Adjusting to COVID-19
Like many people, running is a huge part of my life and something that I really enjoy. I love to run with my friends and my club, Horsforth Harriers, and have a good chat along the way. I also love the thrill and excitement of races, parkruns and especially the club team relay races. There is much more to running than the legs turning over mile after mile, and people who run find their motivation in different ways.
For the last couple of years, I’ve had a bit of a turbulent relationship with running, having developed a real dependency on running. I craved the endorphin high from running, and the compulsion to exercise was really strong and something that made me feel safe and in control when other things didn’t. I’ve had a lot of professional support to address this and have started to make some real progress. I’m better at looking after myself, I learn from my mistakes and I mostly run for the joy of it rather than to avoid difficult feelings. Running really helps me to feel grounded and enjoy the freedom of it and the places I can explore.
Then came along COVID-19… It felt to me as though it was there in the distance and then suddenly started hurtling towards us at break neck speed with huge changes to our lives implemented within such a short space of time. It was a lot to take in, particularly the scale of the situation and the changes we were asked to make. It was like someone pulled the rug from under my feet and burnt it too. The gym closed, there was no swimming, and I found myself with my 3 young kids at home 24/7 and big decisions to make about the course I’m doing at uni and how I was going to fit work in. I found it really really hard. I was heartbroken taking my children out of school and that loss of regular support and friendship. I miss my friends and family, especially being able to sit in the same physical space as my friends.
But mix this also with the guilty feelings that I have for only being asked to stay inside, not risk my life. What justification do I have for finding it hard? As I felt guilty I did what many other people probably do, I felt less good about myself. Bad habits came back and old behaviours that I’ve tried really hard to get rid of. I really craved a fast run to try and take the edge off the feeling. I know from experience that these will pass in time.
As well as losing the motivating to look after myself, there was the loss of the goals. With no triathlon and no other races in sight I found myself thinking “what does it matter?” So I’m working hard on combating those thoughts. It’s definitely given me a chance to reset though. I absolutely hate that my exercise routine has gone but in all honesty it probably wasn’t ideal so this is an opportunity to try something different. It’s uncomfortable and testing. I’m doing more strength training and much less cardio. I’d like to try some more yoga but finding time has proved difficult.
Although I like the spontaneity of a run with a friend I like to have my exercise planned out in advance as it gives me the safe feelings I need. I’m still working out what my new routine is and not knowing it is definitely resulting in a resurgence of anxious feelings. I’m trying to find a new structure and routine that works within the new constraints. I can’t take the children out on their bikes or for a walk in the woods if I want some time to go for a walk or run on my own for headspace so it’s a juggling act and case of trial and error for now. I really enjoyed a run at sunset last week and took the time to sit and watch the sun go down. I plan to try the same for sunrise; things I wouldn’t have thought of had it not been for trying to make my solo runs from my doorstep a bit more interesting.
One of the things that I love about running, and even more than ever now, is the freedom and the fresh air. If I don’t want to use up my exercise allowance but still want time outdoors to myself, I am planning to get up early and sit outside with a hot drink and book. I think that may be just what I need too.
I hope people are able to reach out to others and talk about how COVID-19 has affected their running and their plans for races and other events. The change and uncertainty is hard. But if we can see it as an opportunity for a reset, or to try out something new, then that has to be a good thing. It may take some time though and it’s OK to find it hard in the short-term while new things are worked through. It’s uncertain times and we don’t know what lies ahead at the moment. I have been fortunate that members of my local running club Horsforth Harriers are working together to help each other. We have virtual runs where people set off at the same time but in different locations/directions, virtual pub night where people get together over a video link for a drink, Strava segment of the week competitions, and “Challenge Yourself” activities put together by one of our coaches. It’s a time to be creative and come up with new ideas. But please also look out for the people who may have gone quiet and may be finding it hard.