The Healthy Runner: How to Cope with Trying Times

by Benita Zahn

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” Thomas Paine wrote that in December 1776. It was published in his pamphlet American Crisis Nol.1. Clearly, it’s timeless. Every generation faces its unique trials and tribulations. And the one we’re now facing is monumental. But we have survived before.

So how to both manage, endure and survive during this latest trying time? Some of you are at home. Others, myself included, must still make the daily trek to the workplace. But the common thread is self care. And as runners, we are exquisitely aware of this.

         Blue Light has a Dark Side – Click on picture above for Harvard University article

We know we need adequate sleep to perform our best. These days that sleep is paramount. It helps keep our immune system humming. It helps renew us after a day of stress.

Ah, but how to get a good night’s sleep when all this COVID19 news is so dire? Taking a page from the experts, let me share some advice. Keep to your regular sleep routine, even if you’re working from home. And put down the electronic devices at least 30 minutes before “lights out.” That’s the prescription in the best of times because of the effect the light of those devices – blue light - has on our brains. Our brains interpret that light as daylight. Now, more than ever, we need to it to put down the phone to disconnect from the news of the day. Hey, I’m struggling with that myself. I qualify this by saying that I’m a reporter and need to keep up. But the truth is, none of us can effect change at midnight.

Again, as runners we know the value of good nutrition. That serves as a good foundation, because stress can make us overeat. As described in the Harvard Health Letter, during stress our adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol and that cranks up our appetite. And yes, it can also rev up our desire for fatty and sugary foods. So make note, and avoid this by turning to fruit and vegetables. And if you can’t get fresh (btw CARIOTO Fruit in Green Island, a wholesaler, is now selling retail and will deliver to your car) frozen will do just fine, and don’t forget the low sugar canned options. Joelle Malinowski, RD is a proponent of “eating the rainbow” any way we can access those products.

And of course, we know the value of regular exercise. Granted, our races have been cancelled or postponed, moving our goals down the road. So this is a great time to reexamine our training plans, make adjustments, and perhaps add other dimensions to our workouts. Many personal coaches are offering on-line programs. Barre and yoga, along with weight training, are all available.

I’m still lacing up my shoes and running.  If you want the company of your regular running pals but don’t want to shout across the 6 feet of social distancing, consider calling them and, rather than listening to music, chatting with them as you clock the miles. Of course, always be aware of your surroundings.

The bottom line is that you’re not alone. Don’t ditch the routines that you’ve become familiar with and have always served you well. Adjust them to the times. And keep an eye out for other runners. A wave and smile are still in fashion.


                      Darryl Caron enjoying a run


The Healthy Runner by Benita Zahn Archive

Sweet Sleep


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