by Keith Anderson
We are living in unprecedented times. Living through a world emergency that is testing our health and medical services to breaking point. It’s going to be the worst thing that most of us will ever face in our lives, but the only approach we can take to this threat is to follow the Government’s guidelines, respect social distancing, practice good hygiene and stay safe. If we do this, we will beat the virus, we will survive and live to fight another day. It almost seems churlish to talk about exercise and training at this time, but we’re athletes and one of our strengths is the ability to overcome one challenge and focus on the next. With all our races cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future and the government restrictions on people’s movements that are rightly in place, it would be very easy just to lose the plot, not care about exercising and slip into a period of apathy lacking any motivation. However we know that if we train, then we will stay motivated, which means we will look after ourselves and that will mean we will be healthier not only physically but also mentally. I believe that trying to maintain a routine and following a sensible training plan is going to keep you focused, give you a purpose and ensure you stay in good shape. However circumstances may require our training to be slightly different to our normal schedule as gym sessions, classes and swimming pools are all closed. In the short term, we should adopt a slightly different focus with our training. Rather than having a goal race focus which would require pressurised training where it’s important that we get the key sessions done well and achieve a good long run every week, we can take the foot off the gas slightly and have a different focus. We can now use our training in different ways. Sometimes we will just want to get some fresh air and clear our heads as it makes us feel good and that’s part of the reason we run. At other times we will want to work harder to improve our fitness and therefore enjoy a harder training session. I believe we can do both and this will mean that we can enjoy our training and not push our bodies too hard. It also allows us to maintain a good level of fitness but also take this opportunity to work on areas of body conditioning, mobility and flexibility, all of which will helps us be stronger in key areas, maintain a better running style and posture and also help us to recover better and be more injury resistant. So in the short term, I would advise doing some cardiovascular training most days, however what this looks like will depend on your health, current fitness and exercise experience, so it will be different for all of us. For some this may be a brisk walk with a few runs and for others it may well be running almost every day. The key is to achieve a good balance including a mixture of easy and steady runs, some key running sessions including threshold and faster intervals, cross training if you have the equipment, conditioning, mobility and flexibility. It’s important in this time that your training is enjoyable, varied, sometimes challenging but is achievable. This is about more than just fitness. This is also about your overall health, wellbeing and feeling as good as possible in the circumstances. As we start to get through this situation we can then begin to look at new target races and goals. Runners operate best with a goal....something that really gets the juices flowing and something that we can get our teeth stuck into. So we can pencil in those late summer and autumn races in the diary but, for the moment, I think we should wait a while before we get those too set in our minds because we have a way to go yet! In the meantime, let’s focus on some steady running volume with some good key sessions, complimenting strength & conditioning, good mobility and flexibility work. It will help if you can talk to your coach so that your training is being monitored and revised depending on how your body is responding and progressing. I think it also helps if you can use technology to join some live conditioning, Pilates or Yoga sessions online, as this will also give you some social interaction with like-minded people to help with your motivation. This will be a hard race to win and we will win it, but we still have a lot to go through yet before we are back to normal. So it’s important that we get our heads around this new normal and make the best of every day, use this as an opportunity and maintain a sense of rational, try to keep smiling and stay positive.