Pandemic runners: Will you keep it up and resist temptation?

To continue running over the summer, make it fun and explore new routes

‘It is easier to maintain the fitness than let it drop and have to find motivation and fitness again.’   Photograph: iStock

‘It is easier to maintain the fitness than let it drop and have to find motivation and fitness again.’ Photograph: iStock

 

This time last year many people took to running as the pandemic hit. With sports training cancelled and gyms closed many reluctant runners discovered the freedom of their local paths. The weather was kind, the social diary was empty and motivation was high. Sure what else would you be doing. While some people started to run because they finally had a little time to try, many more took up running, not for the love of it, but because they needed a way to manage stress, keep fit and simply have an excuse to get out of the house.

Hats off to pandemic runners

If you are one of these runners who started in the pandemic and has kept on running right though the seasons, well done. Last year you had to rely on your own willpower and motivation much more than most of us did when we started out running. With running clubs closed, races cancelled and the ever popular parkrun suspended, the usual social supports for runners were not as available to guide you along your way. The support, advice and encouragement that comes from other runners when you begin your journey is what keeps many running. But you became a runner without that help and that is a huge achievement. The question now is, will you keep it up?

New temptations

The shops are reopening, the restaurant terraces are being prepared and the outdoor summer awaits. Temptation will be everywhere as we reconnect with others and visit places and see faces we haven’t seen for so long. Commuting and other commitments will start to return to our diaries too. We can’t promise the weather of early summer 2020, but hopefully we can look forward to a little more freedom. But along with this freedom comes a busier agenda and making time for ourselves may be harder to do. So before we launch into this “new normal”, have a think about your new-found running habit and if or how you want it to belong in your post-pandemic world.

Do you want to keep on running?

The first question to ask yourself is if you actually enjoy running. This might sound like a strange one, but maybe you stuck with running purely because it was your only option. But there is no point in persevering with a sport if you don’t enjoy it. This is the summer of outdoors, find something else to do if you would prefer to leave running in your Covid memory box. But if you have surprised yourself with how much you have enjoyed running, or indeed if you feel the urge to become a better runner, here is how to keep your passion for running alive when everything else will be scrambling for your attention this summer.

How to run through the summer

The simplest way to keep running through the summer is to make it fun, relaxed and interesting. Now that we can travel, find new routes. Bring your running shoes wherever you go and explore new paths and trails. Don’t be afraid to stop, take photos or walk for some of your journey. Make it a summer without running pressure. In fact, use running as a means of exploring and wandering rather than a chore that has to be done. Make it social if you can too. The miles will fly and you can catch up with others while moving. If you have been waiting eagerly for shops to reopen, you will be delighted to hear that there is no end to the amount of running gear you can invest in – from clothing to gadgets, shoes to sunvisors. If you love learning there are plenty of running books, movies and video tutorials for runners to delve into. You might even enjoy taking part in virtual running challenges if you do like to keep an eye on your mileage. The options are endless but you do have to create the opportunities yourself as we ride out the end of the restrictions.

Why keep it going?

If you would like to see running in your future, I do encourage you to keep it in your routine over the next few months. Running comebacks are hard, even after a few months, and you have worked so hard to get to this level. It is easier to maintain the fitness than let it drop and have to find motivation and fitness again as the evenings draw in. You have already done the hard work running locally and relatively independently all year. Now is your chance to run free, celebrate your hard work and when the summer is over you might be surprised at how many options open up for you as things return to normal. We just need to keep on moving so we are ready for our next running stepping stone when it does arrive.

So much to look forward to

Those who have been running for years are pining for races, meet-ups and parkruns. While you may never have experienced any of these events yet in your running journey, you are in for a real treat when they do return. Put simply, running with others spurs you on. Training for an event gives you motivation and structure. Running in a race makes you feel alive. There are nerves, excitement, setbacks and celebrations all to be had once these events return. If that doesn’t tempt you, instead you might find a local running club and help bring structure to your week and company on evening runs. You might thrive on running with others or you may prefer to stick to your solo runs. In any case, you will have so many more options than this time last year. Who knows where you might end up. That is the exciting bit. Hang in there.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck! 

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. She helps runners enjoy running, avoid injury and reach their running goals.

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