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How to Run Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

06/17/2020
By Soji James, CPT, CSCS

You’re a runner, and runners run. Due to the pandemic situation, you may not be able to compete in running races or even run with your local group. But at least you can run solo, right?

Yes, but you still have to follow some key guidelines in order to keep yourself and others safe. In this article, we spell out the key requirements to running safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social Distancing Guidelines

Current social distancing guidelines are that we maintain a six-foot distance with other people at all times. The novel coronavirus can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing and those coughs or sneezes can travel up to six feet. So, when you are running, you need to keep yourself at least six feet away from other people. There are a couple of ways to do this:

Man in black medical face mask outdoors running during pandemic coronavirus quarantine.
When You Are Running, You Need To Keep Yourself At Least Six Feet Away From Other People Or In An Area Away From Crowds (Image Source: Shutterstock)
  • Run in low traffic areas.
  • Run at times of day when others will not be out.

You should be aware of what is going on in your neighborhood at the time that you plan to go out for a run. Keep a close eye on the local quarantine situation in your area, as it can change from day to day. If you have even the slightest feeling of sickness, including a slight cough or sniffle, stay at home. It is never a good idea to exercise when you are sick. The myth of out-training a virus is exactly that—a myth. When you’re feeling under the weather, your body needs rest rather than exercise. You should practice self care when you consider a run during the pandemic.

What About a Face Mask?

There’s been a lot of debate—and a lot of confusion—about wearing face masks during the pandemic. The current CDC guidelines state:

Man in black sportswear and medical protective mask running through the city street in the morning.
CDC Recommends Wearing Cloth Face Coverings In Public Settings Where Other Social Distancing Measures Are Difficult To Maintain (Image Source: Shutterstock)

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

The relevant portion above is that face coverings should be worn when social distancing guidelines are difficult to maintain. However, you should only be out running when you are able to maintain that six-foot distancing with other people. Of course, it’s quite possible that you might start out in isolation and then suddenly run into an area where there are a number of people. For that reason, you should carry a mask with you. Simply pause to put it on while passing through that area.

Maintaining Total Safety

If you are a person who spits when they run, this is a habit that you will have to curtail under the pandemic environment. Your spit contains saliva and, possibly, sputum from the lungs. These could be transmitters of the COVID-19 virus. So spitting is a no-no.

Washing hands rubbing with soap man for corona virus prevention.
Be Sure To Bathe Thoroughly, Washing Your Hands Maintaining A High Level Of Hygiene After Your Run (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Be sure to wash your mask thoroughly. You should also maintain a high level of hygiene after your run. Be sure to bathe thoroughly, washing your hands and your running clothes, water bottle, and any other items you took out with you.

What About a Group Workout?

You want to run during the pandemic to keep increasing your speed and endurance. But is it safe to run with your normal group of running buddies? That really depends on what the current guidelines in your state are. If you are in an area where gatherings of more than a couple of people are forbidden, then you need to adhere to those guidelines. Once those guidelines are loosened and you are allowed to gather with groups of up to ten people, then you can begin running again in small groups. However, you should still maintain common-sense precautions. Don’t make physical contact with one another, and be sure to run at a distance of six feet from each other. When you get home, make sure that you wash your hands.

Couple wearing face medical masks while running together on the bridge in the morning.
Depends On What The Current Guidelines In Your State Are (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Running as an Immune Booster

Running is one of the best things you can do to boost your immune system. In fact, just twenty minutes of moderate exercise can stimulate your immune system to reduce inflammation at the cellular level. When you begin to run, your heart rate will elevate quickly as the result of adrenaline and the rapid movement of blood through your body. Your body responds to this change by producing more white cells in order to fight any pathogens that are introduced. This effect is so pronounced that, within a few minutes, your body can produce up to ten times as many white blood cells as it normally does.

Effects Of Exercise On Our Immune System | Can Exercise Boost Immunity – MEDSimplified

Once you finish your workout, the white cell count normalizes. But then it dips down below normal level. Up until recently, it was thought that this post-exercise dip in white blood cell count made us more likely to get an infection during this time. However, it has been discovered that those white blood cells haven’t disappeared. They have simply exited the blood in order to hunt down pathogens. This is the best thing that they could be doing, and we now know that running makes it happen more often.

Running also provides long term immunity-boosting effects. It can slow down the aging process, including age-related immunity weakness.

Am I Safer Running on a Treadmill?

If you’ve got a treadmill at home, you have the option of staying home and getting your workout in that way. So, in a pandemic situation, does it make more sense to stay home and run on the treadmill?

Man doing cardio workout at the gym.
Running Outdoors Will Give A Huge Psychological Benefits From Getting Out In The Sun And Running In Nature (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Not really. So long as you follow the basic guidelines on social distancing, you will get more benefit physically from running outdoors, even in cold weather. You will also receive huge psychological benefits from getting out in the sun and running in nature. There is some suggestion that being exposed to the sun’s rays could be a natural protection against COVID-19. This is because your body uses sunlight to produce Vitamin D, which acts as a defense mechanism.

Pandemic Running Safety Key Points

  • Run in low traffic areas.
  • Maintain six-foot distancing.
  • Carry a mask and use it in high traffic areas.
  • Wash your hands after your run.
  • Keep a close eye on your local regulations.
  • Run solo unless local regulations allow for group gatherings.

Are you ready to get your heart pumping? If so, then read up on a few running exercises to help prepare you for your next adventure!

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