The last year, with a pandemic and the resulting lockdown, affected everyone. Maybe you had a difficult time mentally not being able to spend time with family and friends like you normally would. Maybe you struggled with your diet because you were never very far from food or couldn’t resist the temptation for another snack. Maybe working from home or virtual school took its toll on your sleep schedule. It was a combination of these for me but, as with most things in life, there are things to be learned from the experience.
With running basically becoming the only time out of the house every day for almost a full year, it became an even more important part of my day. Looking back on the year, here are some of the things that I learned from running and how they could help you too:
1. Providing a Mental Break – Whether getting out for 2 miles, 2 hours or any other time or distance, the time that you are able to “disconnect” can be really helpful mentally. Some people listen to books or podcasts, but I prefer not listening to anything except for music occasionally. No matter what time of day you prefer or if you like just getting out for a run while listening to something on your headphones, it can be a good break from whatever is weighing you down or stressing you out.
2. Join a Running Club (In-Person or Virtual) – It was the year of “virtual” everything. While I did some virtual races and challenges, the biggest motivator for me during the year was joining two running clubs (shout-out Dad Bod Jog Club and Run2Relief):
Dad Bod Jog Club (@DadBodJogClub on Instagram) had great weekly and monthly challenges that kept pushing me to get more miles where everything was done in a fun and encouraging way. And you don’t have to be a dad or have a dad bod!
Run2Relief (@Run2Relief on Instagram) did challenges for charity and provided a platform where we could support each other every day through a group chat.
There’s different types of groups on social media and likely in your local communities too. Everyone has their own motivations, but sometimes additional motivation or something different is needed and these groups definitely provided that for me.
3. Shift Your Focus to Make it Fun Again – This one might seem obvious but a lot of times when you are training for a race or have a specific target in mind you can become too focused on results and the progress that you are making. Sometimes, creating a fun challenge for yourself or a group of friends can shift your focus and make it more enjoyable. I used the time saved from not having a daily 2 hour roundtrip commute to challenge myself to increase my mileage! I didn’t pressure myself to run specific distances. Rather, I just focused on trying to go a little further some days.
4. Take a Positive from Each Run – All days are NOT created equal. Even during the difficult days, something can still be gained from going for a run. You might not run at your normal speed, but you can still be happy you ran a certain pace, that you went a little further than you have recently, or that you climbed to the top of that neighborhood hill that you’ve always struggled on! Whatever it is for you, always take something positive away each time you go running.
5. The Running Community on Social Media is Incredible – During the year I became much more active on Instagram and was blown away by the inspiration and encouragement that was provided by so many runners and non-runners. No matter what your level of running or what you are training for or working towards, there is always someone else with similar experience or goals.
Before I knew it, I was running virtual challenges/events with people that I had never met and, in some cases, lived thousands of miles away! My 1st virtual event was to run 5k at the top of every hour (beginning at 5am) for as long as I could manage. I did this with a friend from England who I’d only started talking to a couple of months before. After that came the weekly and monthly challenges that were provided by the Dad Bod Jog Club – the running club that I mentioned above which, for me, continues to be a great motivator.
6. Nothing Replaces In-person Races – While races aren’t my main reason for running, they are something that I try to use as a celebration or culmination of a good period of training. The last few years I’ve run several races in personal best times, but what truly makes them great memories (and why I miss them) is the feeling before, during and after the race. After 2020, I’ll definitely never take for granted the feeling of running in a live and in-person race or the feeling of crossing a finish line!
7. It’s impossible to stop running when a song from the Rocky soundtrack comes on! – No explanation necessary.
By its nature, running is a solo activity because you don’t need anyone else to do it but, in times when motivation or energy might be lacking, it’s nice to have a virtual or in-person community that will help to get you back on track. Out of all of the things I’ve learned during the past year, becoming a more active part of the running community and connecting with people has been the most important because we all support and motivate each other.
Sometimes it might not seem like it but this pandemic too will end and we’ll be able to use what we’ve learned to continue to improve in the future. If you’ve learned anything else from running over the past year, let us know in the comments below!