Chances are if you describe yourself as a runner, you really like to run. Ask any runner when the last time they strength-trained was, for example, and more often than not, you’ll get the response: “I know I should, but …” Hey, we get it. When you find something you like, you do it often. But there are loads of benefits for runners who mix up their training routines, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Right now, working out should feel enjoyable and not put added stress on the body,” says Lindsey Clayton, RRCA-certified run coach and instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp. “Now is the perfect time to try out different things that can complement your love for running, and actually make you a stronger runner in the long term.”
The good news is different activities are complementary to running and can help bulletproof your body and keep on moving as you age. Since research shows the incidence of running-related injury among amateur runners is as high as 17.8% for every 1,000 hours of running, now is the perfect time to do some investigative work and see which ones really resonate with your personality and tastes.
“At the end of the day, running is so much more than just running,” says Amber Reese, RRCA-certified run coach and co-founder of the Brave Body Project. “There are a lot of bricks that can lay the foundation to make you better on the road, trail or track, if you’re open to them, all of which are equally as important as lacing up your shoes.”
Now is the time to take advantage of the extra time we have at home, and become a stronger runner in the process. Here, the experts weigh in on what runners should be doing right now aside from running:
Adding some strength work into your weekly schedule can add years to your life, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers found those who trained regularly decreased their risk of early death by 23%. A bonus, when you take into account other perks, like an increase in running economy and endurance. Plus, you don’t necessarily have to lift the biggest barbells to see a noticeable difference — good news for those who don’t have the same access to gym equipment they did pre-pandemic. Clayton recommends beginning with two days per week of basic bodyweight movements that target the posterior chain, including squats, single-leg squats to a chair or bench and single-leg deadlifts.
Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, cycling is an effective way for runners to cross-train. Not only can it boost cardiovascular fitness, helping your heart and lungs to work better over time, but it’s also non-impact. In other words, if you’re dealing with any running-related injuries, tackling a few sessions on the bike could provide your body with the reprieve it needs, without the impact forces of running. Also: Cycling recruits a slew of muscles — from the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves — which are essential to your running stride.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an elite athlete who doesn’t integrate some sort of a meditation and mindfulness practice into their training regularly. It’s no wonder: Meditation can do everything from stave off anxiety and depression to help you make fewer errors. “Meditation can help you find calm when a run feels really difficult,” says Reese. “By coming back into your body, you can see some major performance gains.”
Yoga has so many perks, but one applicable to the coronavirus pandemic is it can be done in very little space with little-to-no equipment. When it comes to running, yoga can help recruit and strengthen the muscles used during your stride. Plus, adding some downward dog helps with increased flexibility and balance as well as boosts immunity at a cellular level, in turn building the body’s defense.
Don’t panic, rest is a good thing! While there are plenty of virtual races, many of the big races on the calendar throughout 2020 have been postponed. Instead of letting the shift stress you, Clayton says now is the perfect time to give back to your body. “If you don’t feel like running, then don’t run,” she says. “Yes, movement is important, but so is listening to your body. Take this time to find other outlets for your energy that give back to your body, even if that means that running takes a backseat.”
Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” and set your next goal — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.