Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Since my last update the government has restricted all but essential activities. And that should be our guiding principle, not just for our own sakes but to protect others by limiting the spread.
In terms of deciding whether you're happy to continue with your own exercise, where you're not mixing with anyone else, and you're fit and well, then my advice is absolutely!
But where you might come into contact with others or risk spreading the virus, or risk an accident which could then put more pressure onto emergency services, it gets harder, and has to be your own call.
Here's some links which may help you make up your mind:
Since I posted this blog the inevitable has happened and many events, especially the bigger ones, have begun to be cancelled, so I thought a quick update was in order:
- Obviously the number one piece of advice is act on the latest government advice on keeping yourself and everyone around you healthy.
- If some of your events have been cancelled but you’ve still got others in the calendar then my advice remains the same, keep training towards the ones that you’ve got. Best case scenario: it goes ahead and you’re ready, worst case scenario (well, other than all the other scenarios that are not my role to be discussing) it’s cancelled and your fitness is far higher than it might have been otherwise.
- If your event is cancelled, think about doing a virtual race e.g. https://findarace.com/plan-b-virtual-race No, you wont have the crowd support and nutrition but you’ll still get to challenge yourself. Tell people you’re doing it (the plan B link includes fundraising for World Health Organisation's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund so that’s a great reason to share your plans and encourage others to do their own race). If other people know what you’re up to, you’ll feel that it’s a real event and you’ll be less tempted to ease up as it gets harder.
- As below, consider investing in a running bladder, either for your own virtual race or because if events go ahead they’re less likely to be providing on course hydration.
- But my main advice is please, so long as you are fit and able, and it’s not contrary to official advice, to carry on with your training. Even if you don’t have a goal race to train for, remember you do this stuff because you want to! And if you’re out running or cycling by yourself, then the risks of catching or spreading a virus have to be pretty low!
- It’s going to be a really hard few months+ with all the changes that are coming, especially the social isolation. Exercise is vital for mental health, and having a routine or structure that you’re in control of can really help to keep things sane when the world around you is turning upside down.
- Yes we’ll need to adapt if facilities shut. And if schools are closed I understand what a challenge that’s going to be for parents. Don’t aim to continue with your full training plan if that’s not possible. If you can't get out then use the time at home to really work on your strength and conditioning so that you're bullet proof when you can get out. Think through what you can do, how often you think you can do it, and stick to it. And if that becomes impossible as the situation changes, don’t give up, just re-commit to what is possible.
- If you have some spare time think about whether you have the ability to support those in your local neighbourhood. Whether it’s asking any elderly people who live near you whether they need any support with shopping or just a friendly chat on the phone (see sample #viralkindness initiative below), or signing up to something more official like https://reserves.redcross.org.uk/ Maybe some good can come of this whole thing in terms of rebuilding communities.
I'm getting daily messages from clients worrying about Corona virus and how it will affect their events, or their health, so thought it was worth sharing my thoughts in case helpful to anyone else as well.
Firstly please remember that the risk to you is incredibly low and that exercise helps keep you fit and healthy. There's been very few deaths from Corona virus in the UK so far, and whilst of course it's tragic for those concerned, there’s around 460 deaths from heart disease every day in the UK.
Secondly, it goes without saying that you should respect and act on the latest government advice, our responsibility isn’t just to ourselves and loved ones, but to reduce the spread of the virus.
So onto my advice for what should do:
If you’re training for an event and you’re not sure whether it will be cancelled or not, my advice is to decide if you would do it if it goes ahead? If the answer is yes, then keep on training. Unless there is an official announcement that it has been cancelled (and unless we’re in a literal lock down, there’s nothing to stop you running your own race), as tempting as it is to listen to all the rumours or intelligence, it doesn't really help you. If you're doing hard training sessions then you need to be mentally committed to them, and if you start thinking it might not happen, or wondering what your plan B is, then you'll be less committed.
If you're feeling in doubt then focus on the bigger picture of what you're achieving in terms of building your fitness. If you find you're starting to lose focus and commitment then ask yourself again if you're withdrawing from the race? Unless the answer has changed to no, why would you risk going unprepared into something that you've already worked so hard on?
In terms of the risk to the wider population of the event taking place, that’s up to the relevant authorities to decide. In terms of the risk to you of taking part, presuming it’s an outdoors event, then the risk is very low. The reason that events are potentially going to be cancelled is because they don’t want to divert emergency services that are needed elsewhere, or because event organisers don’t want to put their staff and volunteers at risk at places like registration (so far most events I’ve seen are just taking pragmatic measures to reduce this risk).
That said, hard sessions do take their toll on your body, so of course, if you feel ill then don’t take part (whether it’s Corona or not, you’ll delay your own recovery as well risk passing anything on) and stay vigilant on your recovery after the race.
In terms of updating your training, you might need to change things around different working patterns. On the plus side, working from home hopefully means you’re able to get a run into your day at a time that works for you (and I would argue boosts your productivity at work). But increased childcare demands will certainly be challenging.
If gyms are shut or you don’t want to go to them, then don’t completely neglect your strength and conditioning, get creative with increased time under tension (slower reps) to keep body weight exercises challenging, and focus on the things we often neglect such as mobility and stability exercises.
I would also suggest it might be an idea to invest in a running bladder (water bladder in a small rucksac) if you don’t have one - some races I’ve seen are telling runners to bring their own water as it wont be provided on course. And practice with it (check it doesn’t rub, especially if you’ll be wearing less layers on a warmer race day). Ditto you might need to carry your own nutrition rather than rely on on-course supplies.
It’s a difficult time for everyone, and of course it’s upsetting to think the thing you’ve put so much effort into training for might not happen, but rather than wasting time worrying about the ‘what ifs’, try and think about the bigger picture – you do this sport because you enjoy it right? Because you want to see what you can achieve? Then look back on how much progress you’ve made in terms of building your fitness in the last few months! You probably wouldn’t have done that without a goal to build towards, and whether you get a medal round your neck at the end of it or not, you’ve still achieved that.
Further reading - this is a great article.