In the absence of races or group runs, you could wallow in self-pity and use this opportunity to become well acquainted with the sofa, making your way through the A-Z of TV streaming sites, or... alternatively... you could shake yourself off, get out there and better yourself. Forget about that cancelled event you were putting all your PB hopes on, forget about your beloved social Sunday run (for now). We need to adapt and change in order to give ourselves back a little control and manage our own running expectations.
Before I continue, a word of caution: this is not the time to radically increase your mileage or training load, as research suggests strenuous exercise and overtraining can reduce your immune system. However, for those of you facing a calendar full of crossed-out events, looking for motivation to keep up your racing fitness, go grab a pen – it’s time to re-write our 2020 goals.
Whatever you were building towards, be it a run streak, fast 5k or a mega marathon time, instead of giving up on your fitness goals, why not use this time to tune in to you and beat your best?
Set yourself a personal challenge
Your challenge could be getting out each and every day. It could be to get creative with 'Strava art' from your door and have fun, or to challenge yourself to a time trial. All are achievable for the solo runner and a great way to stay focused. The latter option will get you hungry for PBs. Pick a local race route near to your house that you know well or a well revised/measured training route. Jog there as your warm-up, race the route and jog home. Aim to get faster over this distance each time. For route ideas for those not used to running from your door, check out Strava's ‘heatmap’ feature, it could unearth a wealth of local running routes.
Strava has a great way for people to get addicted to beating personal bests. It gives you your best effort times for a range of distances ranging from 1k to the marathon using GPS, which in itself is a great indication of fitness and great way to track your current PBs. Now they may not be official but if it’s on Strava you can still claim bragging rights.
Accruing ‘medals’ after uploading a run to Strava will certainly make you feel good about yourself. It brings out a little bit of that competitive spirit that emerges kicking and screaming during race season, keeping that fire alive, whilst lessening that awkward ‘out of race practise’ transition when races do resume.
A sure way to get you addicted to Strava over the next coming months (now is a great time to reassure you I don’t actually work for Strava I just believe it is a fantastic training tool at the best of times and even more so in times of restricted activity) check out your local ‘segments’.
Now for those who live along a motorway of running traffic such as an old railway line or popular beachfront, you may have a leader board that borders on the elite side. Don’t let this deter you – challenge yourself to reach as high up as you can. Segments can be any distance and are usually created along common running routes, but hitting the top 10 or nipping that top spot of the most obscure and unusually named segments can be deeply satisfying and turn a good run into a GREAT run.
Get competitive with your running buddies, challenge them to certain segments and see who gets higher up on the table.
Another great addictive quality to Strava is building your trophy cabinet. Each month there will be new and exciting challenges popping up available for you to join and work towards along with thousands of other runners. Common challenges include monthly running distance challenges for those who will use this time to plug out the big miles. There are quite a few out there so have a search for your group challenge and earn your next trophy. You can do this wherever and whenever; all you need is your GPS watch and shoes on your feet.
Relatively new and something on the upward trend, virtual racing has allowed participants to take part in events, whilst running solo of course, and have their race times recorded and included on an official set of results with positions etc. A great initiative giving you the chance to test yourself in a race setting as you would have at an organised event but safely in 'virtual' scenario. You will race without even having to pin a number to your tee or toeing the start line and most importantly without the crowds. And for many of these virtual events, a medal is awarded.
If you had a race lined up over the next 3 months, give it a Google and see if there is a virtual race you could take part in. With many of us disappointed that events can’t go ahead as planned, race organisers are trying to embrace the positive spirit and allow others to rise to the challenge and still experience that crossing the finish line high.
Support each other
This probably goes without saying but sharing kudos and leaving a supportive comment on someone’s run takes a few seconds and for those who know, less than a shake of your handheld device, but could mean the world to the person on the receiving end. Be supportive and together let’s keep motivated and stay healthy, this is more than just running for fitness this is running for your own mental health.