Training through interruptions, uncertainty, closures and other things that happen in life…oh, and how to train (happily) alone.
Runners, like many athletes and people, like routine and stability. They like to know when they are going to train, who is going to be there, what their heart rate is going to be, and what they are going to eat after their run. Training can often provide an illusion of certainty for people who live in a world that is uncertain by nature. We really never know what is around the corner, but we can control our workouts, our heart rate and our caloric intake.
Well, life happens, and every now and then the rug is pulled out from underneath our feet and we are left with 2 choices: get up and run as fast as we can to pretend it didn’t happen, which is denial, or we can allow ourselves to stay in the moment, as uncomfortable as it is, and then practice kindness to ourselves and others to come up with reasonable solutions.
We are in the thick of a pandemic, with COVID-19. The rug has been pulled out from under our feet; in fact it feels as if the whole foundation has been moved off kilter. This is frightening for some, and every day is changing. We can choose to be angry, or to deny what’s happening around us, or we can choose to be awake, and to act in the best possible way for the good of all.
The impact of this virus on the community created a cascade of effects for everybody. For active people, including runners, clinics have been cancelled, gyms, yoga studios, and pools have been closed. Not just restricted, but closed indefinitely.
All events are cancelled. Schools are closed, as are day cares, so people with young children are now dealing with working from home, and caring for children, and trying to care for themselves. For many people, training daily is part of their emotional well-being, and is a physical and emotional regulator, so at a personal level, I understand how challenging this can be.
Here are a few tips about how to train right now with some advice about time management, but also some suggestions on how you can train your brain to relax as well, and perhaps how taking a good look at your expectations will allow you to feel more grounded at this time.
When things go drastically sideways in our lives, I feel we have two options, we can turn to kindness, or we can turn to aggression. How do you want to work with this? You had a wonderful plan, you had it all worked out and now it’s all up in the air. Well, here’s the thing folks. This right now is the beautiful plan in this uncertain world. You can wish it was different (aggression) or you can work with it (kindness).
This includes, and starts with kindness or aggression to ourselves, by the way. When we choose kindness, we are essentially letting ourselves accept whatever has happened, that it is difficult, and we can handle it. We don’t make it more difficult by resisting it and wishing it would go away or making it someone else’s fault.
If you choose the first option, kindness, you have 2 choices with respect to your training:
Choice A: Move to Plan B. Be flexible, and come up with some solutions to continue training.
Choice B: Decide you are on a break (active recovery) for 2 weeks to buy yourself some time to grieve the loss of your well-oiled routine and adjust to change: you may train or you may not, but either way is OK.
If you take Choice B: Take Active Recovery
Run a little, or walk every day, for some fresh air. Switch to hiking and biking with your children if you can do little else. Join a free online yoga class, meditation practice or start one of the many online home fitness classes. Take your foot off the gas and glide for a while.
If you choose A: also known at Plan B, C or D:
Gather support by Communicating
Go social if this works for you. Create groups and accountability and online sharing. Get an online coach or an online fitness program.
Have kids? Train early
Get it in before the day starts; more than likely, everybody will still be sleeping when you return, so you haven’t missed anything and you’ve gained a Zen like start to your day.
Take advantage of free ME time when it comes your way
If you are a parent of young ones who relies on childminding or pre-schools for time to fit in your training, training will be a challenge right now, but if you suddenly find yourself with 30 minutes of free time, because someone is with the kids, that might be your window of opportunity for the day. Lace up the shoes and get out the door.
Be flexible and adventurous and have an attitude of curiosity
You might have to get up earlier, train at odd hours, or drop a training session. Chances are, if you are an active parent, you have already mastered the skills of “creative time management, training and childcare”: here’s the chance to test out what you have learned. Drop your expectations of the perfect training - just enjoy wherever you are and whatever you can do.
How to Train Alone
For many runners, especially the introverts of the world, training alone is already the norm, so running, becomes once again, the Easiest Fitness Activity on Earth. For those of you social types, already in withdrawal without your clinic or run group to motivate and keep you going, please know that this won’t be forever and there is only one way to train alone:
Just go train alone
You are doing your bit for the health of everybody by doing so. Running is messy. We sweat, we snot, we spit and we breathe A LOT. I personally would rather do all that alone right now. I wrote an article about training alone here.
You can fight it every step of the way and wish it wasn’t so, or you can simply go train alone. Who knows, maybe you will even enjoy the solitude after a few times. Set your schedule, just as if you have your gym, or your group, and stick to it. Get it done. Be proud of yourself.
I was having a discussion with my daughter (also a runner) recently, about runners and seriousness. We are a serious bunch, us runners. Serious about mileage, diet and racing plans and personal bests. If we can learn anything right now, maybe it will be to simply lighten up a bit, find some humour in ourselves for being human. Let ourselves relax and be kind to ourselves and others in these difficult circumstances.
Run For Joy
Fuel Your Soul
Note: I get a lot of my ideas for writing about running, from both my experiences as a runner and a coach, and from my life experience outside of running. I have gained a lot of insight into the way we habitually act and react to uncertainty, and create our own suffering, from the words of Buddhist teachers, Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield. For me, their teaching just makes sense. I got the inspiration for this article after reading chapter 19 in Chodron’s popular book: “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”. The Chapter is aptly called “Three Methods for Working with Chaos”, and starts with the quote:
The main point of these methods is to dissolve the dualistic struggle, or our habitual tendency to struggle against what’s happening to us or in us. These methods instruct us to move towards difficulties rather than backing away. We don’t get this encouragement very often.
Common sense and a sense of humour.