Competitive runners, coaches turn to alternative training methods in light of COVID-19

Getting outside, conferencing online among suggestions from Semiahmoo Peninsula Olympian and coach

For many people trying to stay fit and active while at self-isolating at home during the COVID-19 outbreak, finding a home workout routine that works is relatively straight forward, whether or not you own gym equipment.

It’s a different story for many runners, however – especially those who might be used to getting their cardio workouts indoors, on treadmills or similar equipment at their local gym.

But Olympian and longtime coach Lynn Kanuka has a fairly straightforward solution – just get outside.

“Well, I do think it’s fine to be outside. In fact, I think it’s wrong for people to be staying inside (all the time). We all know that the benefits of getting outside when you can are huge,” she said.

“I’d be the first to suggest that all the gym people should be running outside anyway – at anytime, not just COVID time. We’ve got the beginnings of spring, and I think perhaps the most important thing of all is to stay mentally and spiritually happy, and being outside helps that.

“Shut off your devices, go out and breathe some fresh air.”

Even for runners who typically get in their weekly miles outdoors rather than in a gym, a few adjustments may need to be made. If your usual route includes highly-populated areas – the White Rock promenade, for example – you may need to find a less-busy course. However, Kanuka is quick to note that there’s no shortage of trails and parks locally in which to run or walk.

• READ ALSO: Four from Surrey area are Sport BC Athlete of the Year award winners

She also suggests finding a route with stairs – which is something else that isn’t hard to find on the Peninsula, be it the long stairways of Christopherson Steps or 1001 Steps on Crescent Beach, or up the steep White Rock hillside.

“It’s the best thing ever to just go up and down stairs,” said Kanuka, who won bronze in the women’s 3,000-m at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Competitive runners – at all levels – are also being forced to adjust on the fly, as training and coaching sessions are cancelled or moved into something of an online format. Kanuka coaches a bevy of top athletes, including Canadian Olympian Natasha Wodak, who is among the country’s top runners in the 10,000-m, and said their intense training programs have been affected, even if running outdoors is still an option.

“It’s not business as usual in the sense that we aren’t gathering in supportive group environments – nowhere, from our kids up to the best of the best,” Kanuka explained.

“Natasha… she is in isolation mode, so she isn’t running with other high-calibre athletes. They’ve all agreed that it’s not the best thing to be doing right now.”

Instead, Kanuka said she and her fellow coaches are trying to help athletes online through video tips, webinar meetings and the like.

“We have to look at those kind of ways to support each other,” she said.

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