Runner's World (UK)

Learn To Love Solo Runs

Going it alone can bring huge benefits for your mind and body


HEALTH EXPERTS’ ADVICE on social distancing is key to containing coronaviru­s. That advice will make solo runners of most of us.

For some runners, that’s a challenge. Running with others can help you stick to your plans and get you through the miles. Without that support, you might feel a little daunted at the prospect of running solo.

You might even worry you’ll fall out of your running routine. But there are lots of things you can focus on to make solo running feel easier. It starts with learning to keep your regular training schedule and habits.

Don’t kick the habit

If you had been training for a big race, now can be a good time to scale back your weekly volume and intensity, and reset your focus. But this doesn’t mean stopping completely. Keeping some of your usual running habits will help you maintain the gains you made during your previous training cycle.

Sticking to training habits can be hard, however, if you no longer have a motivating goal event. Habits are usually set in motion by a trigger (like a reminder to join a group run) and when these triggers disappear, our actions can change, too.

One solution is to recognise other triggers that will maintain your running habits. You might go for a run at your normal training time (a trigger), even if your run is shorter than it had been. And putting your gear on first thing in the morning (a trigger) and placing your running shoes by the door (a trigger) will help you keep to a schedule.

Creating plans to cope with challenges will also keep you on track. It can be useful to think of this plan as having an ‘if’ part and a ‘then’ part. The ‘if’ is the event and the ‘then’ is what you will do in response. When you feel less motivated to run solo, a plan that says, ‘If I don’t feel like running, then I will put my shoes on and step outside before I decide’ might help you get started on a run. Once we get started, we’re more likely to continue. The following strategies will also help make that solo run feel easier.

Tune out

If you are able to run safely in a park or other natural environmen­t, it can improve your solo running experience. Running anywhere is a great way to improve our mental health. But recent research has also shown that exercising in natural environmen­ts further helps to reduce stress and worry, and lift our mood. Focusing on nature’s scenery and sounds also makes running feel more pleasant and enjoyable, shifting your attention away from the discomfort you might otherwise feel.

If running in nature isn’t an option, listening to music can be a great way of passing solitary training time. When you are creating your playlist, pick songs that you find motivating. Tunes that match your cadence help your running rhythm. If you’re used to chatting with a running partner, podcasts can be an excellent way to tune out (See The Best Podcasts for Solo Running, right) and, maybe, learn something.

Tune in: pace like a pro

Although tuning out can take your mind off effort-related sensations, tuning in to how you feel and developing your mental skills can make solo running feel easier. Noticing tension in your muscles or face, and using that as a cue to relax your hands and arms, or to smile, can improve running economy.

Similarly, focusing periodical­ly on your breathing can build your pacing skills. One of the biggest mistakes runners make is going too hard at the start of the race. Tuning in to how you feel can help you avoid this scenario. Noticing that your breathing is too heavy can be a cue to slow down.

1. The Runner’s World UK Podcast

Hosted by RW’s Rick Pearson and Ben Hobson, with appearance­s from other team members and guests from the running world, it’s packed with passion, insight and inspiratio­n.

2. Radio

The team behind the app that took meditation mainstream chat to athletes, adventurer­s and scientists about what the mind can do. Learn what your brain looks like on kindness and why regret can be good for you.

3. Bryony Gordon's Mad World

A roster of A-list stars sharing their mental health struggles is humanising and, in times when many of us are facing such challenges, much needed.

4. Running Commentary

Comedians Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering talk about life and comedy – but mainly running. Quirky, funny and insightful.

5. When Orla Met

Journalist and former triple-jumper Orla Chennaoui meets top sporting names to hear their stories of outrunning demons and finding inspiratio­n, and to provide a window into what drives the ordinary to become extraordin­ary.

6. Feel Better, Live More With Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Chetterjee employs his

15+ years of experience, together with industry profession­als, doctors and researcher­s, to deliver invaluable health insights.

7. On Being With Krista Tippett

You’ll find a treasure trove of thoughts and insights in this exploratio­n of spirituali­ty. An eclectic guest list is marshalled by journalist, author and former diplomat Krista Tippett.

8. The Meditation Podcast

Crafted audio taking listeners by the hand through a guided meditation, helping you to ‘let go’ for a few precious minutes.

9. Running For Real

A dose of top-class expertise as 2:36 marathon runner Tina Muir speaks to sports psychologi­sts, doctors, scientists, dietitians, elites, strength-training coaches and running-form experts.

10. Waking Up With Sam Harris

If anyone can help you make sense of our world, it’s neuroscien­tist Sam Harris. His podcast ranges from evolutiona­ry psychology and politics to the meaning of life. •

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