March 15: Advice for Runners During our Public Health Crisis

See what we have written for the national RRCA community here: https://www.rrca.org/news-articles/news-archives/2020/03/15/advice-for-rrca-members-running-coaches-and-club-leaders

Runners are optimistic by nature, but it’s hard to super optimistic in the face of the current public health crisis of coronavirus and COVID-19.  As an athlete, you may be feeling a little down, a bit stressed, and a lot unmotivated.

As a coach, you may be uncertain about what workouts to recommend for your athletes.

As a running community leader, you may be uncertain about how to manage your community.

Indeed, the runners in our group are asking all sorts of questions about training.  Is running with other dangerous?  Will running workouts compromise my ability to fight off the coronavirus?  If races are cancelled, how am I going to stay motivated to train?

Let’s look at some strategies for getting through this.  We’ll concentrate on public health, community leadership, financial issues, personal health, training advice, and motivation.

1) Public Health

First and foremost, please draw on expert medical advice from the CDC and from your state and county’s public health agencies.  The CDC website provides resources, data, and advice for specific populations.  See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.  At this writing, we’re in a national state of emergency, but different external conditions exist throughout the nation, so keep abreast of what’s going on in your home community.

When running alone or training in groups, please continue to take all precautions and please be a good health steward.  Assuming that you will follow the overarching CDC advice and drawing on public health advisories, RRCA recommends some basic do’s and don’t’s:

  • Don’t show up if you are feeling ill or have flu-like symptoms.
  • Don’t share fluids. Carry your own fluids to avoid contact with others on course.
  • Don’t share towels, food, gels, or any other item that runners normally share freely.
  • Do wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after using the port-a-john.
  • Do not spit or “nose rocket” your nose in public – bring along tissues or a small towel or a good old-fashioned hanky if you need to get rid of some snot during the race.
  • Do practice social distancing – ensure appropriate spacing between runners; the current recommendation is at least six feet of separation.
  • Do avoid close-group selfies.

If you’re running indoors at a public facility such as an indoor track, a treadmill studio, or in a gym setting:

  • Don’t go to the gym if you are feeling ill.
  • Don’t wipe your eyes, nose, or mouth while running. (It should go without saying that you should not spit or nose rocket indoors.)
  • Do thoroughly wipe down the handrails and monitor before you use the treadmill.
  • Do thoroughly wipe down the handrails and monitor after you finish your workout.
  • Do create space for yourself by trying to use a treadmill at least 6′ from other treadmills being used
  • Do wash your own hands when you’re done.

NOTE: All of these suggestions apply to ALL standard gym equipment, including elliptical machines, stair-stepping machines, rowing machines, and the like.

2) Community Leadership and Coaching

Some running communities have cancelled all group runs, while others are continuing to hold small group social workouts.  Regardless of what you personally want, be sure to check the CDC material and local health advisories so that you understand the overall conditions affecting your athlete.

  • Do not pressure your athletes to run, either in a group or alone. People need to make their own choices about joining a small group run during these uncertain times.
  • Do communicate with your athletes — if you coach groups, be sure to share with them your group protocols that follow local health advisories.
  • If you coach individuals, be sure to reach out to each athlete and discuss their individual situation.
  • Do support your athletes as they navigate their personal obligations.
  • Do consider teaming up with others in your local running and endurance community to form a cohesive community-based plan.
  • Do practice social distancing – ensure six feet of separation between runners if you host small group runs.
  • Consider checking with the community leaders in road cycling, mountain biking, swimming, outdoor boot camps, and others.

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