Be Smart, Careful and Respectful, But Keep Training

BRIAN METZLER | March 31, 2020

Admittedly, this spring is a tough time to be thinking about our own personal running goals. With the dangerous and debilitating COVID-19 pandemic, there are more important concerns around the world and around the block.

For the time being, we can be grateful for our health and that we can still go running smartly and safely, even though limited by shelter-in-place regulations and social distancing practices. With races big and small being canceled or postponed, it might be hard to stay focused. But if you look at it from a glass-half-full perspective, you can actually train better because of the extended approach to your next race, says Boulder, Colo., coach David Roche.

Roche believes recreational athletes who adapt to the current situations and find ways to refocus on training could experience big breakthroughs by the fall. Developing consistency, doing regular core strength workouts, eating better, getting more sleep, and figuring out a way to maintain a work/life/family balance are some of the touchpoints that can be improved during this unique and trying time in the world.

“It’s not like you go run the most miles you ever have or anything like that,” Roche says. “But it is a time to do the training to where you want to go. That doesn’t mean you even know where you’re going. It’s just the idea of self-belief. If we don’t have races to train for, what are we training for? We’re training to find out what we’re capable of, and that’s independent of a race in the next few months.”

Don’t worry about specific training for a race, but instead focus on being consistent and thinking about long-term development and what kind of runner you want to be a year or two down the road.

“The way I like athletes to think about this is in a framework of long-term training without interruptions,” Roche says. “It’s not that much different in some ways than the period from December when you’re restarting your season. Every single breakthrough I have ever seen — and by breakthrough I mean people reaching a new level of performance — is preceded by one of these long, uninterrupted stretches of focused training. Yes, this is a very difficult time in the world and we should take caution and be safe with training, but this can be breakthrough season, too.

It’s not just the millions of recreational runners who are going through this, but elite, professional runners, too. The International Olympic Committee announced on March 24 that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be postponed to 2021 and later USA Track & Field announced the U.S. Olympic Trials track and field championships would suffer the same fate. 

“We’re all in this together,” says Lee Troop, the Boulder, Colo.-based coach of a dozen elite runners, including newly minted U.S. Olympic marathoner Jake Riley. “We all have to make the best of a bad situation.”

First and foremost, Troop says, it’s all about having a proper perspective and realizing that a lot people are losing their jobs and getting sick and dying. Take care of yourself and your family and those around you the best you can, he says, but know that running can be part of the way you do that.

Understanding the proper time and focus on training is something that’s always important when training for a race, but it’s especially crucial now as we get through this challenging time. Being mindful and soaking in the benefits of a daily workout can make everything else in your life go more smoothly.

“We will eventually get out of this, but trying to remain positive is extremely difficult at best,” he adds. “But if you can get outdoors and do a run, the adrenaline you can get from doing a hard tempo run or the endorphin release you can get from doing a hard hill workout are still there. There might be no racing options at the moment, but the join and the thrill of being able to get out and run — providing that they’re social distancing — isn’t lost.” 

Coach David Roche and JackRabbit Runner Laura Cortez in closer and happier times!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRIAN METZLER

Brian Metzler is the author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes” (2019, VeloPress). He has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado. 

He's the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine. He's the author of "Running Colorado's Front Range" and the co-author of "Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running" and "Run Like a Champion: An Olympian's Approach for Every Runner."

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