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5 Lessons Learned Running During Lockdown

5 Lessons Learned from Running During Lockdown


I’ve always been a firm believer that you can learn a lot of valuable life lessons from running. Probably from any kind of disciplined hobby or training — but for me, well, it just happens to be running. And that’s never been truer than during this pandemic, when so much of life seems uncertain and we never know how everything is going to change from day to day or week to week.

I know I’m not alone in having grown and matured from this strange year. I’ve learned a lot about myself and life in general. And running has been a huge part of that.

While gyms around the country have been forced to close or restrict member access to stop the spread, we runners have been very fortunate that it remains safe for us to get out in the fresh air and undertake the workout we love.

Here are five lessons I learned from running that have really helped me grow during this strange, sad year.

Running helps me maintain structure and discipline in my life. 

So much about what all of us do in day-to-day life changed in 2020. People started working from home. Events were switched to an online format.

Through all of it, having my morning training session out on the running trail helped me maintain some sense of structure — which is good for my productivity. Back in March, I remember a lot of people took their work-from-home orders as an excuse to live as if they were on vacation. I was lucky that I still had running as a reason to get up early in the morning, that it helped me prepare my mind for the day ahead, that it was a reason for me to fuel myself with nutritious food, and that I had good reason to shower off and put on real clothes after an intense sweat session. It felt good to maintain at least some sense of normalcy!

Plan for long distances, but take them one step at a time. 

Remember when we all thought the pandemic was going to affect us for only a few weeks? I don’t remember at what point I realized that pandemic restrictions were going to be a long-term thing. Everyone came to that conclusion at a different point. But after I realized things weren’t going to return to normal for many months, the only thing to do was to take it one day at a time.

It feels just like one of my long-distance runs, which never fail to give me a sense of satisfaction (even if they can be grueling when I’m in the middle of them).

Just keep pushing forward.

Take it one step at a time.

“You’ll get through this, and you’ll be stronger for it,” I tell myself. It always turns out to be true — and I expect it will be true in regard to the pandemic too!

Robby McClung the Race Director for the Canaan Valley Half Marathon making the best of a bad year and running the postponed race in August.

My physical health serves as a base for my mental, emotional, and professional health. 

We all know exercise is good for us, not just because of the benefits it holds for our muscles, heart, and lungs, but also because of the way it boosts our immune system and reduces stress — two important advantages these days.

If I weren’t staying physically healthy, I wouldn’t be as equipped for other aspects of my life. Physical health means more energy, endorphins, serotonin, all that good stuff. And I know that when I’m training intensely, I am more committed to eating better and sleeping better. Being physically healthy means I’m able to process social isolation better, I can stay rationale about virus fears, I have better focus on professional projects I’m working on, and I’m less easily distracted or overwhelmed by things that don’t deserve my attention.

We have to adapt.

 I made a pledge at the start of 2020 that I wanted to run 10 races this year — and of course, I haven’t run a single in-person event. But I did discover the fun of doing virtual races. While they aren’t exactly the real thing, virtual races still keep me motivated, give me an excuse to brag about my accomplishments and connect me with other runners (granted via online platforms instead of in person, but it’s good to have a support network).

This is the way all aspects of life are these days — nothing is the way it was in years past, but we find new ways of doing what we love, and we keep a positive attitude about it!

And with the monotony of staying home all the time, it feels good to do things differently just for the sake of being different. Incorporating long-distance runs, speed workouts, drills, high-intensity intervals, and hill runs into my weekly routine have stopped my runs from being as boring as the rest of life has been. It’s a reminder that part of adapting is seeking to continually challenge myself.

Your only competition is your past self.

 When runners talk about races — whether in-person races or virtual races — we always say that we’re trying to get our personal best time (what most runners call their PR, short for personal record). This is never more evident to me than when I’m out there running by myself.

Sure, I can log my time for a virtual race and see how I did compared with other participants, but I don’t have to worry about seeing people up ahead of me or coming up behind me to pass me. There’s no finish line to cross other than the sidewalk on my home street.

I’m not a competitive person by nature, but this is a good way of remembering that when I’m out there running, it’s about pushing myself, doing better than I did yesterday, and giving it my all every time I lace up my running shoes.

This is true of life beyond running — we’re not competing against others, even if our culture makes us feel that way sometimes. It’s about doing our personal best. And sometimes you just need to get away from the pack to appreciate what that really means for you.


So, there’s what I’ve learned. Now I have to ask…what lessons have you learned from running during lockdown?

Picture of Dylan Roche

Dylan Roche

Dylan Roche is an Annapolis-based writer and marathon runner. As a journalist focused on everything from fitness to arts and culture, he has written for a variety of publications, including Livestrong, What’s Up Annapolis, OurHealth Virginia, UpstART and Chesapeake Family Life. His first novel, “The Purple Bird,” came out in 2019. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @DylanIsWriting

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