20 Simple Running Tips to Bust Through the Pandemic Wall

20 Simple Running Tips to Bust Through the Pandemic Wall

We’re approaching a milestone that we could not have foreseen a year ago when races fell off the calendar one by one, lighting up a board of red ‘x’s like flight cancellations in a winter storm. Now, you’re still avoiding running on your favorite trail because it’s too crowded with too many people who aren’t wearing masks. Your gym is closed so you can’t run on the treadmill when it rains or take that kickboxing class you relied on to hone your agility. You’re working out in front of your TV in your living room that doubles as your office or your kid’s schoolroom. Your running calendar is blank and your training is sporadic. Pandemic fatigue has set in and it’s hard to stay motivated to maintain your fitness.

If the pandemic was a marathon, you’d recognize immediately that you’d hit the wall: your legs are heavy, your reserves are depleted and you can’t take even one more step. You’re done with it. You’d pull out the script you tell yourself at mile 20, when you know you have 6.2 more to go. You’d give yourself a pep talk to reach the finish line. But the pandemic end is nowhere in sight and the finish line is vague; it might be in the spring or the summer. Maybe next fall. So how do you break through the wall and keep going? In a race, sometimes all it takes is an encouraging word from the runner next to you – also struggling in those last miles – to get you to mile 21. It could be as simple as “hey, run with me, we can do it together.” So we’re that runner. We’re here to help.

Here are 20 tips to help you break through the pandemic wall and motivate you to get out there and keep moving:

Connect With a Running Community

1. Find an accountability buddy. Running with a friend who shares your fitness goals keeps you both accountable, and knowing you’ve made plans to run with someone, pushes both of you to keep your workout commitment. Reach out to a friend who runs at the same pace you do and plan out your workouts together. Prepare all your gear the night before so you can be sure to honor your running “date” the next morning. If you’re looking for a new running partner, connect with the RaceMob community or a local running club in your area.
Running Buddies John and Iraj Photo Credit Iraj Zarrinnaal

Running Buddies John and Iraj (Photo Credit: Iraj Zarrinnaal)

2. Commit to a regular weekly run with a small running group. Ongoing Covid-19 restrictions may yet curtail larger gatherings and all of us are craving the camaraderie of our running groups. But meeting up one day a week with a smaller contingent of runners in your fitness social bubble gives you something to look forward to and keeps all of you accountable. If you’ve been running alone, committing to a small squad of running
friends can inspire you to stay focused. Pick the same day each week to run 10K early in the morning. If you run on Monday, you’ll start off the week feeling accomplished and energized.

3. Inspire a less-motivated friend. The past year has been hard on everyone. You can be certain you’re not the only one struggling. Reach out to that friend who’s told you they haven’t run in weeks and ask them to join you for a run or walk. Encouraging someone else will help motivate you as well.

4. Reach out to a friend with a dog and ask to join them on a walk. Or if you are the pet parent, ask a friend to come along with you to the dog park. It’s an opportunity to catch up, and get in some fitness.
Photo Credit Jodi Lee

Friendly competition at the track

Change Your Routine and Try Something New

5. Add new music to your familiar playlist. Your favorite artist just released new music so add some tunes to your usual playlist; pick an entirely new selection to inspire your run and lift your spirits; or work on your running cadence with music synced to 170-180 strides per minute.

6. Listen to a new podcast. Got an hour for a run on the roads or tails? You’ve also got time to listen to a podcast full of useful information and inspirational stories. Recent RaceMob podcasts have included interviews with: Mike (Kofuzi) Ko, YouTube running influencer; John Brust, RCCA Club President, coach and community guide; Adam Welcome, educator and author; Bree Lambert, coach, ultra runner, and co-founder of Egg Weights; and Joyce Lee, 2800+ day running streaker, to name a few.
RaceMob podcast

The RaceMob Podcast

7. Run a new route. Add some variety to your running routine and go somewhere new. Choose a different neighborhood to explore. Take a running tour of your downtown area, where you might find art in unexpected places (e.g., murals painted on city buildings). Use a run tracking app like Strava to guide you through a new area. You can even create your own GPS running route art. One ambitious runner in the Bay Area mapped out a 50 mile route, drawing an ox – the symbol of the Lunar New Year. It took him 10 hours to run it. If you primarily run on roads, step on to the trail; if you’re a trail runner, switch back to roads for a day. Mix up your usual route and run it in reverse.

8. Run at a different time. If you always run in the morning, try a late afternoon run. Catch the sunset with a run in early evening. Run during your lunch break. The slightest change will help keep your running fresh.

Add Speedwork

9. Run fartleks. Mix up your pace during your regular workout with “fartleks,” Swedish for “speed play.” Pick a marker on the road or trail, such as a fire hydrant, a road sign, or a tree, and sprint to it. Slow your pace to the next one. Alternate sprint and recovery pace
intervals as you continue your run. Or set longer intervals for yourself: run your first mile at half-marathon pace; the next one at 10K pace; and speed up to 5K pace. Changing your pace throughout your run challenges you to adapt to varying speeds and helps keep it interesting.

10. Run 3 5Ks in a row. Be creative on a longer run to test your fitness. Break your run into segments and run each 3.1 miles faster than the previous set. You’ll improve your overall time in the process.

