Race canceled? Here are some strategies to keep running strong.

It’s time for Operation Plan B.

The coronavirus has forced events and races all over the world to cancel. Whether your race was postponed or canceled, or your gym has closed, it’s definitely new territory for all of us right now. Although it’s challenging to make sense of it all and not fall into a pit of negativity, runners move forward. That is how we roll. We will get through this one step, one breath, one mile at a time.

One of the most important things we can do right now is to continue to move – run, walk, strength train, yoga… Continue to move forward to keep your spirits focused on the positive. It’s not a minute into my runs where my mind starts to think on the bright side. It is my moving meditation and how I stay grounded in reality and focus on strategies and solutions.

While we are adjusting to the new normal of socially isolating, there are still plenty of ways to stay active and not forfeit your hard-earned fitness over the next few weeks. I’ve outlined several strategies in this email for keeping your fitness on target and your mind focused on the positive during this challenging time.

Adjusting Your Training and Embracing OPB – Operation Plan B.

After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, races, and events happening this season all over the world were either canceled or postponed. I started to receive emails from my coaching clients about the Boston and London marathons postponing the races until the fall. Some races like the NYC Half Marathon were canceled altogether. Just as my clients were peaking and tapering, the wind was taken out of their sails.

The first step is to literally take a breath.

Things are surreal right now, and they become more so when it hits home. By taking a minute to breathe, it allows you to digest the change, and begin to see the reality of the situation around you. And from there, you can start to think about the positives. By focusing on all that you have, you are reminded that although this is a disappointment, it is not a tragedy. Perspective fuels a healthy attitude, which leads to taking the next step in developing Operation Plan B.

DIY Races, AKA Run Your Race Virtually

If your race was canceled altogether, why waste all that good training and fitness? Map out a course in your area, set up your own aid station in your car or home, and race it on your own or with a small group of runners that are separated at an appropriate distance. Some races are even sending the race medal in the mail when they show proof of their finish on Strava or GPS.

If racing the distance on your own doesn’t appeal to you, think about what inspires you right now. Why did you want to run the race to begin with? If it was for performance reasons, set up a few segments on Strava and challenge yourself to earn a PR. If it was about the destination, run a new course or create a new adventure in your area. If it was for social reasons, create a fun challenge you can share with your running buddies (ie. running X number of miles in a month). Finally, if you find yourself at a complete loss for inspiration, it might be time to mix things up and include activities you haven’t done in a while because of your training. Sometimes a new focus is all you need to find inspiration.

If you’ve been training on the edge of aches and pains, take this opportunity to take time off running or reduce your mileage and cross-train. Without the deadline or pressure of a race, you’ve got time to get healthy and recover and set yourself up for a strong summer and fall season.

Refocus Your Training
If your race was postponed until the fall and you aren’t going to run a virtual race, invest the next few weeks in play and take some time off the demands of a progressive training plan. This will give your headspace some time to run the workouts you love, push a bit more, hit the trails, or take advantage of the freedom to run routes you haven’t been able to this season. Take a vacation from your race training to rejuvenate. This may mean running more miles and build your base. It could mean running harder with speed or tempo workouts. Or, hit the trails and get in some strength-based running. This is a golden opportunity to work on your fitness before you start to train up for the fall re-do race!

Delay of Race
If your race was postponed for 6-8 weeks, update your training plan by adding in the appropriate number of pre-taper training weeks and then hit the resume button on your training. Be mindful that sometimes our quick-jerk reaction is to run more of the longest runs. It is important to understand that you won’t need to “train up” for a race if you were on the edge of your taper and well trained going into the race. You simply need to maintain and train.

For example, if your race is now 6 weeks out and you just ran your longest run this weekend, this is one idea of how you can modify and continue to train.

  • Week 1 (next weekend) Cutback Long Run – This is commonly 6-8 miles for half marathoners and 8-12 miles for full marathoners.
  • Week 2 – Mid-length Long Run 8-9 miles half, 12-14 full marathoners
  • Week 3 – Repeat Longest Run in your plan (if healthy).
  • Week 4 – Taper Week 1
  • Week 5 – Taper Week 2
  • Week 6 – Race Week Take 2

If you have 8 weeks delay of race, this is one way you can create a Plan B training schedule (again if you’re healthy and have been following a long-distance training plan).

