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Ideas for runners on training, community, and motivation during COVID-19

Jenn Lewis

Generating purpose for our current situation. Because there are no races for a while and we are no longer in a training cycle, you can focus on other aspects of your fitness with less risk. When we are in a training cycle we want to be careful not to do anything to interrupt it so usually lifting heavy, experimenting with fuel, focusing on hills isn’t usually an option. Now is the time to work on strength, flexibility/mobility, and figuring out what works for us. Here are some things to focus on during this off-period:


  • Build a strong base
  • Build back up to mileage
  • Work on relationships
  • Improve Strength and/or mobility
  • Work on the thing that is challenging to you – hills, 400m sprint
  • Experiment – with fueling, with clothing/running devices, with routine, weekly nutrition
  • Build muscle or focus on weight loss



Notes and precautions for training and to prevent overtraining, burnout, and injury during this off-period. Things to watch out for:

  • Keep yourself to a maximum of 2-3 efforts a week. Effort is defined as anything that fatigues you/makes you sore/is hard. This in almost every situation will include tempo/interval workouts, track workouts, and long runs. However, this can also include other activities you may not have thought are efforts. Crosstraining for example can be and often is still considered an effort. If you do a hard spin class or a long, hilly cycling route, or a fast workout in the pool – all these are still considered efforts and go towards that weekly 2-3 count. Other activities that could be considered effort (depending on the degree of fatigue, muscle power, and perceived effort) include: longer/heavier strength training sessions, trail running (particularly with lots of elevation), a fast-paced, longer yoga flow session etc. It’s okay to throw a 4-effort week in there every once in a while, but keeping it at 2-3 efforts a week will help keep you healthy and fit. Weeks with more than 3 efforts do not result in burnout or injury within a single week, but usually have cumulative effects that build up gradually over time, making it difficult for athletes to realize they are impairing fitness or exposing themselves to higher injury risk.
  • Base training should not look the same as marathon training. A training cycle is designed to result in peak performance for an end goal and it challenges your body in specific ways. Training between cycles do not have to and usually shouldn’t then look the same as a marathon training cycle. Off-cycles are critical times in your fitness to recover, improve base fitness, and build strength. There are many physiological advantages that happen within “slower” running including the critical increase in mitochondrial density, which only occurs at those more milder paces. You don’t need a tempo, track and long-run each week during off-cycles – you can, but not every week, and/or the workouts should not be as intense as during a training cycle. I’d encourage you to exchange one or more of those workouts with other training such as strength, trail running, or cycling.
  • More is not always better. This is essentially repeating the two points above. Many of us get in a mindset that that if we run longer, harder, faster we will be tougher, stronger, and better prepared for a race performance. This usually, and for most normal humans, is not true. Recovery times are critical. There are physiological processes necessary for muscle recovery, tissue recovery, etc that cannot occur if you continually challenge your body without adequate periods of rest.
  • When building back up to a weekly mileage goal, how much do you increase each week? We’ve all probably heard of the 10% rule – increase mileage and/or your weekly long run by only 10% each week. Following this rule will likely help you prevent increasing too sun, but it might be too conservative for some runners, especially those are use to having higher weeks. A different guideline to try if you’re in that latter category and want to increase faster (but safely) is to increase by 20% for a week then decrease by 10% the following week, than increase by 20% again and so on. Every runner is different, maybe you know your body can handle steeper increases, but if you’re not sure I strongly suggest following one of these guidelines to get you started. Remember we are in an off-cycle, there is no rush to build back up, so practicing patience won’t hurt you and is actually good mental training since patience is usually a skill runners desperately need but often don’t have.
  • Don't worry so much about specific paces right now. Focus on effort. During this time of off-training and with all the stress and uncertainty many of us face, we may not be hitting all the paces that use to feel normal to us. Let that go. You will get in your head and it won't help you right now. Keep running. Keep moving. Focus on how things feel. And I PROMISE you will still be fit and ready when we come out of this.


Ideas for building up Team Community during this time. What can we do to support each other, create accountability, and feel that sense of community even when we are not doing group runs. Here’s some ideas and take the survey that was sent out if you are interested in any of them!