11. Have a friendly competition at the track. Keep up with speedwork even if your regular track group might not meet in person. Take a friend with you and do the workout together. If you’re not already doing track drills, now is a great time to start. Here’s an example of a simple track workout: start with 3-5 minutes of dynamic warm-up exercises (e.g., jumping jacks, high knees, butt kickers); then do 2 x 400 meters warm-up jog at easy, conversation pace; 3-2-1 drill (3 min. easy pace, 2 min. at 5K pace, 1 min. maximum effort sprint); 2 x 1600 meters (4 laps) at 5K pace with 400 meters recovery jog between each set; 4 x 200 meters at 5K pace with 200 meters recovery jog between sets; finish with 1 x 400 meter cool down jog (reverse direction).
At the track friendly competition at the track Photo Credit Kate Beekler La Barbera

At the track friendly competition at the track Photo Credit Kate Beekler La Barbera

12. Run Hills. Hill work doubles as speedwork because you use the same fast-twitch muscles climbing hills as you do in sprints at the track. The payoff for that increased elevation? Improved strength and endurance. And, it makes running on flat roads that much easier. Run a long route with rolling hills and embrace the challenge, or pick a short hill with a steady climb and run hill repeats. Run 1-2 miles to warm up; 3-8 hill repeats with hard effort on the way up and recovery jog back down; end with a 1-2 mile cool down.

Set Goals for Yourself

13. Train for your goal race. While live, in-person races are still uncertain, putting your goal race on your calendar can motivate you to keep up your training, and come race day – whether it’s a live event or a virtual one – you’ll be ready to take it on. For example, the San Francisco Marathon falls on July 25, 2021. An 18-week training schedule starts on March 21. If you map it out now, you’ll have regularly scheduled workouts on your calendar and goals to meet each week.

14. Sign up for a running mileage challenge. Virtual races may have taken the place of actual events for the time being, and aren’t really substitutes for the real thing, but creative mileage challenges are an alternative “race” format to keep you involved in maintaining your fitness. These challenge events give you a long window in which to reach your mileage goal. Make doing the challenge a firm commitment: sign up for it, and log your miles on the site’s leaderboard each day. You’ll see how others are doing in the challenge and you can post your mileage segments on social media to keep yourself accountable. Here are a few challenges to check out:

Learn New Training Techniques from a Pro

15. Seek out a coach or trainer. Working with a professional running coach or trainer can elevate your running to another level and motivate you to improve your overall fitness. After evaluating your current fitness level, running form, and goals, your coach will identify areas you can work on and lay out a training plan for you to follow. RaceMob’s, RRCA-certified head coach, Bertrand Newsom, works with athletes of all abilities and can help you to: prepare for your next race; shave off time to achieve a personal best; prepare for a goal race; lose weight; hone your nutrition; and improve your performance.

Explore Nature and Relax While Getting in Some Fitness

16. Run a trail. Get off-road! Reconnect with nature, enjoy the serenity and take in some beautiful scenery. Here in the Bay Area, there are trails to match every running ability: Quicksilver County Park, Sierra Azul, Santa Teresa County Park, and Mt. Umunhum in Almaden Valley; Alum Rock Park in East San Jose; Rancho San Antonia in Cupertino; Pinnacles National Park near Hollister; Uvas Canyon County Park in Morgan Hill; Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont; and Purisma Creek Redwoods Preserve near Half Moon Bay, just to name a few. If you’re not familiar with the trails in your area, GPS apps like alltrails offer turn-by-turn mapping to guide you on your trail journey. For beginner trail runners, tag along with an experienced friend who knows the terrain and what to expect. Be mindful of wildlife – you’re in their habitat.
Alum rock park bridge: Alum Rock Park

Alum rock park bridge: Alum Rock Park

17. Go for a Hike. A slow hike is the perfect time for conversation and mindfulness as you walk along a path or trail. Bring your non-running friends or family members along, and spend time with each other.

Take a Break from Running

18. Cross train. Schedule a cross-training day into your weekly workouts. Swim, if you can schedule lane time at your local Y. Go for a bike ride or spin. Do strength-training, core work or cross fit. And while you may not be able to attend yoga or pilates class in person right now, there are virtual options so you can keep up with your practice.

19. Go for a walk. Just get outside and walk in your neighborhood. Take a break at lunch, whether you’re working in an office or working from home. Take your kids to the park and walk as a family while your kids ride their bikes or scooters. Pick a destination and walk to the coffee place or donut shop. A friend we know even runs to a restaurant he loves just to pick up his favorite dish served as a daily special. His wife drives over to retrieve him!

20. Take a rest day. Plan a day of recovery and build rest days into your weekly running plan. It’s really OK if you don’t run every day. Practice self-care: get extra sleep; pay
attention to your nutrition; read; play with your pet; focus on your mental health; and take a day off from running. You’ll prevent overuse injuries and be refreshed for your next workout.

Girl on grass

Take a rest day and relax

Incorporate a few of these suggestions into your usual fitness lineup and let us know in the comments what’s working for you.

Stay safe out there.

By: Barbara Zirl

Barbara is co-editor-in-chief of content for RaceMob’s blog. A New Jersey native, now living in San Jose, Calif., she is an endurance runner and has finished 33 big city marathons, including Boston (4 times), New York, Philadelphia, Hartford, and the Marine Corps Marathon on the east coast; and the California International Marathon, Oakland, and San Francisco on the west. Barbara is a freelance writer, editor, and creative storyteller with her own blog, and is writing a memoir.
Website: https://www.barbarazirl.com/
About Barbara: https://www.barbarazirl.com/about