloved Valley Forge National Historic Park that all of these places are now closed. Do you want to be in a position where your best option to run a marathon is a balcony? Then knock it off.

My mom called me in tears Tuesday because she said she didn’t feel safe running outside based on how people were crowding her local park. Stop making my mom cry! (We mapped out a route that’s not as pretty, but less crowded, and she’s running again, while also doing workouts indoors.)

When you run outside, keep six feet away from everyone else (except anyone you’ve been self-isolating with in your home). And no spitting! Let’s keep running outside an option for everyone.

  • Updated June 5, 2020

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

If you’ve tried running outside and just feel too anxious about crowds, Wirecutter, the New York Times’s product reviewing company, has treadmill recommendations. But if you are sheltering in place by yourself, you may not be able to safely set it up alone — take note of any recommendations of how many people are needed to lift the box the treadmill comes in (whether you’re buying from this guide or not). Wirecutter has also rounded up free workouts to do from home right now.

How are you running through this? Let me know — I’m on Twitter @byjenamiller. New runners, send me your questions too. I’m here to help.

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