What am I training for?

two ladies running on a beach

As runners and cyclists we have had a dreadful time of it, with floods everywhere, mud bath trails and high winds cancelling events. Now, just as we were feeling spring in the air and that excitement that warmer training and longer days bring we have a new kid on the block. The coronavirus or Covid-19 is causing havoc across the world and its presence is being felt here in the UK, with the cancellation of most sporting events and now all our social training groups. I’ve seen many comments on social media: ‘I’m not actually sure what I’m training for’, ‘running for therapy’ ‘running for life’, ‘running for love’. It is exactly this! If nothing else this situation will remind us of why we train and run. It’ll take us back to the reason we first started on our journeys and quite possibly rekindle the love affair. For this article we are going to focus on us runners, as so far they have been the most affected. The Triathlon season hasn’t yet been affected severely, but a few of the early season duathlons have been cancelled and May triathlons, and we do expect many more to postponed and cancelled. Don’t feel left out, we will write more for our triathletes later this week.

Most of the postponed marathons and Ultra marathons have been moved into later summer and early Autumn. First things first, can you make the new proposed date for the races, if they have been announced. This immediately gives you a longer term goal and a focus for your training, once the social restrictions and risks of infection are reduced. You may still be left wondering, but thats still 6 months away and I’ve wasted all my long runs in the wind and rain. You haven’t! Endurance training stays with us a long time, you don’t just lose it, it takes months and even years to disappear. you have built an initial good base, none of that training or mental strength will be lost. Here’s the truth, you will lose speed if you don’t train at all. So work on that. Yep we have no races for the foresable, but you can still train for a solo time trial in 6 weeks time or set yourself other short term goals. The big thing you can work on, even if we have to lock down completely is strength and conditioning. Use the time saved from commuting, short runs and no kids clubs taxi driving to work on your weaknesses. All those exercises your physio and coach told you to work on. Now is the time! Work on drills in your back garden, balance fundamentals, core trunk strength, hip mobility, glute activation, upper body strength and those pesky calf raises.

Long runs are the one area we suggest you cut back. In the period shortly after a long run or longer race (half marathon upwards) your body is in a state of glycogen depletion and your immune system does not work as effectively as normal. If you are used to running long, and very good at fuelling before, during and after your runs, you should be OK to run long, but we suggest no longer that 3 hours. We would recommend other runners, those not used to running marathons regularly, or those with at risk conditions (see the advice on the government pages) or over 60 to not run longer than 2 hours. Keep an eye on your heart rate, general overall feeling and level of effort. If in doubt of anything cut your run short. Keep your glycogen stores stocked up and fuel immediately after your run and get warm. As coaches we have reduced the long runs for most of our athletes for these exact reasons. We have been warned against training in groups by the England athletics governing body until further notice, so do follow advice and train in smaller groups or solo staying in touch virtually and always carry a phone. Do not train or put others at risk if you are suffering with any of the advised symptoms. Us runners are hardy folk who like to push our bodies through everything, now is not the time for complacency. If you have a new persistent cough or temprature or even just feel unwell, do not train and do self isolate.

Above all, stay positive at this difficult time, remember why you run and train, enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, use the opportunity of extra time and look after those around you.