Running And Corona
Runner's World SA|May/June 2020
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Running And Corona
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, causing running races – and many other large events – to be postponed or cancelled, you might bewonderingwhat you should be doing for your own health, and how this could affect your training. By Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith

To help answer our runners’ most frequently asked questions, we tapped Dr David Nieman, a health professor at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus, Brian Labus, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Matt Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of biology in the Eberly College of Science and a researcher with the Centre for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State University.

Is it safe to run outside once the lockdown is lifted?

Yes – as long as you’re alone, and if you follow the regulations in place then. When people congregate together and someone sneezes or coughs, Nieman explains, droplets get onto objects that people touch, and then people touch their faces.

The best plan for running once lockdown is lifted is to go out solo, and enjoy the outdoors in a non-crowded area. Try timing your trail run for when you know the trails will be less crowded.

Additionally, people might be afraid to run in colder weather for fear of illness, but there’s no truth to that; there is no data that shows you will get sick from any respiratory pathogen when running in cold weather, Nieman says.

In fact, getting in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to brisk activity can help your immune system keep viruses at bay.

But be sure you know what’s going on in your area and whether there are any restrictions or mandatory self-quarantines. And if you’re sick, or at risk of spreading the virus, you shouldn’t go out – the bigger concern is that you may spread it to those who are at high risk, such as the elderly or immunocompromised.

During a self-quarantine or lockdown, Nieman suggests doing some exercise – while staying where you’re quarantined – to keep healthy. Doing bodyweight exercises or running on an at-home treadmill are great ways to do this.

Unless you’re sick. “If you do have flu or coronavirus, or have a fever, sick people sometimes think – wrongly – that they can ‘exercise the virus out of the system’ or ‘sweat it out’. That’s a myth. It’s actually the opposite,” Nieman says.

Should I wear a mask while out on a solo run?

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently updated their guidelines to recommend “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g. grocery shops and pharmacies), to help reduce the spread of the virus between people interacting in close proximity”. The guidelines are evolving rapidly.

“Really, what these announcements should mean to athletes – to everyone – is that the situation we are in is very serious. And that we all need to consider the consequences of our individual actions on the community around us,” Ferrari says.

But there is no advantage to wearing a face covering if you are not going to be near people at all, he explains. “And that’s what we should be striving for, keeping big distances,” Ferrari says.

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May/June 2020