  • Participating in virtual races as a team
  • Team Relay Race – map out a route around Eugene/Oregon and have each person take a segment! Or have someone running every hour for 24 hours. Even if we aren’t together, the team will have accomplished something together which will make us closer!
  • Friday High Fives – Make specific efforts to send out positive comments/ shout-outs/ likes to your running friends. Highlight something great they did to the group to help people’s works and efforts feel recognized.
  • Weekly accomplishment post – make sure to recognize your own efforts to. Share with the team each week the thing you accomplished during the week that you are most proud of – this will inspire others and keep you accountable!
  • Use of the Google spreadsheet to log progress and complete challenges – it may not seem like much, but when everyone commits to using the spreadsheet, it creates accountability and helps people feel like they are connected as a community. I encourage you to start logging your efforts in the spreadsheet (which will be updated soon with workout suggestions and optional challenges)
  • Weekly team check-in – Having a weekly team Zoom meeting (optional) Sunday morning after a run to check-in, socialize, and talk about any successes/questions/needs.
  • Weekly team workouts over Zoom, accountability check-in pairs/teams/ groups via Zoom or text, small group meet-ups at same locations for accountability but then run different routes/paces etc to maintain social distance


Ideas to help keep you motivated:

  • Virtual races – if you need something to work towards there are many of these available and many of them donate to local or national charities.
  • Pick a/several Strava segments/routes and see if you can beat your time! Or challenge yourself to try a route/segment you’ve never done before!
  • Individual Training Plans? Goals? – Talk to Jenn if you want help coming up with a little bit more structure in your training or plan to meet a goal

Other ideas to help you with wellness, motivation, normality

  • Challenge yourself to wake up 5-15 minutes earlier each day until you get back to a morning wake time that you would like to maintain and to help the idea of waking up at 4 something in the morning eventually to not seem totally impossible
  • Build structure into your week. You are more likely to do something if you scheduled it vs a vague I’ll do this sometime this day/week. You may not have any external need for structure right now – and if that’s working for you that’s great – but if you’re feeling aimless, unmotivated, like you’re not accomplishing what you want, or the days aren’t productive – structure can help bring back feelings of normality and will make you more likely to accomplish the things you want
  • Take on small challenges every day to work on mental training of discipline and commitment. Ideas – 10 push-ups every day, 2 minutes mindfulness, stretch for 5 minutes etc.
  • Create small goals to work on in 2-3 week periods – this will help keep time from seeming so insubstantial and like one big blob.
  • Ask yourself why you run, think long-term, goals you eventually want to accomplish, lifestyle you want to maintain etc.
  • Reach out regularly to team members in support
  • Talk to your coaches about where you are at and what you want

Resources for workouts:

  • Active PopSugar:
    • Currently free – web-based and has an app
    • Includes: strength training exercises with dumbbells and bodyweight, HIIT workouts, Core, Non-running cardio, cardio boxing, dance cardio/Zumba, yoga
    • Videos 10-45 minutes
    • Includes structured 21 day, 30 day, 4-week challenges
    • Workout video instructors are usually high energy, quirky, positive, flamboyant, funny/cheesy
    • Good for beginners but also has videos/workouts for advanced trainers – most videos include suggestions/demonstrations of modifications for increasing/decreasing intensities
  • Peloton:
    • Website and phone app available
    • Offering 90 day free trial; 13$ per month after, can cancel at anytime
    • Includes: strength training with dumbbells and bodyweight, HIIT workouts, Core, Cardio, cardio boxing, dance cardio/Zumba, yoga. Meditation, stretching, bootcamp, indoor/outdoor running, cycling.
    • Videos 10-60 minutes
    • Instructors are more serious but motivating, some are a little bit more “tough love”
    • Workouts range in intensity but many are intermediate to advanced and are tougher than most beginning workouts
  • Nike training club: available as a phone app
    • Currently free – may change eventually
    • Includes: yoga, cardio and HIIT, strength training, and mobility workouts
    • Videos range in length 10-60 minutes
    • More serious but motivating, high energy
    • Workouts are really good, they have a good beginner-advanced range
    • The app has structured programs/challenges you can follow depending on your goals.
    • App also includes additional tips/information on nutrition, mindfulness, and recovery