  • Week 1 (next weekend) Cutback Long Run – This is commonly 6-8 miles for half marathoners and 8-12 miles for full marathoners.
  • Week 2 – Mid-length Long Run 8-9 miles half, 12-14 full marathoners
  • Week 3 – Longer Run in your plan (if healthy). 10-12 half, 16-20 full marathoners
  • Week 4 – Cutback Long Run 7-8 miles half, 10-12 miles full marathoners
  • Week 5 – Repeat Longest Run in your plan (if healthy).
  • Week 6 – Taper Week 1
  • Week 7 – Taper Week 2
  • Week 8 – Race Week Take 2

The idea is to take a mental and physical recovery week after last week’s blow and modify your plan to continue training through the delay of race. It is ideal to train based on how things were going to this point. If you had some aches and pains, this is bonus time to reduce your volume for a week or two, and then train through the final phase (as you just did). If you’re healthy, it’s an opportunity to take a cutback week and recalibrate your plan and your headspace. There is no need to run a ton more long runs. Balance the training time and aim to maintain what you have fitness-wise, and top off the tank over the next two months.

Working Out At Home.

If your gym has closed or if you want to avoid the gym until things clear up, there is no reason you can’t get your fitness on at home.

Here are a few of my favorite do anywhere strength workouts:

At Home Runner’s Strength Workout

The At Home 7-Minute Strength Workout for Runners

The Hip-Strengthening Workout

If you want to run off some stress and blast some calories…try one of these fun treadmill workouts.

Four Fun Tempo Workouts

Three Fat-Blasting Workouts

Take Care of Your Health and Be Mindful of Others.

Above all, it is most important that you protect your health and immunity. Little things go a long way…

  • Eating the colors of the rainbow (veggies) and focus on healthy foods.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep and maintain a regular sleep pattern.
  • Avoid training through colds or sickness to allow your body to recover without stress.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol. Drink in moderation.
  • Move (exercise) regularly.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid handshakes and high fives. Think low fives with your shoes.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose.
  • Wipe down exercise equipment and then wash your hands.
  • Avoid the runner’s “nose blow” and use a bandana instead.
  • Don’t train publicly if you aren’t feeling well. Stay home to heal.
  • Avoid sharing water bottles, fuel, post-run meals…Carry your own. Consume your own.
  • Space yourself adequately if running with a buddy or small group and while passing others on the trail.
  • Be kind and share the trail with others. Just because we have to distance our bodies, doesn’t mean we can’t be cordial as we run by.

Nurture your mind.

Invest one minute to focus on breathing in and out through your nose and listening to the sound of your breath as it travels in and out of your body. While you’re breathing, focus on your intention for the day, a positive thought, something you’re grateful for, or something you want to achieve.

This is also an effective tool when you’re triggered or stressed. Simply take a moment to breathe and replace a negative experience or thought with a positive one. Research has shown that we can change the wiring in our brains by changing our thought patterns to the positive (even if we have to force it

Ways to apply your mindful minute in your running:

  1. Pre-training run: Especially if you are feeling resistance to your planned workout, begin with a mindful minute to shift your perspective and visualize how you will feel about accomplishing this task.
  2. On the run: Use your mindful minute to take a head to toe inventory: how is your posture? Your breathing? Your cadence? What thoughts are going through your mind and can you reframe any negative thoughts? Choose a pre-determined time to perform your mindful minutes (at each mile or as you move through aid stations in a race, perhaps), but know that you can perform one at anytime you need to re-center yourself.
  3. Pre-race: Use your mindful minute to trust your training, review your race day strategy, and stay grounded in YOUR race plan. Celebrate that you’ve made it to the start line!
  4. Post-run or race: Use your mindful minute to express gratitude for your body for what it was able to accomplish, whether it was a perfect day or a tough run.
  5. At bedtime: Use equal breathing to calm your thoughts and focus on rest.

We are all in this together.

Let’s connect on my Facebook page or join me in the Challenge 365 training group if you are a member and exchange ideas and virtual high fives as we navigate this transition! I’ll be answering coaching questions with my Challenge 365 Training Group this month to help you modify your training and stay on track.


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