People across the nation are now lacing up their running shoes during the permitted times between 06:00 and 09:00 Picture: File
People across the nation are now lacing up their running shoes during the permitted times between 06:00 and 09:00 Picture: File

5 top tips for jogging during lockdown

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published May 21, 2020

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Running has become one of the top trending pastimes during the coronavirus and lockdown. 

The easing of restrictions during level 4 has seen people heading back onto their local jogging routes to shake off the lockdown blues and regain fitness levels.

People across the nation are now lacing up their running shoes during the permitted times between 6am and 9am each day and keeping within the mandated 5 kilometre radius of their homes. 

Sports physicians are explicitly in favour of running outdoors. Sports, and open-air sports in particular, strengthen the immune system. 

Sports release adrenaline, which boosts and speeds up the production of the body's natural immune cells and lymphocytes, which reduces the risk of infection. Research shows that runners are up to 50 percent less likely to fall ill than "couch potatoes".

That said, there are many questions about jogging during this time. Should runners wear masks? What is the ideal training workload for beginners or returnees? Will listening to music spoil my natural running rhythm?

In close consultation with leading sports physicians, running coaches and professional athletes, in what follows, Continental answers some of the most important questions about running in times of coronavirus.

Running in a mask?

The wearing of face masks that cover your mouth and nose when in public is mandatory under South Africa's current regulations, including during exercise. As this makes breathing difficult - which has a negative impact on your running rhythm and training performance - your exercise regime and pace should be adjusted accordingly. 

As a basic rule, nobody with symptoms of a cold, and certainly nobody with concrete symptoms of Covid-19, should engage in any sporting activity due to the impact it has on your respiratory system.

Of course, it is possible to be an unwitting carrier of the virus without displaying any symptoms. Nevertheless, the following recommendations apply under the current regulations, and should be adopted as rules even once the wearing of face masks is no longer required. 

When running alongside someone else, keep at least two metres between the two of you. If you are running behind someone, keep at least 15 metres between you and the person in front - otherwise you will be running through a 'cloud' of air that they have breathed out.

How long should I run for?

People who are new to running subject their bodies to a process of adjustment. Bones, joints, ligaments, heart and blood vessels must become accustomed to their new, unfamiliar workload, so running is not about intensity, but about continuity. A weekly quota of two or three runs lasting 30-40 minutes is ideal for beginners and people who are returning to running.

The recommended limit for good runners is 90 minutes. In principle, only running once a week means that you start again from scratch every time. Beginners should allow themselves two days to regenerate between runs. Regular runners should have at least one day off between runs.

How fast should I run?

Many people who were good at sport when they were younger think that they can pick up where they left off - which is a serious mistake. Many returning runners are disappointed at their current level of fitness and soon lose interest in running again. The key is to start at a slow pace and keep it up. Starting to train again too fast or too intensively often leads to strain injuries or fatigue. Running should be fun, not stressful.

The old rule of thumb for running is that your speed is just right if you can hold a conversation while running, and you should drop down a gear if you are too out of breath to speak. Around 80 percent of training should be done at a relaxed pace that feels like it's below your full capacity; the other 20 percent can be intensive. This is also the best way to burn off fat. Because if you run too fast - gasping for breath is a sign that you are not getting enough oxygen into your lungs - you hardly burn any fat at all.

Should I stretch before or after running?

It is not absolutely necessary to do stretching exercises before you run, provided that you start at an easy pace. Stretching afterwards is more important because most beginners have muscle deficits. Stretching is used for the detonization or "accelerated relaxation" of muscles. It is particularly important to stretch your calf muscles, but also your Achilles tendons and ankle joints.

Running uses up a lot of energy. The faster you run, the more important muscular stability is - especially in the centre of the body - so an accompanying muscle training regime also makes sense. 

What about listening to music on earphones while I run?

It may be music to your ears, but it can also alter your running rhythm and your breathing, which can cause beginners, in particular, to lose their rhythm. This, in turn, leads to what is commonly called a stitch. Breathing irregularly causes cramp in the diaphragm, which runners experience as a stabbing pain in the side. The only cure for a stitch is to stop running, stretch the muscles on the affected side and take deep breaths that fill the abdomen.

Experienced joggers can listen to music while they run - it may even enhance performance and increase their motivation. When the body is subjected to a heavier workload, the pulse rate begins to synchronize with the rhythm of the runner's movement, which in turn will depend on the rhythm of the chosen music. 

Experts recommend that joggers listen to tracks with 150 to 180 beats per minute (bpm). A word of warning: Do not turn the volume up too loud, or you may not be able to hear runners or cyclists who want to pass you, or approaching cars. It's essential to remain alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.

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