Self-Quarantine Survival Guide For Runners

The restrictions imposed on many of us are a classic example of external forces outwith our control which we have to adjust our lives around.

Whether you’re stuck in some type of self-isolation, confinement, or have some social distancing restrictions in place where you live, we all have to adjust.

It can be very easy to get de-railed by these unplanned events; especially if you’ve been in training for a race like a marathon which has been postponed, or worse, canceled.

But within the obstacle lies opportunity – there are always things within your control which you can do to improve your situation.

And just because your running and fitness plans have been de-railed, doesn’t mean that you have to give up and roll over.

Here’s our practical guide to staying fit, focussed, and re-shuffling your race plans when the world interrupts them!

self isolation survival guide for runners

How can runners stay in shape during self-isolation?

During self-isolation, runners have both a challenge to stay in shape and maintain their motivation, but also an opportunity to focus on areas and workouts they may have been neglecting.

When running is your sole form of workout, it often leads to muscular imbalances – some muscles get very strong, but others are under-utilized and weaken.  These imbalances can lead to less economical running (i.e. you’re less efficient as you run), and potentially injury.

Being cooped up at home is actually a great opportunity for runners to invest some time in working on flexibility and strengthening some of these neglected muscle groups.

The most common area to start is the hips and upper legs; principally the glutes.

Runners can follow online workouts (no equipment necessary) to work on hips, glutes, piriformis, pelvic floor, core, and upper body. Each of these areas contributes to being a stronger, more powerful runner.

The area many runners will struggle in when working from home is maintaining cardiovascular fitness.

Buying a treadmill or static bike can be an effective way to mimic the longer, medium-intensity cardio workouts we usually get from running.  If that isn’t an option, runners can look at doing jump rope, or following a cardiovascular online bodyweight workout.

Here is my 20-minute follow-along bodyweight workout:

How to run when social distancing is in effect

If your restrictions allow you to go for a run but you have to be socially distanced, it’s important to plan ahead and perhaps adjust your regular routine.

Try to avoid narrow paths or busy routes where you’re likely to come into close contact with others.

Likewise, it’s important to be respectful to others during these times – there is already so much social anxiety, that not maintaining a comfortable distance may make you – or others – uneasy.   If in doubt, slow down to a walk as you approach other people to reassure them that you’re respecting social distancing.

And if it’s an option for you, try and head to a quiet trail.   You’ll be reducing any infection risk, and are less likely to meet others – meaning you can relax into your run a little more.

As for masks and gloves, you should follow the advice of your local government / WHO, but it never hurts to err on the side of caution.

Here’s How To Run With a Mask

restrictions runners at home workout self isolation

How To Stay In Shape While Stuck At Home

Fortunately, we live in the time of endless Youtube home workout videos.

Simply search for ‘runner’s home workout’ and you’ll find a selection.

As a runner, I enjoy doing a mixture of bodyweight exercises and flexibility work during this period of lockdown.

I do a routine of bodyweight squats, lunges, burpees, and push-ups.   The squats and lunges are great for my glutes and legs, while the burpees and push-ups also work out my upper body and provide some cardiovascular work.

I then do a Yoga-based stretching routine, focussing on opening up the hips and general flexibility.   As a runner, I suffer from tight hip and leg muscles; I use stretching and breathing techniques to try and relax this tightness, which helps me reduce the risk of injury.

How To Cope If Your Race Is Cancelled

Like many runners, I’ve had two upcoming races canceled or postponed.

Mentally, it took me a couple of days to accept the fact that the race simply wasn’t happening, and that I had to make other plans.

Once I had accepted this, I realized the opportunity I had to focus on cross-training and other home workout activities – I’ve actually started training to walk on my hands!

It can be extremely deflating to have a race pulled, especially if you were nearing the end of your training. 

My recommendation is to make a commitment to complete the race later (perhaps next year), then move on.   Find another fitness goal to focus on, such as cross-training or body strengthening.

How To Adjust Your Training If Your Marathon Is Postponed (Or Any Other Race)

If your race is postponed, it’s likely you’ve got another 6 months or more until race day.

This means you can hit pause on your marathon training planramp down your running mileage; if you’re still able to go running, you want to simply run enough that you’re maintaining your fitness.  All you need for this is 2 or 3 runs per week, making one of them slightly longer.

If you can’t run outdoors, then hopefully you have access to a treadmill – otherwise, try jump rope, or following a cardio home workout plan.

runners restrictions at home workouts get better self isolation

Should I Do a Virtual Race?

Virtual races are awesome if they’re an option for you.  They allow you to join a race online (usually via an app) while you run alone.   It allows runners who have invested weeks and months in training to complete the distance they’ve trained for, albeit without the crowds and fanfare of a standard race.

Here’s my in-depth guide to How To Run a Virtual Race

While it might not be ‘the real thing’, a Virtual Race is always better than no race, so I’d encourage anyone who has had their race canceled to check it out!

Just ensure you prepare your ‘route’ ahead of time – remember that those aid stations and toilet pit stops are something you have to account for yourself in a Virtual Race.  

I’ve done virtual races where I’ve planned the route to pass by my house a few times – it’s not the most exciting, but it’s an easy opportunity to load up on water, gels, and use the facilities!

Tips For Runners Suffering Due To Restrictions

Keeping on top of your mental game can be one of the biggest challenges, whether you’re in lockdown or otherwise.

It can be extremely easy to fall into bad habits when you’re stuck at home or your normal routine is disrupted.

My recommendation is to make your workout part of your daily routine; mark off each day’s workout on a calendar, have a plan, set targets and goals.   Use apps, sign up for online classes, and share your progress with friends to add a level of accountability.

And see it as a fun opportunity!  Not everything that comes out of this situation has to be negative!

Although it’s extremely frustrating to have a race canceled or postponed, rationalize that you can use the time for focussing on other things.

I’ve actually found it to be a good time for some reflection; I’ve made a list of bucket list races around the world that I’d like to run over the next 10 years or so.   Now I’ve got a roadmap, and something to look forward to once we get out of this crazy situation!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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