Wednesday, June 10, 2020
As a running coach and “guy who runs a lot”, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what to do/how to train during this pandemic. Until now, I’ve been pretty silent on the issue. I think the reasons for my silence have been twofold – first, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t think there’s a right answer; and second, I find that my feelings about it are in contrast to most. I think the reason my views on this are the opposite of a lot of people’s is because I am very much a process oriented person. I don’t run so I can race. I race because I run.
Because I’m weird, I will explain my second point first. I’ve received several emails and text messages from runners asking what they should do and explaining that they were reluctant to commit to running 60+ miles per week and/or to doing hard workouts with no races on the horizon. My initial thought was “why not?” This thought was not meant to be condescending in anyway. To me, it’s just the reality of the situation. Just because races have been put on hold doesn’t mean running has to be. What else do we have to do? The reality for millions of us is – we’ve been furloughed or laid off, our kids are home ALL THE TIME, and our spouse is right there. We need some time to ourselves. Don’t feel guilty about it – feel good about it. So, my answer to the “why should I train with the thought of not running a race in 2020” question is, train to train. Train to get in better shape. I’m not a huge Tom Brady fan (which is to say I’m not a fan at all) but, one of my favorite commercials is the Under Armour “every single day” commercial with Tom Brady. The premise to the commercial is – it shows Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time (1), doing all the not-so-glamorous stuff that it takes to be the greatest quarterback of all time, while saying “every single day” over and over again – meaning he’s putting in the work EVERY – SINGLE – DAY! As we all know, running is a process and we lose any progress we’ve made A LOT faster than we build it. So, why lose it? Everything that I’ve said above doesn’t mean you just simply run more and/or harder (2). Of course, that second part is definitely not true (the harder part). Take this time to critique your running and to analyze your workout routine. Find your weaknesses and then work on whatever those weaknesses are. Don’t run well uphill? Do some hill repeats. Endurance isn’t your thing? Run farther or longer or both (see Footnote #2). Want to get faster? Run faster. Haven’t been strength training? Start. If setting out a bagel and a banana for the end of your run gets you out the door, do that (3). During the quarantine, I’ve read a lot (I always read a lot) about people learning new languages, starting around the house projects, binge watching TV shows, etc. I think it’s important to find your “thing.” But, as long distance runners, we’ve already found our thing. So, do your thing!
With everything I said above, I also think it’s important to take this time to give yourself a break. If you head out for a marathon paced workout and you’re off by 2, 3, 10 seconds, it’s okay. If you want to run a 15 miler on Saturday and, when you get out there, you realize that 12 is all you have in you on that day, it’s okay. If, when you’re training for a marathon, your coach has you running 10 miles in the middle of the week (4) but, running 6 or 7 miles is more your sweet spot, run 6 or 7 miles. If you’ve set a goal to run 40 miles a week and you don’t quite get there, that’s okay. Don’t feel like running one day, that’s okay too. Running will be there tomorrow. If you’re using running as a stress release, don’t let it add stress…just let it be. We’ve chosen a sport that can be rewarding one day and frustrating the next. Don’t let that discourage you. These are weird times for sure. I find that my overall outlook on life changes drastically every day. One day, it’s all I can do to leave the house, and the next day, I feel like I’m ready for anything. There is very little consistency in life right now – I can’t/don’t stop in “my” coffee shop every day on my way to work. I’m less busy at work and no longer receive 300+ emails a day (5). I’m a people person and I’m generally avoiding people. I think even my dog is confused right now. But, the one consistency has been running. And, not only running but my desire to run. I’ve found some new routes (6), run on roads I had never run, tried some new shoes (7), and started running with music (8). Almost everything we watch on TV right now is depressing. We need to take time for ourselves. We need something to hold on to, something to look forward to. Let that be running.
I always tell the athletes I coach to view vacation as a time to maintain fitness as opposed to a time in which we try to gain fitness. I think that’s a good approach right now. Find the motivation that got you to sign up for that 5k or marathon that was cancelled (9), or that got you to qualify for Boston. Find motivation in the actions of others. There are thousands of new runners out there – be inspired by them. Find whatever it takes to get you out the door. I always tell my students that half of life is showing up. That same principle is true with running – half of running is getting out the door. It’s the reason I like out and back runs – once you get out there, you have to get back. Take this time to run because you want to, not because you feel like you have to. But, whatever you do, go for a run.
-Jeff Burger, Charm City Run Coach and Very Fast Runner
(1) Editor’s note (I’m the author and the editor), I have NO IDEA what it takes to be the greatest quarterback of all time.
(2) As a coach, this thought makes me cringe. So, I will explain more. If you’re getting into running and/or getting back into running, you should follow the 10% rule – your weekly mileage should increase by about 10% per week. So, if you ran 20 miles last week, run 22 this week. Also, you should build a base (nothing but easy runs) before you start adding hard stuff. You should do mostly/all easy running for 4-6 weeks before you throw in the faster/harder stuff.
(3) That’s a racing joke – they give us bagels and bananas after races. It’s never good when you have to explain your jokesI hate when I contradict myself in the same post.
(4) I don’t know what kind of coach would do such a thing…
(5) This is probably a good thing.
(6) I’m already tired of these routes.
(7) All that money I’m saving on not buying coffee is going towards running shoes.
(8) This has mixed reviews right now. One day, I swear the music is the only thing that got me through the run, and the next day, I almost toss my headphones in the trash.
(9) I’m always fascinated that is correct to spell cancelled with one “l” or two. I’m a two “l” guy.