Nearly all runners in the world have experienced some sort of stay-home order in the first half of 2020. Races have been cancelled or postponed.
As I write this in early April, my own training has been altered for a month now. My athletes all had awesome races scheduled on their April – June calendar: UltraTrail Drakensberg, Two Oceans Marathon, and Comrades Marathon among them.
As a runner and coach, it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. But as a sports scientist, I was curious about the physiological and psychological effects of the interruption in training and racing.
Based on my Strava feed, and some very interesting bright orange artwork, runners are still moving. So this won’t be an article about the benefits of not exercising, because there are virtually nil. But let’s discuss the benefits of a change in routine.
Racing is hard on the body
In my PhD data, the only time training load significantly spiked in a six-month time frame was in the days after participants raced a half-marathon or further. When participants raced a marathon or further, it negatively impacted their training performances the week after the race.
If runners are racing on a consistent basis – let’s say once or twice per month – the training-recovery balance can get tricky. If not managed properly, runners may experience an overuse injury or impaired performances.
Assuming you have maintained some sort of exercise routine throughout the lockdown, you can have the best racing season of your life when races resume! I have seen athletes have performance breakthroughs after an extended time off from racing.
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