10 Coaches and Trainers on How Quarantine Improved Their Running

Julia Malacoff
by Julia Malacoff
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When you’re forced to change your routine, finding a silver lining is key.

When quarantine due to the global pandemic became a reality, most runners had to adjust their routine in some way. Whether putting race training on hold due to race cancelations, dealing with new crowds on favorite trails, or having way less (or more) time to train — things are undoubtedly different.

Despite the uncertainty, running coaches and trainers have found some unexpected bright spots after reflecting on the past six months. Here, they share how living through lockdown changed their running for the better.

1

LEARNING TO LOVE PAVEMENT

“I describe myself as a die-hard trail runner,” says Heather Hart, an RRCA-certified running coach and exercise physiologist. “Before COVID-19 hit, I would have told you that running on pavement is a last resort.” But suddenly, her local trails were inundated with people. “In an effort to not contribute to the crowds, and to avoid traveling far from home, I started road running again. And while it’s not trails, I realized it’s not so bad after all.”

Hart’s takeaway: “A run is what you make of it. Plus, the monotony is great mental training for ultrarunning! I’ve gone from barely putting in 20 miles a year on pavement to putting in 60–70+ miles a week through my neighborhood, on roads and sidewalks, around endless cul-de-sacs, and waving to all of the oncoming cars. I miss the trails dearly, but I’m glad that I still have the opportunity to run!”

2

HAVING TIME TO DEDICATE TO A ROUTINE

“When I was a coach at a gym, I had little time to put in mileage outside of the studio walls,” says Amanda Katz, a certified personal trainer. “Most of my running was done on a treadmill — even long runs. Since lockdown, I’ve gone out for a run 3–4 times a week and learned how much I enjoy the quiet stillness. I ran my first half-marathon solo in Central Park in celebration of what my body was capable of, and because the actual race got canceled. I also have more time to prep my body before a run, do post-run strength work, and do myofascial release.”

3

BUILDING A HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIP WITH TRAINING

“Right now running has no pressure,” says Alexandra Weissner, an RRCA-certified running coach co-founder of bRUNch Running. “If I don’t feel like running in the morning, I don’t — and I don’t have a panic attack about it. Being able to bring more flexibility into approaching my running makes me feel like I’m having a healthier relationship with my sweat sessions. Plus, I’m seeing fewer injuries. I have the tendency to overtrain, and this is completely showing me that I can get strong without running for hours on end.”

4

PRIORITIZING STRENGTH

“Personally, I’m doing all easy aerobic runs and minimizing speed and tempo work,” says Scott Kolbe, a certified triathlon coach. “I am more focused on strength work as well. The goal is stay healthy and work on core strength. Most of my athletes are doing the same in their training plans.”

5

GOING AFTER A LONG-HELD GOAL

“As a running coach, I knew I was going to spend a lot of time talking with athletes about finding a new ‘why’ and new goal as quarantine continued,” explains Amanda Brooks, a certified personal trainer and running coach. “I’ve always wanted to do an ultramarathon, but had too many races or other things that caused me to put it to the side,” Brooks says. “Now, I’m putting the finishing touches on the mental belief that I can do this and plan to head out for a solo 50K in September. For me, this is about the challenge of finding out what I can do, so I decided to put aside the worry of a race happening or not.”

6

TAKING THE STRESS OUT OF RUNNING

“One major area that quarantine has impacted is my stress levels,” says Kent Pecora, a professional runner and coach for Tagalong. “The unknown of when I’d be able to toe the line and face off against my competition was a mental burden that weighed me down. I asked myself multiple times: ‘What am I training for?’ and ‘Why am I even doing this workout? You don’t know when you’re going to race!’”

Though Pecora doesn’t have the answers, he tried to turn these questions into opportunities for positivity. “‘What am I training for?’ became ‘I’m training to be in shape, and I don’t have a deadline for when I need to reach that point,’” he says. “Looking at it from that perspective, it’s not a destination to reach, but a path to a healthy lifestyle. I’ve allowed many of my daily runs to be a healthy lifestyle choice as a stress reliever and mental break versus a strict training run. I’ve allowed myself to loosen the reins and enjoy the journey.”


READ MORE > 6 RUNNING GOALS THAT AREN’T RACES


7

FINDING COMFORT IN RUNNING AS A CONSTANT

“Going through the pandemic has reminded me of the importance of being self-motivated and independent,” notes Kate Goupee, the head cross-country and track and field coach at Husson University. “Personally, I’ve found that running has strengthened and reinforced those qualities in me over the decades.”

“The simplicity of running has always been there, but I now appreciate the steadiness and consistency of the activity,” Goupee says. “While work, school, child care, home life and social interaction have all changed, I can still go out on a trail and run. It’s one of the few things that has not changed in all of this. I can still move freely in the woods with no mask and no people. It’s just me and nature. I value having this consistency in my life when we are all in the midst of chaos.”

8

FOCUSING ON “EASY RUNNING” AND BREATHWORK

Sally Drake of Sally Drake Endurance Coaching has been experimenting with nose breathing. “It can deliver more oxygen to active tissues,” she says. “I love it, and some of my clients have enjoyed trying it as well.” She’s also used this time to practice deeper breathing during runs. “I’m focusing more on breathing and taking longer breaths or calming myself with breathing. I find while I am running I can actually lower my heart rate 1–2 beats a minute just by focusing on longer breaths and relaxing my body.”

9

SWITCHING TO TOUGHER TERRAIN

“Running has changed for me, as I now do most of my running on the beach,” says Chris Cucchiara, a certified personal trainer. “It has been much more challenging for me, and essentially made my normal running seem easier.”

10

DOING MORE SPEED WORK

Normally a big proponent of cross-training, Stephanie Blozy, an exercise science expert and owner of Fleet Feet, used to do two pure running sessions a week plus four cross-training sessions at a CrossFit gym. “But during quarantine, my gym was closed and I wasn’t running with my training program participants, so I began to do more hybrid workouts that incorporated fast-paced running and intervals. Sometimes, I would add a mile run before and after my workout, aiming for a peppy pace. Other times, I’d include 200m and 400m sprint intervals in the workout: For example: 5–10 rounds of 25 air squats, 15 lunges, 10 pushups and a 200m run. I got comfortable with running hard even when I was tired and out of breath.”

The results: “I ran my fastest mile in 10 years and improved my 200m time by 10 seconds during the 3 months my gym was closed.” Though Blozy loves distance running, speed work is now a focus. “I even started a socially-responsible weekly track workout in conjunction with my town’s parks and rec department to help others get faster and stronger by running harder and shorter, too. I am definitely looking forward to the time when we can all race again because I think there are going to be a lot of fast times!”

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” — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.

About the Author

Julia Malacoff
Julia Malacoff

Julia (@jmalacoff) is a former fashion editor turned health and fitness buff who writes about all things lifestyle—especially workouts and food. Based in Amsterdam, she bikes every day and travels around the world in search of tough sweat sessions and the best vegetarian fare.

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