Running in COVID crisis

Running safely in the COVID crisis

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Andrew L. Rosen, MD

I certainly never thought I would be writing a blog post of this nature. Overnight, the way our society deals with exercise has been completely altered. With gyms closed, no access to yoga, pilates studios and kickboxing studios, running has become one of the safest forms of aerobic exercise at this point. Here are a few pointers on how to do it safely.

Run only if you feel well
If you don’t feel perfect, don’t run! Don’t put yourself or others at risk if you have any upper respiratory symptoms at all. Seek proper medical help and testing if needed before pushing yourself and potentially risking your health.

Respect social distancing guidelines
Running outside is a great way to get a small escape from home confinement and get some exercise. Running in a large group is no longer an option but solo running or with an appropriately distanced friend should still be safe and fine for weekly exercise. Be sure to give all runners (friends included) a wide berth when passing or crossing each other. Pretend that every person you see has the infection and stay away while exercising. There is no direct evidence that COVID spreads through sweat but do your best to steer clear of direct contact with other runners.

Practice good ‘sterile technique’
The best rule is to pretend that every solid object has been contaminated with COVID. Try to avoid touching doors, park benches, water fountains, etc…. Avoid touching your face or mouth when you run. When you arrive home, throw your clothing into the washer for a hot water wash and give the bottom of your shoes an appropriate antiseptic wipe and then
wash your hands carefully.

Don’t overtrain
Most of us have time limits on our weekly running that have now sadly vanished. With lots of extra time on our hands it’s challenging to avoid the temptation to push our running to 7 days a week and hit some extra mileage. Long distance training at this point can potentially decrease our immune strength and increase the risk of COVID infection. Pushing too hard could also potentially risk an overuse injury such as tendonitis or a stress fracture which could be difficult to treat with physical therapy or MRI studies which should be on hold to keep social distancing. With all races cancelled for many months to come, watch your training carefully and use the time to build some nice safe base training mileage.

Watch your spit!
It may seem silly, but many runners need to clear their oral or nasal secretions with spitting while they run. Just watch carefully on where you aim and respect the 6 foot rule when doing what you need to. If you are the victim of poorly placed saliva, don’t wipe it off your clothing but strip down when you get home and wash the clothing carefully in hot water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer and then shower with hot water and soap.

Build core strength and work on flexibility
Use the extra time on your hands and rest days (at least one or 2 per week is best) to focus on home exercise that can improve your running and get you stronger for future training. A simple google search for ‘home exercises for runners’ can provide lots of great options for simple stretching and strengthening workouts that don’t require a gym.

I can't wait to write another post on how great it is to hear people complain about filled-up running classes, crowded races, race fans insisting on high-fives and getting locked out of their favorite races. That looks like along way away but if we all do our part to prevent transmission, we can certainly help our future.