Should I stay or should I go?

During this time when we’re under attack from COVID-19 we know what our responsibility is – STAY AT HOME – PROTECT THE NHS – SAVE LIVES.

There are a few specific reasons we can leave the house. One of these is one form of exercise per day, such as a run, walk or cycle. The government guidance specifically states that when undergoing these activities we should minimise time spent outside of our household.

Trying to process this as someone who runs nearly every day, and work out what I should do has taken a bit of time. As the clear advice states:

‘The single most important action you can take is to stay home’

however the government have recognised that some kind of daily exercise is critical in maintaining our physical and mental health. So how do I balance the need to stay home, with the need to do exercise?

I’ve been working from home now for nearly three weeks and seem to be less active at home than I would be at work. My step count could now be fewer than 2000 steps per day without doing any exercise. It’s clear that simply staying at home will mean I’m fairly sedentary, which won’t benefit my long term health. Some exercise is obviously going to be beneficial and is ‘allowed’ under the guidelines, but how much is ‘minimising my time spent outside’?

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

It is obvious that the longer I run outside for, the greater the potential is for coming into contact with more people. How long is too long? Usually, at this time of year I would be in my peak marathon training and running for 75 minutes each day, with a 2 and a half hour long run at the weekend. It seems obvious that minimising my time outside would mean shorter runs than this and that the guidelines idea of exercise is unlikely to mean training . I also can’t see how a 2 or 3-hour walk, run or cycle could be described a minimising time outside. The guidance doesn’t specify exactly how long my daily exercise should be, so I could argue that I could go for as long as I liked, but the oft repeated phrase in cases of moral debates of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ surely applies here. Recent government press conferences have talked about complying with the letter of the rules and also the spirit of the rules.

At the end of the first week of social distancing I went out for a 13 mile run for an hour and a half. Having reflected, I felt guilty that I was out for so long and risked coming into contact with more and more people as I ran. This caused a bit of a rethink on my part about striking a correct balance.

Striking a balance

The most important consideration is STAY HOME – PROTECT THE NHS – SAVE LIVES. Any exercise that I do should minimise time spent outside and when outside ensure I maintain at least a two metre distance from others, this is what I’m planning to do:

  • Limit my daily runs/walks/cycles to about 45 minutes (with one per week at about 60 minutes)
  • To run in places and at times where there are fewer people around and paths are wide
  • To stay as close to home as possible
  • To run for exercise, not for training. There’ll be time for training again when there are races to run
  • To run for fun
  • To run easy or steady to minimise the risk of injury and to make sure I keep the two metres distance from others
  • Not to take part in virtual races or speed challenges to make sure I keep the two meters distance from others.

Whilst out on my exercise I’m also trying to remember to do the following:

  • Be the one who makes sure the ‘at least 2 metre rule’ is being observed (not everyone seems to get it)
  • Running on the road where traffic permits to keep a wide berth
  • Calling out ‘passing on your right’ in plenty of time to those I’m coming up behind
  • Waving and saying a cheery hello to anyone I meet – I could be the only person they see that day

How have the current restrictions changed your running habits?